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The audio business is deeply personal for me, as it is for many of us. When I first met Leslie Ann Jones in 1991, I was thrilled to finally meet a female engineer. To see a woman in the boys' club and seeing her outshine the boys has been inspirational to me.
She is a multiple Grammy Award-winning recording engineer working as Director of Music Recording and Scoring at Skywalker Sound, a Lucasfilm, Ltd. company. She is the daughter of novelty drummer, percussionist and bandleader Spike Jones and his wife, singer Helen Grayco.
But to categorize Leslie Ann Jones as noteworthy because she's a woman is insulting. She is one of the most revered engineer/producers of her generation. She is extraordinarily competent with a keen sense of humor and enormously generous to her associates. I learned a great deal in the time that I spent with her.
What I also discovered was how respected she is by her peers. One recordist told me, "I strive to be like her every time I enter the studio." She has also been remarkably generous and involved with the audio community, having served in leadership positions with SPARS and NARAS and donating her time each summer to teach recording to girls at the Institute for Musical Arts in Massachusetts.
She was, and still is, my role model.
Going into the studio as an artist, there's nothing I look for more than magic. When producing someone else's music I get deep into the mechanics of "how", but when it's my own tune, voice and guitar, I'm only interested in the "wow". Walking into the control room of the massive scoring stage at Skywalker Sound, Leslie Ann Jones's domain, the challenge was not an easy one. I had recorded a just-written song, "Glow", with producer Steve Addabbo at his wonderful Shelter Island Sound in Manhattan. Working quickly in Logic 8 to get the ideas down while they were fresh, we used my Gibson HD.6x-Pro Digital Les Paul (each string going to its own discrete track), added Mellotron, Stylophone, synth bass, vocals and that was about it. For drums we found a preexisting Apple Loop. Later though, when it became apparent that "Glow" was to be featured as a single, we decided to add live drums and percussion. Inviting my friend, Richard Kerris, to play, we headed to Skywalker Ranch to see what we would come up with. The size of the scoring stage was at first overwhelming — Kerris's drum kit was dwarfed by the hangar-like space. How will this ever match the rest of our track, recorded in a room that was comparatively the size of Yoda's tiny mud hut in The Empire Strikes Back? Leslie's control of that huge ambience was awe-inspiring. Getting a sound that was full of air, but never overpowering, she used the space like an instrument in itself — it sang. Later, when we returned to Skywalker for Leslie to mix the track, she played that Neve 88 console like she had played the live room. Her incredibly eclectic discography, ranging from Mel Tormé to the Meat Puppets with Miles Davis and Dave Edmunds thrown in for good measure, seems to have given her a laser-sharp intuition for what makes a record pop, along with an astonishing attention to detail and a unique perspective — mixing as orchestrating as arranging as conducting. The result was sheer magic. Wow!
Check out Richard's album, GLOW via YouAreTheGlow.com
His book, FRONTMAN: Surviving the Rock Star Myth is a great read. FrontmanBook.com