Halloween Horror Stories

We all have horror stories, like certain "client" experiences, but most we bring on ourselves. I have many students that are afraid to make mistakes, so I tell them I make mistakes all the time. It's what you learn from your mistakes that makes you a seasoned pro. At the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, I'll tell some of my most famous personal horror studios in the studio.
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Halloween Horror Stories

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.


Beg your pardon, Mr. Poe, but I have volumes of lore I wish were forgotten. We all have horror stories, like certain "client" experiences, but most we bring on ourselves. I have many students that are afraid to make mistakes, so I tell them I make mistakes all the time. It's what you learn from your mistakes that makes you a seasoned pro. At the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, I'll tell some of my most famous personal horror studios in the studio.

Did you ever have that sinking feeling when you realize that you've forgotten something big? Like forgetting to press "record" after spending hours in a recording a session? We're talking Titanic sinking here. The talent had come in from out of town, the producer was meticulous, and the stakes were high. After the talent left, I went to start laying off the good takes. KA-THUD!! That's when I felt like I was in the middle of a bad dream. At that moment, I just shot up out of my chair and screamed "I'll be back!" to the bewildered producer. I ran out to the parking lot hoping to catch the talent, but his car was gone. I ran around the building to the street just as his car was pulling out in rush hour traffic. Fortunately, he saw me waving frantically and pulled back in. Now I had some 'splainin' to do. I tell my students to just tell the truth when you mess up, no matter how much of an idiot it makes you look like. This was one time if there ever was one. I will never forget the look on the producer's face as he said, "None of it? We didn't get anything?" But this story has a happy ending. Because we spent so much time tweaking each read, the talent came back in and knocked it out in ten minutes. Plus, the producer thought this round was even better. What I brought out of that session was to always run a backup, always check and double-check as you're recording, and to swallow your pride when you act like an idiot.

Another story of idiocy by yours truly involved a location shoot for a high-profile client. I had packed everything well in advance...well almost everything. The location was many miles away, so I planned to leave early just in case. The producer called a few times and requested additional equipment, so I spent my "early" time packing up extra stuff (which he never used, by the way). He then called and moved up the call time. There goes any hope of getting there early, I would just make it. Out I ran, and started making good time, thanks to my new radar detector I had just bought that week on a lark. About of a third of the way there, out of nowhere, I thought "Did I pack the microphone?" Oh @#$%*&^%!!!! Cue the Titanic again. That drive back to Lexington seemed to take forever. I felt like I was that idiot on the beach during a hurricane trying walk against the wind. Well, my radar detector worked that day - I got there on time.


And the raven (or my idiocy), never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas (or my speaker) just above my chamber door (or my mixing board);
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Did You Know?


Alan Parsons, a huge influence on me both musically and as an audio engineer, recorded "The Raven" on his first album, "Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allen Poe." The song was one of the first to use a vocoder, a device that distorts vocals. It's also one of the few songs that have Parsons' voice on it. Most of the lead vocals for The Alan Parsons Project were sung by band co-founder Eric Woolfson and several guest vocalists.

Dynamix Tech Notes


Alan Parsons' fame began before he started The Alan Parsons Project. He engineered the Beatles' "Abbey Road," Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," and Al Stewart's "Year of the Cat." Any fan of APP knows that his production skills stand out, like the wonderfully ultra-stereo synthesizer on "I Robot," the creepy choir in "Total Eclipse," or the orchestra on "The Turn of a Friendly Card." Parsons is now known to a new generation as an educator. He founded Art & Science of Sound Recording, which centers around an extensive 3-DVD training program in recording arts. From beginning fundamentals, to quite advanced problem-solving techniques, students are rewarded with Parsons' insights and instruction. Included is a segment with Parsons recording and mixing a legitimate song from scratch. ASSR also conducts live Master Class Training Sessions.

I am really excited about this new "project" of his. When I started in the business, there were no official schools to learn recording. One school in Ohio offered a crash course in engineering, but outside of that, radio broadcasting courses at a college were the only avenue. Today, there are 2-year certification programs, 4-year liberal arts programs, even masters and PhD programs centered around the recording industry. I am now an educator, having taught college courses, specialized training courses, been a guest speaker, and mentored dozens of students. There are hundreds of books on broad topics or specific techniques. It would seem that with all this available, recording sound wouldn't be such a mystery. But it still is to most people.

Sculpture has millennia to learn from, photography a century and a half. But modern recording is really only as old as cinema. So why the void of educational material? Some theorize that it was regraded as a blue-collar job in the world of media. Others think the gifted engineers valued job security by not revealing tricks of the trade. I like to think people thought that you can't teach someone to be a wizard. In reality, you can teach how to push the buttons and turn the knobs. But you can't teach when to push the button, how far to turn the knob, or when to just leave it alone.

Neil Kesterson
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