A&M chapter eleven

Meet Garth Richardson.

Garth was the senior Canadian.

A viciously competitive ping pong virtuoso with a devastating serve, a pronounced paunch and male pattern baldness.  Glasses and a baseball cap with some hockey logo.  I don’t believe I ever saw him lose.  He sure cleaned my clock whenever I was bored enough to have my ass handed to me.  I grew up with a ping pong table.  I was lucky to return his goddamn knuckle ball serve.

Talented, a big heart, funny, friendly and smart.  He was quite good to me.  You’ll see.

An immensely accomplished record producer and engineer who managed to eclipse his legendary father, Jack Richardson of Nimbus 9, The Guess Who and “These Eyes”, in the universe of recording arts.  He produced the first Rage Against The Machine record, arguably their best.  Good enough for me.  Always on the curve and usually ahead of it.  A class act and a good guy.

Years later, while I was mixing a project at the the deceased Frank Zappa’s house, Dweezil Zappa revealed to me how Tom Morello managed the signature  rhythm riff on “Killing In The Name”.  The second half of it was a full octave lower in the same key.  I’d always assumed it was a punch after he’d tuned down, but Morello did it with an octave pedal.  Duh.

Garth looked at me on the morning of the first day of the first gig I ever did with him and said in all seriousness, “Mikey, if you do nothing else on this session, I want you to set it up so that every time I hit rewind or stop on the multitracks, the audio from the hockey game comes up.”

I ran a noisegate off the sync head from the smpte time code track on 24, consistent amplitude and frequency.  The sync head gave me fifty five milliseconds of lead time before the playback head.  Enough to drive a truck through.  I patched into the trigger of a Drawmer gate, set it to duck, and brought it up on a fader at the end of the console near the patch bay so I could have access to it.  I ran the hockey audio through the gate, then I strapped another gate across the insert to close while the mix was playing with the same trigger off a mult.  Kinda the same chain but in reverse.  I still took care to mute it when we were printing.

Took me about five minutes to figure out and implement.

Garth smiled and asked for it in stereo.

I fucked up a lot but I think Garth and his engineer Joe liked me after that very first gig.  These guys were self sufficient.  They didn’t need a genius, just somebody to change the linens and help flip the mattress.

What I learned from Garth was largely by example.  Etiquette and politics.  He was a producer and I was an assistant to his engineer, Joe Barresi.  Joe has become a star in his own right: The Melvins, Queens of The Stoneage, Kyuss, Tool and Bad Religion.  Joe was a soft spoken and understated funny motherfucker.  At one point I was dating a redhead and showed him a picture.  His eyes lit up and he smiled.  “Firepie” he said softly through a slight grin. I’m grateful to have known and worked with him.  We were born on the exact same day, 02/07/65.  Technique and chops I stole from Joe.  Class and manners too.

Garth always had an exceptional ear for good engineers.  Stan Katayama and Joe Barresi for example.

Garth has a fairly pronounced stutter that seemed to come and go at random.  In my mind’s eye I see him jolly and hardworking.  Very funny and somewhat paternal, even to Randy and Bill.  He liked being Dad.  On holidays there was always whiskey for your coffee.

We pulled an all-nighter in B once, we were firing and printing snare samples and kept having phase problems between the original and the sample.  I remember looking at the the scope and seeing it 180 degrees out on one hit and almost phase locked on the next.  Frustrating.  We could hear it plain as day.

Around midnight Garth ordered roasted garlic pizza from this place up in Laurel Canyon.  He knew exactly what he was doing.  As soon as the pie arrived, he said with a smirk, “Mikey, I apologize in advance”.  It was delicious.  For a solid five hours we carpet bombed the control room with a prodigious volume of pungent garlic flatulence that had the runners entering with Lysol and makeshift face masks to clean up.  We joked about the air changing from blue to green.  We didn’t dare light a match for fear of combustion of the copious amount of methane.  An air locked control room and there were complaints from the hallways.  We  giggled with adolescent glee and morbid satisfaction.

His production credit often reads “GGGarth Richardson, a self deprecating nod at his stutter.

There was a young woman named Patricia Sullivan with a speech impediment somewhat more severe than Garth’s.  I called her Miss Ricia.  She was a mastering apprentice.  A different kind of engineering sorcery that suited her demeanor better than the testosterone fueled boys club of wanna be console jockeys.  Beautiful inside and out, she possessed a serenity and wisdom that I often wondered at.  She was calm and peace in an absolute maelstrom.

My point is this, an incidental thing like a stammer becomes pretty much invisible in the presence of of such genuine humanity.  It wasn’t until I remembered Garth’s affliction that I was reminded of Miss Ricia’s.  I was only reminded of Garth’s when I remembered his album credits.  When I hear his voice in my head today, I don’t hear the stutter.

I’m not sure by what authority, but Garth made me an honorary Canadian at one point.  He teased me that my assistant engineer credit on an the L7 record, “Hungry For Stink” would be either Demo King or Donut King.  I dared him and was a little disappointed to see my actual name spelled correctly when it was released.

These guys, these Canadians, Randy, Garth and Bill, all still inhale and exhale music, engineering and the production thereof everyday.  Garth has a school with producing legend Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”), Nimbus School of Recording Arts.  Randy and Bill have very successful careers and are making God Thumping good sound as you read this.

I have much more to say about Garth, but this chapter is done.

Next up is the story of how Garth was able to prevent me from beating the shit out of Eddie Kramer in front of Luther Vandross, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons while I was actually engineering on a KISS record.

Drinks for my friends.

3 Responses to “A&M chapter eleven”

  • a good egg, that Garth.
    We only met that once, while we were there the same time he was doing the Testament record. We talked and teased viciously about hockey. We’ve reminded each other of the time on numerous occasions, through emails.

    I smile when I hear his name.

    While Testament’s drummer had all his gear lined up in the hallway by the break room/bathroom, I stole the “I fucked your fat girlfriend” sticker off of one of his cases.

    Garth, I never told you about that.

    Hold it against me all you want… But at least I’m not a Maple Leafs fan…and at least my name’s not on a fucking Testament record.

  • admin:

    A good egg indeed.
    I smile when I think of him.
    HA!

  • admin:

    Hunty rhymes with cunty.

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