Many years ago, George Massenburg and I were having lunch and I asked him what facet of the engineering and production gig was his favorite. He told me that he loved to be in the studio: he loved the hang. He loved being around musicians and people who worked on music. Of course he loves music, too, but his love of the personal interaction in the recording studio was a great motivator for him. I feel the same way.
Some of the by-products of my own studio experience are the great things I have heard people say. This month I thought it would be fun to share some of their quotes with you.
I remember once blowing up a rack of Dolby SR on an Ed Cherney session at the Complex. (It's a long story.) The response from Ed was very forgiving, but also memorable. “Aw jeez, Nate. It's okay if you blow stuff up once in a while. Just try not to do it on your friend's session.”
So noted, sir.
George Massenburg once told me during a severe chew-out that “excuses will only make you feel better.” That certainly made an impression. It didn't make me feel any better.
No matter how memorable those quotes are, they're from situations that we hope to avoid repeating. However, the quotes that make me laugh every time are the ones I love the most.
My friend Edd Kolakowski, during a particularly troublesome session, likened our progress to that of “a herd of turtles in a bucket of peanut butter.” A similar sentiment was expressed by my friend Steve Croes, who compared working with a particular artist to “painting a school bus with a toothbrush.” He was right about that guy, too.
I've heard many a great quote as performers chided one another, such as “How long have you been on this gig, not including tomorrow?” Or the brilliant question, “How do you compare your work with what people are, you know, doing today?”
The great Don Grolnick had a vast collection of things you could tell an artist right after witnessing a performance of theirs that sucked, such as “Wow, that was timeless” or “You must be really proud of yourself” or “I don't know how you do it.” Those still find use. It's sad how often, really.
If any of you have a funny quote or phrase that you use or have heard someone else use in the studio, email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I get enough submissions, I will author a follow-up article to this and credit you. Think of it as our audio tribute to George Carlin. You game?
Nathaniel Kunkel (studiowithoutwalls.com) is a Grammy and Emmy Award-winning producer, engineer, and mixer who has worked with Sting, James Taylor, B.B. King, Insane Clown Posse, Lyle Lovett, I-Nine, and comedian Robin Williams.