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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Excellent Nashville Adventure

Ken and Bobby at RCA Studio B and their excellent piano.
Let me tell you about an excellent adventure that the esteemed producer/engineer Ken Scott and I just returned from. We were invited to speak at the TI:ME Conference in Louisville over the weekend, but the trip was extended to include engagements at Belmont University and SAE in Nashville on Monday and Tuesday. Although we usually each give separate presentations, we decided to combine what we both do because of the time restraints. In three of the sessions, I interviewed Ken about his past work with The Beatles, Bowie, Supertramp and more. On the other session, Ken interviewed me about my various books.

Amp stands in Studio B so the musicians didn't play too loud.
We gave two presentations in the lovely city of Louisville (home of the Kentucky Derby), where one night we were treated to an excellent concert by the US Army Field Band. It certainly makes you proud that a service band can be composed of so many great musicians, and their big band music was the equal to any great concert by just about any band today, bar none. Good music is just good music, no matter the genre.

On Sunday we drove up to Nashville, where we were met by studio designer Carl Tatz and multi-platinum engineer Bob Bullock (I absolutely love the Shania Twain records that he's done). Carl took us to a home studio that he built that features his Phantom Focus System. This turned out to be an incredible treat. Carl's system is more about the interface and tuning of the speakers rather than the speakers themselves and the results are tremendous. I've never heard such pin-point panning in the stereo field, or depth of field. You've got to hear a PFS system to believe it Everything else pales in comparison. We spent of a lot of the afternoon just listening to music for the sheer enjoyment of it. When was the last time that happened?

After that we had a great Indian dinner with award-winning film composer and former LA native Chris Boardman. I think it's very safe to say that he does not miss the City of Angels one bit.

On Tuesday it was off to Belmont University were they drowned us in southern hospitality, first with a lunch with their music and recording faculty, then off to a tour of the their excellent studio facilities. Belmont is lucky to have an endowment from Mike Curb to buy up some of the greatest studios on the planet rather than see them turned into parking lots.  First we were off to Owen Bradley's former studio "The Quanset Hut," home of such classics as Patsy Cline's, "Crazy", Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry" and Bobby Vinton's "Blue Velvet." Then it was off to the former RCA Studio B, where we were amazed to see the same room and gear that Elvis, Roy Orbison, Ernest Tub, Porter Wagoner, Floyd Cramer and Chet Atkins used. Wow! Then it was off to see the church turned studio at Oceanway. That's a full day in itself, but there was more.
The cabinet that Elvis kicked and broke (and refused to fix).

At 5:30 we addressed a packed house of students at Belmont and unfortunately, they had to turn a few students away due to fire codes. That said, it was really great to feel their energy and enthusiasm, and we both really enjoyed their questions and interactions. Belmont has a truly wonderful program that touches so many facets of the music industry (I could go on and on about how impressed I was), but a college is nothing without it's faculty, and it was great to see the high caliber of pros that the program employed. Thanks to all for a great time and your hospitality, especially Professor Flo (Mark Volman, of The Turtles, Zappa and Flo and Edie fame) for arranging our visit and Sara Cates and Jim Kaiser for facilitating our tour and talk. One thing that was interesting though - there were more females than males in the audience (which is highly unusual in the audio business), probably thanks to Ken's animal magnetism.
Ken, Bob Welch, Bobby

That night, we were lucky enough to have dinner with former Fleetwood Mac singer/writer/guitar player and solo artist Bob Welch. "Ebony Eyes" has always been one of may favorite songs so it was a treat to finally meet him. But wait, there's more.

On Tuesday we started the day off over at Mayfair Mastering, where the legendary (and new AES Fellow) Glenn Meadows played us some choice Steely Dan cuts in his fine new room. If you know Glenn, then you know that everything he touches can only be excellent.

Then it was off to SAE to speak to more inquiring minds. SAE is different from most recording schools in that it's a fast track program designed to get students on their way into the business in a minimum amount of time. Once again, it was great to have the opportunity to address a great group of future professionals. You could just see the hunger to learn in their eyes. Thanks to Crystal Armentrout to facilitating our talk and Alan Shacklock for the great introduction.

Then it was off to the airport and back to LA and business as usual. Thanks Mike Lawson (my champion) for all your help and being our tour manager, and to Alfred Music Publishing for sponsoring our trip. Nashville, I have a feeling we're going to see you again soon.
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