I just finished reading your article, "My Unwritten (Until Now) "Rules" in the studio," Tape Op #85. Let me offer up a few words of wisdom on your well-written points.

 - Don't play music by other artists: In 1978 I was working with a national act that was on the Columbia label. The assistant played a record (yes, scratchy vinyl) by Jeff Beck. Turns out the national act had an ongoing disagreement with Jeff. We were both replaced the next day.

 - Don't trash talk other artists: Never done it and don't you either. You WILL screw yourself seriously. And it makes you look VERY unprofessional.

 - Make coffee: Be careful. Again, another national act came into the studio very hung-over. In fact, real bad. One person began to imbibe with the whole pot, of very strong coffee, and then coke. He ended up in Bellevue sedated on Valium I.M. (intramuscular).

 - Bring food: A big hit with everyone over the years has been Designer Whey protein bars. Yes, that's right, Designer Whey. They are costly and they DO go like hot cakes. But, the talent always loves them and they provide a healthy, natural boost when you need it.

 - Never discuss money: I once watched an assistant state to the talent that he was getting paid "X" for this particular gig from the movie studio (it was an orchestral session I was recording). Turns out none of the talent were getting even close to what the assistant was receiving from the studio. The musicians walked and the recording didn't commence until 24 hours later - sans the assistant.

 - Don't drink or do drugs during the session: I started my recording career at age 12 in 1975. That's right age 12 - no BS. Call me a fossil, but in 1975 you could still get acid (LSD) easily and very strong acid at that. One day during a session I took three hits along with just about everyone else. The next day, when I came into the control room, I found both Ampex MM-1200s face down on the floor, an Ampex AG-440 smashed to pieces, several pieces of rack equipment de-racked and laying about, and worst of all, the last three days worth of sessions (all on Ampex 407) un-spooled and laying on the floor. To this day I still don't know what happened. And believe me, I go my ass BEATEN!

 - Exercise before you start a session: I swim before I go into the studio. It relaxes and focuses me like nothing else.

 - Limit personal communications: Always a hard one. I ask everyone to take their conversations into the break room or outside of the control room. For me, I shut everything off and let voice-mail take it. Most people are good about it. Sometimes you have to be a hard ass and enforce it. In most cases, not.

 - Have something to talk about: Excellent point. Again, be careful of the assistant. I worked with and assistant who had just given birth. Great subject to talk about - everyone loves babies, or so I thought. Everything was going fine until the assistant started talking about the placenta "coming out." Suddenly, things weren't so good.

 - Don't make anyone wait on you: Very good advice. A national act came to CBS Studios in New York (the act was on the Columbia label - which at the time was CBS) with reel upon reel upon reel of 2-inch analog tape all synchronized with a non-SMPTE system. CBS's synchronizing equipment balked and wouldn't lock. The talent freaked! Luckily, what saved me is the head of engineering and several of his top "lieutenants" had just come out of a meeting and I was able to get them into the control room and in front of the talent. It wasn't a showdown, but when the talent realized the synchronizing equipment they had used had put them in a bad spot - tempers cooled. It took a good 12 hours to come up with a solution (a custom CBS engineered "black box") that allowed mixing to commence the next day. Advice - do your homework before the talent walks in.

 Thanks again for giving "an-old timer" his 15 seconds - and as always, all the best to Tape Op.


Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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