EC began life in Philadelphia, PA. "Born in the fifties" as the song goes. The Phonograph above belonged to my mom. My dad hooked it up to the back of the TV set. At three, I could recognize the patterns of the record labels. I used to watch as my dad changed tubes and capacitors, often getting in his way. "Get outta my ligtht" he would say. But I was hooked. Dad was and is inspirational in the way music makes him happy. He has always had a great voice, singing along with faves Art Lund and Frank Sinatra. We've just finished a 2 CD Art Lund compilation of 52 songs, most of which even his record company lost track of. At a very early age, Music, Happiness and Technology were linked as one for me.
Click here to travel in time...
||IN 1975, I got my first job as Keyboard Technician
(a.k.a. "Roadie") for Daryl Hall and John Oates. Hall and
Oates, Buzzy Linhart, Loggins and Messina and Bonnie Raitt
were musical favorites during my collegiate years. To work for one's
idol was truly enlightening... I was treated well by "The Artist's,"
though the road experience was more like boot camp. I was a very
green geek-in-training. All the counter-culture in the world did not prepare
me for the business of music.
IN 1976 I got a gig as a live sound engineer (plus keyboard tuner, schlepper and truck driver) for Hello People. You may have never heard of them, but they were fine musicians with really great a capella vocals and a well ad libbed song called "The Mad Red Ant Lady." There was some confusion in the latter part of their career. They had always worn "whiteface" a la Marcel Marceau. Not at all like "Kiss," they did not speak on stage except to sing.
Eddie at the Joyous Lake mixer
After B'ville came Eddie Offord, Engineer and Producer of the first two YES and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) albums. He was set up in Levon Helm's house in Saugerties NY. (Levon was the drummer for The Band, of "Big Pink" fame.) Eddie's studio gear included a quad mixer designed for the YES and ELP tours, plus an MCI 24 track "portable" recorder (in 3 road cases). There was no control room. (Eddie O was also set up at Turtle Creek Barn, owned by Bearsville, where he recorded David Sancious and Tone.) The house burned down, but I did get to record Jack Dejohnette there and I made friends with Kasim Sulton an extemely talented plucker of strings and modulator of the vocal chords.
After the Woodstock Era, I went on the road again, working for Tommy Mottola (again), his Champion Entertainment Company was managing a four-piece power-pop ensemble, SUSAN, featuring Rickie Byrd (later with Joan Jett), Tom Dickie, Chas and Mick Leland. Chas and I remained close friends for a long time. On my way north to complete the last leg of that very loud tour, I returned to Philly to visit my mom, who was sick. Timing being everything, I missed her by perhaps an hour or two... :(
I spent 1979 at home with my dad. That's pretty generous. I was in Philly trying to be a recording engineer / producer, living with my dad, but probably not giving him too much emotional support. I did hook up with John Doelp (now Celine Dion's Executive Producer). John and I recorded LOVE INJECTION, a mild R&B dance tune by TRUSSLE for Elektra at EARMARK recording studio at 4th & green in Philly.
John then teamed up with Don Rose, in 1980, his EAT RECORDS had signed Boston's HUMAN SEXUAL RESPONSE (HSR). (Don was the founder of Rykodisc). I recorded HSR at downtown recorders. Ben Wisch mixed the album at what is now QUAD recording in NYC.
On Easter Sunday night, 1980, I drove to NYC with T.J. Tindall who I had met in 1975 thanks to Jim Zubernis, now an OBGYN, not bad for a guitar roadie, you might even say a logical transition!!! TJ played with Bonie Raitt as well as Duke Williams and the Extremes, not to forget all those great Gamble and Huff records... TJ and I stayed with his then girlfriend, Carla Bandini, who was an engineer at Sigma Sound, NYC.
My first job in NYC was at Chelsea Sound on 14th street. The studio has since been home to Baby Monster, owned by Steve Berg of Steve Forbert fame. I also worked at Nola Recording, still in business on top of the Steinway Building on 57th street. Jim Czak and John Post, formerly of Bell Sound, are still using Errorl Garner's Steinway B.
Late in 1980, I toured with Randy "just when I needed you most" Van
Warmer as sound engineer. I built The Ranch in1981 along with
Neil Simon (not the playwright) and where I met Ira Wasserman (a networking
specialist) and Robbie Norris, who now manages Quad Studios in midtown
Manhattan (where HSR was mixed). The recording console -- an early
MCI JH-416 loaded with 24 modules, the opamps had been upgraded by me to
5534s. I moved that console from Earmark Studios at 22nd & spring
garden to 4th and green in Philly, then it followed me to NYC!!!
have recordings from that console made in all three studios. (The
re-connection was coincidence. The man searched me out.)
After the Ranch, I spent alot of time at SKYLINE studios where I met Judy Elliott Brown, we share a birthday and birth year. TJ and I recorded several albums there until I quit...
In 1983 I took two jobs to recover from a financial disease, "ma-funds ah-low." By day I wired Photomagnetic, an audio post house for film. At night, I rejoined Glenn Coleman to build two transfer consoles for Atlantic Recording Studios, managed by Paul Sloman, formerly of Record Plant, NYC. It was at this time that Hector La Torre (later of EQMagazine) would ask me to write reviews and audio articles. I was not into the concept, at first... Then, after two brief detours, I spent a year and a half working at RECORD PLANT, NYC. I learned so much from Paul Prestopino and Neal Steingart. Paul is master of wood and metal, music and words. Neal is equally gifted. He turned me on to Aram Friedman (brother of Dean Friedman)...
The TIMELINE: In Progress
In march 1985, I left a regular gig at Record Plant Studios (RPS), NYC to attempt the life of a free lance technician. By night, I wired Charlex, (thanks to Aram) an extremely hi-tech video house. By day, I started with two project studio clients, tripling the number of clients within the first year. I freelanced for Record Plant, going on the road to do LIVE AID, FARM AID and a bunch of PBS specials including Pavarotti at the Philly Academy of Music, Saturday in the Park with George and the Statue of Liberty Celebration. ( I was really surprised to see that Ronald Reagan had a sound effects guy to enhance applause during his speaches. No Lie!!!) After three years, I had slightly more than doubled my RPS salary of $20,000 / year and was getting regular requests for installations. I found an investor, a workspace, a couple of employees and have kept quite busy ever since as Manhattan Sound Technicians, Inc. After 19 years, renting was getting old so Polly and I moved to West St Paul, Minnesota.
I view the audio industry as a sort of pyramid, primarily focused around the "Project" environment. At the ground floor are hobbyists and recording enthusiasts, AKA "Home" studios. (Sometimes this is a split-level affair!) On the next several levels are my clients -- the Project Studios -- people who make their living from making music and/or audio production. At the top are the few and the proud: the World Class studios with in-house technicians.
Before DAT and ADAT changed everyone's business, I serviced about a zillion Tascam 38's and MS-16's, Otari 5050's and the Fostex A, B and E series machines. Being a veteran, I cut my teeth on 3M, MCI, Studer and Ampex machines. We also did an assortment of mixers, amps, outboard gear and cassette decks.
Most of the time I made house calls while my crew repaired stuff that could be brought to the shop. The sheer volume and repetition -- plus Friday classes in electronics -- was experience enough for my techs-in-waiting. Tricky things like tape path or high-power, direct-coupled power amps required my attention. I even learned to lap heads for all those really old machines like Tascam 3340's and 80-8's.
On occassion, folks would ask if I would take a look at their consumer
VHS decks. I did, though the guys in the shop resented me for it. For other
than obvious problems, it wasn't really worth their time due to the actual
value of those things versus what we could charge. The knowledge, however,
sure helped when DAT decks started showing up. Then the Alesis ADAT happened...
|Nearly overnight, most of the Big Apple Project Studios sold their
analog decks to people who would not be my customers -- their needs were
less critical, their budgets smaller. Since ADATs were initially
covered under warranty, we didn't see much of them. (Alesis has only two
authorized service centers in NYC.)
I had already begun to see the handwriting on the wall and made the transition to DAT. This delicate work became increasingly more difficult for my crew and so, after ten years, MST was "downsized." This turned out to be most liberating because now I could pursue personal interests such as video and computers rather than manage and distribute work to my employees. Maybe I didn't mention what it was like to be an employer and business owner... Believe me I learned alot.
Once free of the management monkey, I started taking interesting part-time gigs with friends in the video domain. It turned out they were most impressed with my tape path skills. With several years of 4mm DAT under my belt, digital video decks were not all that scary to me. In some ways, they were far easier because everything is bigger. ( DAT decks -- especially the Walkman-like portables -- are like working on a watch!) In addition, professional decks have built-in diagnostic software, back-panel outputs for oscilloscope connections and "NOVRAM" (Non-Volatile RAM) that can hold both user presets and adjustments such as tension, record and playback levels and EQ. All that wasted time on cheesy VCRs finally paid off.
I spent a year and a half working for Austin Williams at R/Greenberg Associates, returning full-time to MST in mid-April'96, and having a much better time...
More to come!
My Uncle Fred
My Uncle Vince
Copyright 1997~1999 by Eddie Ciletti
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