What's your earliest memory of being aware of audio recording and technology?
I guess it would start with my recollections of how much music moved me. People in my family noticed I was physically engaged with the sound of music; they could always find me playing with the family radio or record player. We had a tiny tape recorder that I was fascinated by, with little 3-inch reels. I had a little General Electric cassette recorder, and I used it to record the very short-lived Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell show off television.
He had the Bay City Rollers on one of his first shows.
That's one of the things I recorded! Somewhere that tape is sitting in storage now.
So you were already archiving?
I was, I guess! Little teenybopper that I was. The Bay City Rollers were the first rock band that really caught my attention. I was the prime age, 11, in 1975 when they hit these shores.
I like that your family picked up that you were interested in music early on.
They encouraged it, which was great. My mom did encourage me to play an instrument, mandolin, prior to teaching myself how to play acoustic guitar. That led to a fascination with records, and records led to a fascination with stereo equipment. My mom used to take me to Harmony Records in the Bronx when I was really young. The guy had the bins and a list of the singles, and they were pretty much in order of how they were on the charts. I would go in there and select two records, and my mom would buy them for me. I'd come home and play them over, and over again, and drive everybody crazy.
But they're magic, right?
They are magic. They were these little three minute masterpieces on this 7-inch disc. I started to get interested in how records were made. I was born in 1964, so at that time there was mono recording, then stereo, then 3-track into 4-track; my listening sensibility evolved with the expansion of the number of tracks that were being recorded. The tape started to get wider and wider. It's this magical period between 1962 to about 1967, where it was all developing. Some of my favorite musical experiences of all time. When I got into my teen years, I started looking at the record covers and the credits. I noticed a pattern in the names I was seeing, whether they were songwriters, producers, arrangers, engineers, or people like that. I started to put two and two together, with how different the sounds were with certain producers and engineers. Someone like Richard Perry comes to mind: Carly Simon, [Harry] Nilsson, and Ringo [Starr].
Did you ever pursue audio engineering in an academic way?
I think the learning has been on the job, but I did go to The Institute of Audio Research [in New York, closed December 2017]. I learned the basics there. At that time, everything was really still pretty much analog. We were just learning digital technology, but not really its application. After that I went to work for Howard Schwartz Recording, and that's where I got my schooling. I worked as a messenger, made coffee, got the bagels, and ran packages around town. At the end of the night I was wrapping cables, putting away microphones, and getting to handle these precious commodities. Three months later I was thrown into the duplication room to start learning. I learned about tape, how to handle it, and how to make one-to-one copies. We were also working with big mag dubbers, because they did a lot of film there at the time. They would record voiceovers that would be sent off to be matched with picture, so I learned a little bit about sync. I learned about working with some old machines, and I learned the difference between full-track mono and 2-track stereo. It came in handy when I came to ABKCO and started to rummage through the large archive of tapes. I started to really understand how...