When I founded Tape Op twenty-six years ago, I had no concept of the ways in which this magazine would change my life. Professionally, it’s been amazing to visit studios and recordists all over the world, as well as to have meaningful conversations that I get to share with our readers. It’s also been a perfect adjunct to a career as a recordist and studio owner; allowing me to have two streams of income that stabilize each other at times. But, personally, the biggest impact on my life has been the friendships that have blossomed out of this magazine. Many of the people that reached out in the first few years of Tape Op are still in my life, and though they may not be as directly involved in the magazine these days, they still remain good friends, like Steve Silverstein, Hillary Johnson, Laura Thurmond, Andy Hong, and others. One such person was Rob Christensen, who sadly passed away in early January 2022 after dealing with leukemia for the previous two years.
Rob and I became pals after he stumbled across Tape Op at Peoples Records in Arcata, California, where he was living at the time. He contacted me, mailing a cassette copy of his first album, Smile Slightly, my way. I remember lying in bed late one night listening intently to his home-recorded songs, and thinking, “This is pretty darn good.” I later dropped him a line with some helpful recording ideas for the future. He visited Portland a few times, and even lived here for a while.
We had both started out recording in order to simply capture our own music. As I began moving into the professional recordist and studio owner realm, Rob was content to slowly learn more about recording, while making a few carefully considered gear purchases and focusing mainly on his songcraft. Our conversations about his journey always helped me consider the interests of a large portion of our readership. There are so many people out there, with just enough gear to get it done, just like Rob.
In 1997, for Tape Op #8, Rob became the author/instigator of the “Cassette Corner” column, where he “jumped at the chance to hear what my taping peers are doing” by working up some informative reviews and interviews. In issue #16, as releases started showing up on CD-R, we renamed his column “Under The Radar,” and, after many years of contributing, Rob eventually passed the column-writing duties over to Matt Mair Lowery in 2001. Rob continued to be involved, even performing and moderating panels at TapeOpCon, and we were always in touch. He’d frequently have observations about Tape Op that helped me consider our focus and content in new ways.
Previous to the pandemic, Rob and I would meet up in Nashville where he’d help us run the Tape Op booth at the Summer NAMM Show, or attend the Welcome to 1979 Recording Summit. It was always great to reconnect, talk about music and instruments, and hit up all the parties around town in the evenings. I was looking forward to seeing him in 2020, but everything changed in the outside world, and then Rob received his damned cancer diagnosis.
Rob’s fifth album, Ghosts (under the name Saturday’s Radio), came out in 2017. It has some great songs, and I almost ended up mixing it, but eventually Rob decided to wrap it up on his own, doing a fine job. Please check out his music at the website below, and think some good thoughts for a friend of ours who is no longer with us.
Music and Tape Op have both led me to so many friendships, and it was an honor to spend time and have adventures with my pal Rob Christensen for several decades. He will be missed.