I had the chance to sit down with producer/recording engineer Godfrey Diamond at his home studio, Perfect Mixes Recording in Brooklyn, New York. Godfrey is known for his production and engineering work with Lou Reed, Billy Squier, Aerosmith, Frank Sinatra, Luther Vandross, and countless others. An early shining moment was playing drums at a young age on The Andrea True Connection’s disco hit “More, More, More.” We were able to indulge in his long career, accompanying stories, and his successful studio working methods.
How did you get your start?
I was very fortunate at the age of 19 to get a job at MediaSound Recording Studio in New York City. Everybody started in the shipping department. After hours, I spent as much time as I could in one of the four recording rooms, eventually assisting Tony Bongiovi [Tape Op #127], Harvey Goldberg, Bob Clearmountain [#84, #129], Ron Saint Germain, Alec Head, and Mike Delugg. Later, I had some great assistants; Michael Brauer [#131], Gregg Mann, and Ramona Jan. There was a high bar to deliver great sound fast to major label clients paying top New York City rates. You either had to be good or get out. On an average day, we’d be recording musicians like Steve Gadd, Will Lee, Paul Shaffer, Bob Babbitt, David Sanborn, Neil Jason, Elliott Randall, Bernard Purdie, Carlos Alomar, and Allan Schwartzberg; not to mention brilliant singers such as Robin Clark, Luther Vandross, Gordon Grody, and Lani Groves. I found myself in this musical playground with some of the best musicians in the world. I was laser-focused on becoming a producer/writer, and it was obvious to me that engineering was a path to this goal. But engineering quickly became more than a means to an end, it became another passion, especially in recording basic tracks, partially because I love recording drums. Being a drummer myself, it challenged me personally to play around with drum sets, mics, and tuning, as well as experimenting with EQ and compression. To develop a well-rounded set of skills, after sessions ended I would mix every night for hours and hours and figure out how to do it.
That’s the classic way to learn.
I did a couple of albums with Desmond Child & Rouge back then. Desmond Child, as we all know, is one of the most popular writers in the pop world. I recorded both of his albums way before he penned “Bad Medicine” and “You Give Love a Bad Name” for Bon Jovi. Aside from the sessions, I learned a lot about writing from Desmond. I think some of the players from his albums liked the sound I was getting, and word got out – I started getting calls. One day I was doing a record at Media, and I got a call from another studio, perhaps Sundragon. I used to moonlight there, so I knew the room pretty well. They said, “Listen, can you get me a drum sound? I’m desperate! I’ve got a check for you right here.” I told my assistant, “I’ll be back, ASAP. Keep this train a-rollin’!” I ran down and got a drum sound super-fast, made the producer happy, and got back to Media and kept working without skipping a beat. A bit stressful, yes; but this was when I realized I would eventually need to go independent.
Your brother, Gregg Diamond, was a writer and involved with the disco scene.
Right. I was a New York City kid, 15 or 16, and I’d go to Max’s Kansas City to check the New York Dolls and watch the waiters carry out a smashed Alice Cooper at 4 a.m. – drinking age was 18 then, so they’d let kids in if you didn’t look 12. When my brother’s band, Five Dollar Shoes, played there I would help lug gear, go to rehearsals, and watch them work up tunes. Mike Millius, the lead singer and a great writer, would say to me, “What do you think of this? Do you like this part or that part?” Off the top of my head I would say, “You could repeat that chorus, or try a different intro.” I would tell them what I honestly thought as a kid and a fan – I didn’t think they would listen to me. What I figured out later was that I was an amateur record producer before I even knew what a producer was.
In a lot of ways, a good record producer is also a good fan.
Exactly. Those early days gave me a solid background in how to interact with musicians. As far as the disco, that started later, in ’75 – we made a lot...