Things I’ve Written Lately

I write about a lot of things at prosoundnetwork.com; here’s some of the more mainstream accessible pieces I’ve written in recent times:

10 Career Lessons We Learned from Glyn Johns’ Sound Man — Legendary producer/engineer Glyn Johns’ autobiography Sound Man is filled with cool stories about creating classic albums with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Clash, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, The Eagles, Neil Young, The Steve Miller Band and many, many more. The tales are fun, but there’s also a lot that audio pros can learn from Johns’ book. Here’s just 10 lessons we took away from Sound Man.

Interview: Alan Parsons on George Martin, Dark Side of the Moon and the Art and Science of Sound Recording — From The Beatles’ Abbey Road to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon to his own hit albums, legendary producer/engineer/musician Alan Parsons has made his mark on music history. In recent times, however, when he hasn’t been mixing at one desk, he’s been typing at another, co-writing The Art and Science of Sound Recording, an in-depth book on the entire music production process. Parsons and his co-author, Julian Colbeck, sat down with PSN at the 137th AES Convention for a spirited chat on mentoring, EQ’ing overheads and why George Harrison took too long to record guitar solos.

Interview: Bruce Swedien on Compression, Mentoring and his New Book — Legendary recording engineer Bruce Swedien might be best known for his work with Michael Jackson—he recorded all of the late singer’s prime solo work, including the best-selling album of all-time, Thriller—but to stop there would sell him short. Having recorded literally dozens of other household names, won five Grammy wins and received 13 nominations, the man has a heck of a lot of knowledge, and that in turn led him to write three books to date—including his latest book/DVD set, The Bruce Swedien Recording Method, which we chatted about in this interview during the recent AES Convention.

State of the Industry 2014: Sound Reinforcement — Revolutions are about disruptive change—an instantaneous, obvious shift in the way things are—but evolutions, slow and often due to widespread factors, are far harder to spot. Things seem to be keeping on keeping on, but only in hindsight are the gradual shifts visible. The current state of the live sound industry seems to be in a similar situation, where things are moving forward and significant steps are being taken for the future, even if the year so far has been strong, though unremarkable.

Mixing The Nathan’s Hot Dog Contest — Mixing the biggest competitive eating contest in the world doesn’t mean shoving audio down the crowd’s throat. Instead, the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest serves up sound piping hot, whetting the audience’s appetite for digestion.

Misperceptions Lead To Reinvention — The internet is a pretty big deal; in fact, you’re probably using it right now. While it has given us interesting advancements like social media, however, there’s also been plenty of damage done, too, as we’ve abandoned—often too quickly—some major institutions. A lot of that has to do with misperceptions—often the idea that something is behind the times and is no longer relevant or useful in the face of our speedy Internet Age. When these institutions take the hit, sometimes they crumble to dust, but other times, they answer the challenge and reinvent themselves, finding newfound relevance.

Reeling In Sound And Chaos — Brooklyn, NY has always been a nerve center of music, but one of its most interesting stories is only now getting told with the upcoming documentary, Sound and Chaos: The Story of BC Studio. Set on the shores of the contaminated Gowanus Canal, the recording facility has been a haven of eclectic creativity for more than 30 years, but now its days may be numbered as the formerly dead-end neighborhood is starting to become gentrified.

Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players Rock NYC — Rock impresario Dave Grohl brought his Sound City Players—a one-off collection of everyone from Stevie Nicks to Lee Ving to Rick Springfield—to New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom. [Photo at top]

Chinese Pro Audio Manufacturing: A Case Study — “Made In China.” In the pro audio world, it’s a loaded phrase that means many things to many people. To manufacturers, however, it’s the signifier of the great (some say inevitable) temptation to build products in Asia, where electronic goods can be assembled more cheaply than in Western countries, due to a robust infrastructure and massive workforce available at lower costs than the West.

Billionaire Redefines Portable Studio — What makes for a great portable recording rig? If you’re thinking of a set-up you can carry or roll, you’re just not thinking big enough. It’s not like you have to think “outside the box,” however; you just have to redefine what the box is. And if you’re Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen—a part-time guitar slinger worth an estimated $15 Billion—you can afford a pretty awesome box.

Lighthouse Fest Rocks Long Island Sound — It sounds like a trick question: How do you hold an all-day festival for 7,000 music fans—complete with eight bands, a stage, FOH and monitor mix areas, PA and the rest—on a 40×40-foot plot of land that has no electricity? That’s the conundrum facing the audio crew every year at the annual Huntington Lighthouse Music Fest—an event that takes place on Labor Day Weekend atop the eponymous edifice, surrounded by nothing but water in the middle of the Long Island Sound, just east of New York City.

Suzanne Vega Cuts Wax At Edison Labs — It was a case of “Tom’s Diner Meets Tom Edison” recently, when singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega cut some wax—as in wax cylinders—at Thomas Edison National Historical Park, as part of an Audio Engineering Society event.

The Quest For Perfection, In Perpetuity — What do the New York Audio Show; the closing of landmark record store Bleeker Bob’s; the semi-annual Crossroads Guitar Festival; $68,000 speakers; a Bowie/Jagger test pressing; and Nineties pop-punk act Too Much Joy have in common? They’re each in their own way part of the quest for musical nirvana.

100 Simultaneous Beatles LPs, Out on Vinyl — Rutherford Chang is an artist who is also a record collector—which is to say, he collects a record: The Beatles’ White Album. To date, he has over 900 copies of the 2-LP set, and has now recorded 100 copies, layering them on top of each other, and released the results on vinyl, too. Learn more—and hear 100 simultaneous Side Ones—here.

Trying the Art of the Audiobook at New York Comic Con — The annual New York Comic Con is a mecca for pop-culture fans; celebrating the latest in genre movies, TV, comics and toys, the three-day event draws more than 120,000 people every year to the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The 2013 edition was no exception, and with so much going on, ranging from star-filled panels to attendees’ outlandish costumes, it was often hard for exhibitors to stand out from the (packed) crowd. Audiobook imprint Penguin Random House Audio found a way, however, as it gave visitors a chance to get behind the mic and experience what it’s like to record an audiobook.

Vinyl Revival Brings Back The Bootleg — Since 2007, vinyl records have been making a remarkable comeback at retail, with sales growing exponentially year over year. The latest Nielsen Soundscan figures found vinyl LP sales climbed another 17.7 percent in 2012 to reach 4.6 million albums sold. That success hasn’t gone unnoticed—hipsters are buying records; major chains like Hot Topic, Urban Outfitters, Best Buy and FYE have started carrying LPs; and now in a surprising turn of events, bootleg vinyl is making a comeback, too.

Neodymium Costs Throttle Pro Audio — Despite the archaic name, rare earth elements are fairly common; just look at the ubiquity of Neodymium (Nd), used throughout modern pro audio equipment. While Nd isn’t rare, however, it is expensive, with a price tag that’s gone out of control in recent years—enough so that the pro audio industry is having second thoughts about its use.

Book Review: Hitless Wonder: A Life in Minor League Rock And Roll — There’s been plenty of rock star autobiographies over the years, almost always penned by a ghostwriter whose job it is to turn the endless pursuit of happiness—that is to say, sex, drugs and rock n’ roll—into a page-turning bestseller. Hitless Wonder: A Life in Minor League Rock And Roll, by Joe Oestreich, is not one of those books. Yes, it is an autobiography and it is about rock n’ roll, but that’s where the similarities end. To provide a baseline of comparison, let’s remember that rock stars have hits. As the co-frontman of Columbus, OH-based Watershed, Oestreich most assuredly never had any of those.

Getcha Motor Runnin’—The Return of Recording in Your Car — Chevrolet recently had Detroit rockers The Gentlemen Mutineers record some of the band’s latest single, “Detroit Throttle,” inside a 2014 Impala. That’s wacky—but it’s not the first time someone’s tried that stunt. In fact, roots rocker Ben Vaughn recorded an entire album in his 1965 Rambler American. Take a look back with us through vintage video and a very funny interview with Vaughn from the January 1997 issue of Pro Sound News.