I feel like I need to document today. It’s the second day of the 137th AES conference, and it was awesome. The best lecture of the morning was Ken Scott breaking down his career at EMI and Abbey Road, and after that he discussed how he and David Bowie worked together on Aladdin Sane. Ken chose “Life on Mars” to dissect, and he related a story about how Bowie was to translate this French song into English. However when another writer got ahold of it, they yanked the rights from Bowie, and the song that came out was “My Way” as recorded by Frank Sinatra and hundreds of others (apparently it’s the second most covered song of all time). Anyway, “Life on Mars” was a rebuke to the fact that they snatched the song away from Bowie.
Hunky Dory was recorded at Trident Studios in London, and during “Life on Mars” the ending was another take that happened to be on the tape. They had a phone in the hallways but only ever called out. Apparently someone misdialed the hallway phone, killing the take. However there it was as they were mixing from a subsequent take they didn’t overwrite from the multitrack.
Next I went on a tour of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It was great to see backstage at the LA Philharmonic and to hear how the audio team used very little amplification and technique to produce their shows. Since there wasn’t a lot of gear or technique, it was interesting mostly as a tour of the facility, which is gorgeous. Except for the carpet.
Later in the afternoon, and in fact just after grabbing the largest iced coffee I could after Disney, we trekked over to Capitol Studios. My god, what a humbling experience that was.
At Capitol, we entered Studio A and Studio B, and finally I was physically in one of the most famous studios in the world. I still can’t believe it. The engineers gave us a history lesson and showed us around. In the control room of Studio A, they had a giant Neve 88R console and brand-new installations of the full size PMC monitoring system. Outboard was really spare: 3 vintage 1176s silver face, a Fairchild 670, Lexicon PCM70, Roland SDE-1000A, and a few Pultec clones. There was a LARC and Lexicon 300 – maybe more equipment in a back room. But with the music they capture there, they don’t really need much processing. It was a gorgeous, gorgeous room.
In an old wooden box they showed us one of the Neumann U48s they used to record Frank Sinatra and Paul McCartney. There it was, this mic that had captured so many incredible performances. The engineer played us a recording of Paul with a jazz band, and it was probably the best-sounding audio experience of my life.
We also checked out Studio C, which was a mixdown room. They also had a huge Neve in there, a VPR, and not too much outboard. It was fitted with PMC 5.1 surrounds, and they played back Tommy and Rosanna at high volume. Wow.
Being in that facility and hearing the best of the best mixing engineers talk about their experiences was truly humbling.
After Capitol, I was on the bus when I heard from Sara. “Get off!” she texted. We met and went to a startup pitch for Gobbler. It was ironic: I thought Gobbler was a food delivery app. Nope, it’s an audio tech startup – and at their party there was not much food. In fact, right now I’m waiting for room service at 12:49 AM because I’m starving.
Anyway, we sat through their pitch and afterward met with Emily and one of her friends at Zinc. Had a quick drink and then head off for Bjork’s film Biophilia somewhere downtown. Parts were tedious (to use Sara’s word), but much of it was amazing. The percussion, the automatic pipe organ, and this amazing wooden pendulum harp were incredible, interesting instruments. I was impressed.
I felt I had to document today, just because I don’t want to forget it. Exciting, awestruck… today was good. Now it’s time for bed and more AES.Posted: October 13th, 2014 | No Comments »