In pro audio circles and throughout the vast realm of the internet, Fletcher is a ubiquitous and highly vocal presence. Always quick with commentary and an endless font of knowledge regarding even the most obscure pieces of gear, he is also the owner of MercenaryAudio, a purveyor of high-end boutique pro audio gear. In addition to selling his wares, Fletcher has also been involved in the design and tweaking of several pieces with various gear designers of note.
So how did you get started in gear pimping?
We used to get together and piss and moan about how the labels were screwing us around with our rates and with our rental gear and whatnot. So we decided that if we managed each other and then rented our own gear to each other, labels couldn't screw with us as much and say, "Oh you own that piece of equipment, that's just included in the session." It's like, "No I paid a lot of money for the fuckin' thing, and I'd like to recoup some of it. "So that's how Mercenary Audio started. We were booking each other, like, "Oh, no I'm sorry. Chris doesn't work for that rate, he works for this rate and he needs two points." So my buddy would negotiate for me and then I didn't have to get into a bad place with the band or with the record deals. It was kind of like management.
When was that?
That was around '85 and went on for a few years. Then it turned into this four-month period where I couldn't buy a gig. My wife was working and one Friday she was leaving the house in the morning and she says to me, "You know I don't get paid until next week. We've got fifty bucks to live on for the whole week Why don't you try and sell something before I get home?" At that time Mix magazine used to put out these directories of all the studios in a given region of the country. The May issue was studios in the Northeast. So I got on the phone and started calling around. Ed Evans down at the Power Station happened to need a pair of La3as, so I drove them down, got paid. But in the course of making all those phone calls there were other people that were like, "No, I don't need a pair of La3as but I am looking for this," or, "No, I don't need anything, but I'm trying to sell this." It turned into a kind of pro audio dating service and went along like that for a few years. Then we got this newfangled computer system, and it didn't work for shit. So, now instead of like taking listings and being able cross-index, we came to the conclusion that if we saw something we had to just buy it, or otherwise we'd never remember where the hell it was. If we found somebody who was looking for something we didn't have it in stock, chances are we were never going to find it to sell it to them. So we became more of a dealership than a brokerage.
About what year was that?
That was probably about '91.
Wow, just in time for the whole . . .
For the real vintage explosion, yeah. We kind of saw it coming and, frankly, we kind of made it happen. Engineers had always known about this gear, guys like Dan Alexander out of the Bay Area, Sye Mitchell down in L.A. had been doing this whole sort of vintage thing for eons. We just kind of put the name on it.
So in terms of your impact on the various "Mercenary editions" of gear that have been put out in the last few years, what the hell do you have to do with any of it?
Like the Avalon piece is just sort of me being a cheap bastard. There were two versions originally, one with a high head room input transformer and the nice aluminum knobs. There was this one with a cream- colored face plate and cheap plastic knobs. I could really hear the difference between the high head room input transformer and the non-high input transformer. [I] couldn't hear a damn bit of difference between the color of the knob caps. So I asked Wyn over at Avalon if he would make them for us with the good input transformer and the cheap-ass knobs. One thing led to another and it turned into the S37SM, which was actually the first of the Mercenary edition.
So what about the Drawmer 1969?
I was doing an album with...