Since he first hit the road in 1996 with Washington, DC skronk-rockers Kerosene 454, engineer Jonathan Kreinik has never slowed down. His resume as a live and studio engineer includes work with Trans Am, The Fucking Champs, Hot Snakes, !!!, Rocket From the Crypt, The Sea and Cake, Trail of Dead, The Shins, Le Tigre and LCD Soundsystem. He' s also done remixes: Oneida, Mount Simms and Poison Arrows, in addition to the single mix for !!!'s "Pardon My Freedom". His journey into recording and live sound is typical in that it is atypical. From recording his dad on cassette to Berklee to working with some of his idols, it' s been a wild ride.
Do you remember the first time you thought about recording music?
I don't remember thinking about it — I just remember it happening. We were stationed in Germany, the Army. I was probably around six or seven. My dad played in a couple of bands — one was a more traditional orchestra where he played bass clarinet. The other was more of a show band, meaning they had things like electric guitars and drum sets. The Panasonic Cassette-Corder, or whatever it was called, was pretty much a staple in my life at that point. Someone had to record my dad's shows. When I had it I'd sit next to the drummer. I think we made a lot of tapes for my grandma who lived in NYC. There was an [Pioneer] RT- 707 reel-to-reel that I started using around then too. My dad said there was a way to do sound-on-sound recording... he would overdub and harmonize with himself. I didn't understand it for a long time, but once I did things got interesting.
So how did you first come to start playing in bands yourself?
My dad had a collection of reed instruments, recorders, French horn, a tuba (which eventually got traded for a Volvo) and a trombone. We also had a Wurlitzer electric piano which is still around — a wooden console version. I think I also conned them into buying me a $25 guitar — a Kingston I think — which I'd figured out how to play through one of our junk stereos lying around. Flash forward about five years, and I'd begged my folks to get me a synth. I really wanted a Jupiter 8 like Nick Rhodes had, but I got a [Korg] DW6000, which served me well for a long time. Joining a band was something I found to be heartbreakingly hard to do. I've always just been a basement hacker and didn't really relate to people on that level, until I moved to Boston and hung out in a different scene than the insular DC punk scene. I later found out that forming a band was more about hanging out with your friends than "starting a band."
What were you recording on then?
From like '85 to '89 I was recording to cassette and reel- to-reel. I got a Yamaha 4-track in '89 and went mad in the basement pretty much until midway through college. It's funny to think that even back in '90, the DAT was this pretty spectacular advancement — CD burners weren't really around at all. And recording to computer was totally a novelty.
How did you first come to record other people's music?
I pestered a local studio called Cue to let me be an intern. This was probably in 1990. I would go there after school, or actually during school, and stay until eight or nine depending on what was going on there. One day this dude MC Soulski was working on some hip-hop. The producer was gone but, Soulski was nearby and heard me combining the normal break with one 1/2 speed and offsetting them and whatever, and asked me to produce a track for him at this place called Stargate down the road — an old '70s era studio with shag carpet. Then I went to Berklee and didn't record anyone. I'd originally wanted to go there for their synthesis department, but declared Film Scoring as a major and hated it. Then I quit and joined Pork Trimmer as a singer and ultimately got kicked out cause I lived too far away, but went down to Blacksburg, Virginia to record them on my 4-track. That was my first official recording of someone else as far as I was concerned. I knew I wanted to go back to Berklee and live in their studios. I managed to sneak in a bunch of stuff, me and my friends. Christina Files recorded Come there. Nick Hubben got the Swirlies, my band 33% and Milk Money in there — I recorded Spore and a Karate side project called Run for Tin, and a really great, gnarly punk band called Ambush at Junction Rock. Oh yeah, and I can't forget getting Vehicle...