Sound City Studios

Tom Petty passed away yesterday. Very sad news.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded a number of their albums at Sound City Studios including Damn The Torpedoes, Hard Promises and Southern Accents.

Sound City was started in 1969 and became a private studio for a period between 2011 and 2016. The studio reopened earlier this year.

From their website:

Originally built as a factory for Vox amplifiers, a studio was added in 1964 to test amplifiers. After a few years the building was purchased by Tom Skeeter who partnered with Joe Gottfried in 1969 with the intent to operate a commercial recording studio: Sound City Studios was born. Despite a few high profile sessions such as Neil Young, Dr. John and James Gang, the studio struggled to stay afloat for the first few years.

Then in 1973, the studio invested in purchasing additional equipment to attract clients. But it will not be until a young couple named Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks came in to record their debut album that fortune changed.

Through a chance encounter with drummer Mick Fleetwood, the couple joined Fleetwood Mac and went on to record the start of a string of hit albums. The release of their eponymous album in 1975 made the band superstars and put Sound City firmly on the map. It also further reinforced the reputation of the studio as one of the greatest drum room in the world.

Soon the 70s saw a flood of stars finding their way to Sound City: War, Elton John, The Grateful Dead, REO Speedwagon, Santana, Foreigner, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Peter Frampton, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers among others.

The studio had purchased a Neve desk back in the early days, an 8028, that Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters later purchased for his own studio.

The 1970s and 80s were such an amazing time for music recording and it is wonderful to see Sound City Studios reopen its doors. So much history there.

One Fine Morning

Original release was 1971. Here is a live cut from 2017 which has Skip Prokop’s son Jamie on the drums.

Skip Prokop Passes Away

Skip Prokop spent a lot of time in my Toronto studio. We worked on a couple of projects together for his son Jamie. I had known Skip for many years, way back in the late 70s and early 80s when I was a session player. We lost touch and reconnected after many years and then started working together on Mercy Train.

Skip died yesterday. I loved the man and it really hurts to see him gone. He was strong in his faith and I know that he is home in heaven now. He lived an incredible life.

A few shots to share from the time we had together.

Skip cared deeply for his son Jamie. And Jamie is an exceptional talent. Much like his father.

This was the kit that Skip used most of the time when playing live. Skip also played Monolith drums. For many of the sessions, we used the Monolith kit. Bill Hibbs provided Skip with a lot of support. Monolith drums was co-founded by April Wine drummer Jerry Mercer and Bill Hibbs.

Skip had a rare musical talent as well as terrific production skills. He knew how to draw the very best out of a musician.

I did live sound for one of Mercy Train’s concert events and my wife, Lorraine, caught this shot of Jamie playing on stage with his dad. This was the first public performance for Mercy Train at an outdoor concert in Ontario. They were on the same card as Casting Crowns. The band was outstanding and it was really impressive to see just how amazing Skip and Jamie were as live players. Skip was in his early sixties at the time. He was still very much a monster player.

Very sad to learn of Skip’s passing. I’ll treasure the time we spent together.

Goodbye, old friend.

Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree

I have been cutting some videos from a concert I did back in December of 2016.

And yes, I know that it is June. Better late than never I suppose.

This was from 2016:

And this was from 2014:

Interesting for me to see the differences between the two events. Aside from being a couple of years apart, we had a different lead vocalist. Doug, in the 2016 video, has been with the team for two years. Rob, in the 2014 video, had been with the team for six years.

The core team, drums, bass, electric guitar, has been together for eight years.

I love the hall that we used in 2016. We have been there for two years and we will be doing two nights in December of 2017. The only negative is that we cannot use haze which means we leave the moving lights behind. In looking back on the 2014 video, although the stage was tight and the seating limited, those moving lights were really cool.

Designated Survivor

I came across this article on Keifer Sutherland saving the world with his guitar:

Kiefer Sutherland has built a notable career as an actor whose work includes his critically acclaimed stint as counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer on the TV series 24. But Sutherland has recently stepped onto a different stage as a roots-rocking singer-songwriter.

I’m not sure about “recently”.

I did a post back in 2005 about Keifer’s love for guitars and music. He had opened up a studio called IronWorks in partnership with Jude Cole although Keifer subsequently sold that place in 2009.

He has been playing for a long time.

And The Band Played On

My mother-in-law passed away a few weeks ago. A wonderful person whom I will really miss.

Her memorial service is this coming Saturday. We have been asked to play at the reception that follows the service. When I say “we”, the band is a trio: myself and my two sons.

Somewhat challenging to build a setlist for such an event, particularly when my sound is very much on the contemporary side of things. No vocals so the covers will all be instrumental pieces. My part will be covering the melody lines with a bit of improvisation here and there.

This is what we are going with:

  • It Is Well
  • Be Thou My Vision
  • Amazing Grace
  • Before The Throne Of God Above
  • What Child Is This
  • Christ The Lord Is Risen Today
  • Holy, Holy, Holy
  • Crown Him
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness
  • Come Thou Fount
  • Great Are You Lord

Yes. They are all hymns. However, we are playing contemporary arrangements and supplementing our little trio with percussion, strings, keys courtesy of MultiTracks.

The video below shows our setup for the date.

Celebrate Christmas VIII

Stage Access

Friday, December 9th. Our eighth annual Celebrate Christmas event. A sold out show at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in Kingston, Ontario.

My life pretty much shuts down for the three weeks leading up to this event. So much work to produce. The blogs that I write take a back seat over this period of time. Apologies for the quiet time.

Is all the work worth it?

You bet.

Sharing the joy and hope of Christmas is an honour.

Here are a few shots from before the show.

We used a Midas M32 board. Literally brand new and just out of the box. We have been using these consoles over the past several years. We loaded up our show file from last year and we were almost ready for soundcheck. Digital boards are so much faster. This one sounds great.

Midas Console

The next three shots are all about my guitar station. Although you can see a bit of the percussion and bass stations as well. I brought out four guitars: A custom shop Gretsch Duo Jet, a 1976 Gibson Les Paul Standard, a custom shop Fender Stratocaster and an Ibanez jazz box. Most of the evening I played through my Mesa Boogie stack. For the jazz set I played through my Swart rig.

In the first photo you can see most of my main pedalboard.

Guitar Station 1

A bit of a glamour shot of the guitars. I played the first set with the Les Paul, the second, fourth and fifth set with the Gretsch, the third set with the Ibanez and the other sets with the Strat.

Mesa Boogie Rig

My view of the hall. Although, with all of the lighting, you don’t really see that much of the audience.

Guitar Station 3

A view of the hall from the drummer’s chair. The Isabel is a beautiful property and a wonderful place to host the Celebrate Christmas concert. Their crew is top notch.

Drum Station

It took a full day for me to recover from the event. We started at 7 in the morning and we did not finish until sometime after midnight. With only a few hours to load-in and set up the show, our team of about 15 people had a full day.

A great audience and an amazing evening.

We had a videographer for the event and we recorded it. I will be doing the production work on the videos over the next few weeks and I will post a few. I have a rough of the encore segment that we tried this year. It seemed to work out really well.

Home Office

IMG_0795one

This has been my home office for the past few weeks. When I am not at work, I am generally here in my woodshed, practicing for the big Celebrate Christmas concert in December.

This video will give you a better sense of the space. A beautiful place to spend time practicing and learning how to make music.