I fell into audio journalism out of necessity. My drive was always music, which led me to L.A., first as a guitar player, then working construction on two studios—which led to becoming a recording engineer. Then came the 1994 Northridge earthquake, where I lost a house and chose to move closer to family in Arizona, a place I swore I’d said goodbye to forever. After 18 years, Los Angeles indeed proved too much for the man.
It was a true reset, and I was lost. I had built my career in L.A., making records with the best gear, engineers, producers and musicians on the planet, and now I was back in the desert, literally and figuratively. A guy I call my “guardian angel,” Arizona music teacher Bob Diaz, came to the rescue. Not only did he bring a trailer and kids from his youth group, The Amigos, to move me from California, but he gave me two jobs: one teaching recording at his magnet high school, and another with his wife, Candy, who had a graphic design business. Overnight I went from engineering to being both a teacher and student. These were both part-time jobs, so I picked up my guitar and started playing gigs again.
But I needed something else. I had all these recording chops and experiences, so I approached Nick Batzdorf, editor of Recording Magazine, about writing a feature. Then he had me start writing product reviews, which turned into a series of events that would change my life.
Move forward a few years, and I got a phone call out of the blue from Pro Audio Review editor John Gatski. He was looking for a replacement editor, as he was moving up to publishing. So I said goodbye to Arizona and moved to the Washington, D.C., area for a new life and job. I loved it! D.C. is the ultimate tourist town. Where L.A. has Disneyland, Universal Studios, the beach, the Getty, Lakers, Dodgers and Kings, Washington has monuments, history, more museums than you can count on fingers and toes, and bike paths. I could hop on my bike in Alexandria and be on the Mall in 30 minutes, or at the first George W’s house in Mt. Vernon in an hour. It was cherry blossoms, winter weather and the center of my new universe.
After a year, PAR’s parent company purchased Audio Media, a UK-based magazine that had a U.S. office in Nashville. After only a year in D.C., the lure of being in a recording production center was too strong to resist, and I volunteered to move and be editor of Audio Media USA. Nashville was beautiful. I was among great engineers, producers and high-tech recording gear again, and it was terrific. Then, 9/11, the internet finding its legs, and the world’s first dotcom collapse led to the end of Audio Media USA. It was back to Arizona to take a job as director and instructor of a recording school.
Related: Mix articles by Kevin Becka
But just weeks before the closing of Audio Media, I was invited to attend a press junket overnighter at Skywalker Ranch, which had just installed a new Neve 88R in its scoring stage. But my heart sank. Just before the trip, I was out of a job, so I called Neve’s U.S. PR guru Robin Hoffman and told her I would reluctantly have to back out. She said, hold on, let me call you right back. In ten minutes my phone rang, and Robin said, “You are still going. You can use it as a networking experience.” Robin’s generosity changed my life again.
The Skywalker weekend led to a phone call with Mix editor Tom Kenny, and within three months I had a new gig as technical editor of the magazine. That was 15 years ago. I met so many great people at Mix; I could fill two pages with the names and stories of my great times with this crew. Tom is an old-school journalist who spent some time at the San Francisco Chronicle and has been at Mix since 1988. He taught me how to be a better writer, and after the passing of Mix columnist Steven St. Croix, asked me to pen a column. Steven was an audio engineer, producer, artist, gear designer and inventor who wrote “The Fast Lane,” bringing Mix’s cred to the topmost level for 18 years. Tom talked me through many, many months teaching me to have a voice, what not to say, and how to consider myself an authority. Me? Yes, me (gulp). I slowly gained confidence, and it changed how I think about everything, both in and out of audio.
In 2013, when my Arizona teaching job and my primary source of income abruptly ended, Tom (whose network extends to the moon) introduced me to John McBride at Blackbird, who was looking to start a recording school at his iconic Nashville studio. Once again a guardian angel, this time Tom Kenny, changed my life. John McBride, Mark Rubel and I started The Blackbird Academy from a seed that has rooted and is more successful every day.
At this last NAMM show, I accepted a new gig as a team member at Pro Tools Expert. This is a tough one. I love what I’ve done with the Mix crew, including Janis Crowley and Tom, but the time is right. So my gigs are teaching the next generation of engineers at The Blackbird Academy and creating reviews, tips and other content at Pro Tools Expert. I’m excited about the future.
It’s both a happy and sad move, but Dr. Seuss said it best: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I love you all, and thanks for reading. Stay in touch!