Michael Bishop, a 10-time Grammy-winning engineer and a pioneer in digital and high-resolution recording, long associated with the production team at Telarc Records, passed away on March 29 at his home near Cleveland, Ohio, just a few weeks shy of his 70th birthday.
He was technical and musical, and he was a giant, as his colleague, Grammy-winning producer Thomas Moore, described him on Facebook. While often associated with quality classical recordings through associations with symphonies around the country, Bishop’s credits ranged from Dizzy Gillespie and Wild Cherry, to Pere Ubu and The James Gang. Bishop began his association with Telarc and co-founder Jack Renner in the late 1970s and became chief engineer at the facilities from 1988 to 2008, when Concord Music Group bought the label and shuttered operations.
Mix asked a few members of the Telarc family—and they were a family—about their friend, Michael Bishop.
ENGINEER, VP FIVE/FOUR PRODUCTIONS
Michael was known for being an amazing engineer, and there is no doubt he was among the best. For me he was many other great things, such as a mentor, business partner and most of all, an awesome friend.
I am fortunate to have shared many great moments with Michael over the 25 years I knew him. His generosity with his time and willingness to share his knowledge had a huge impact on me and many others in the recording industry. His exceptional sense of humor and his love of laughter made it fun to engage with him. He was a fantastic teacher not only because of his vast knowledge, but also his encouragement in pushing you to find your own style and path. Michael strongly believed that before anyone can be happy with your work, you must be happy with it first.
When we started Five/Four Productions, he gave us the confidence and support, like that of a brother, and this is how I describe our 5/4 partnership… a brotherhood. He always had a positive attitude (especially in difficult situations) and was passionate about every project he worked on; he never accepted anything less than excellence.
I admire and will always remember his kindness and dedication to family, friends and the music he loved to work on. We had many conversations about audio and at least as many on non-audio related topics, which I will treasure. I miss him dearly.
I am deeply saddened by the loss of Michael Bishop, my longtime friend and one of my first true mentors.
Michael transformed my career from the very beginning. I first met Michael as an intern at Telarc in the summer of 1997. While I had limited interaction with Michael at this time, I was exposed to the amazing, cutting-edge surround sound and sound design work he was engaged in. I studied it, soaking it in. It became an inspiration and foundation for my senior thesis when I returned to school. And my exposure to Michael that summer and his work was a first big step in my career. But it didn’t stop there.
After returning to Telarc a few years later as a full-time employee, Michael took an active interest in me. In so doing, he helped me develop comfort and confidence in my own skills. During my first year at Telarc, I was moonlighting at a local studio doing mastering work. One day, out of nowhere, he came to ask me my thoughts on one of his mastering jobs. Mastering was just one of the many aspects of audio production Michael could casually do as well as anyone. Here I was, a wet-behind-the-ears kid, being asked to advise this legend of engineering. But that was the beauty of Michael. He wasn’t doing it to make me feel good. He genuinely and truly valued the opinions of others, even when their skills and experience paled when compared to his own.
It was not about ego. He was a humble man. And it was not about pride. He cared about getting the best product—always teaching and developing people along the way. He was one of those rare people in our industry who was world-class on a musical, technical and personal level.
One of my last working experiences with Michael was at Right Track Studios in New York City on September 11, 2001—yes, that 9/11. We watched in horror as the day’s events unfolded only a few miles from us. It was a frightening experience, and one that I believe bonded us forever. Over the last 20 years we didn’t stay in touch as much as we should have, as much as I would have liked. Everyone was busy with their careers and their lives. But he never failed to take the time to jot me a quick note on September 11, remembering our shared experience, or to offer the type of advice only a mentor and true friend can offer. That is the thoughtful person I remember. I will miss those notes. I already miss my friend.
ENGINEER, SUPER AUDIO CENTER
Over the past 23 years, I had the pleasure to help Michael out on many recording projects. Telarc was one of the first record companies to produce Super Audio CDs, and Michael Bishop, Jack Renner and Robert Friederich were some of the first engineers in the world to record using DSD technology. In the early days, the equipment was finicky and difficult to use, and because I was involved in developing the gear, I would frequently travel with Michael and assist him, typically as his tape op and editor.
Michael always seemed to be living on the cutting edge and accomplishing feats in the recording world that few others had been brave enough to attempt. Living on the cutting edge, sometimes things go wrong. When they did, Michael would remain calm and kind, always put me at ease, which made it easier to deal with trouble. In recent days, I’ve gone through session photos, and I am finding new love and appreciation for having had so many opportunities to work with him. I miss him.
ERICA BRENNER PRODUCTIONS
Michael and I worked together at Telarc Records for 20 years, and for the last 10 years, both with our own companies. I started out at Telarc as an editor, and made my way up to producing and became the Director of Audio Production, shepherding all the projects through the audio machine that Telarc was.
With only a master’s degree in music performance under my belt, I was hired to learn to edit on the job, so when I first met Michael, I knew nothing about the recording business. As I was the newbie at Telarc, he had ways of “testing me” to see if I was using my ears. Things like pumping up the bass, or adding an extra reverb send to see if I would catch the difference in sound. And then he’d get this twinkle in his eye that let me know he was having fun with me—it used to make me so mad! More than 30 years later, he was still “testing me” every time we’d go into a session together, and I am forever grateful that he did.
I don’t remember him ever saying that he couldn’t do something. In fact, he often claimed he could do something he had no idea how to do, but then would go out and figure out how to do it! Then there was his response if you ever told him something was not working quite right; he’d say, “Well, it should be!” Then he’d fiddle around, and it would start working again, without him really admitting anything—ha! You’ll hear this from more than just me.
Of course, his sound effects creations were legendary, but what was really fun was how he involved all of us and his friends and family in their creations. I got to be the computer voice on one of the Star Trek albums! It was so much fun. And his sound montages were miraculous compositions, the best example being A Touch of Sonic Madness.
Michael’s love of animals was amazing. His two dogs hung out in his studio during our mix sessions; he and his wife were lifelong horse lovers, and his horses were stars in many sound effects creations. One of his dogs, Lucas, was the star of a series of hundreds of Facebook posts called “Lucas Drool,” where you’d see Lucas’ eyes and nose looking up over the edge of the table at some delectable culinary creation. There are pictures dating back to 2012!
But the thing foremost in my mind about Michael is his love for his family, especially his life partner and wife, Wendy. Michael would always take the last flight out to get to sessions or the first flight back to get home. Wendy was his everything.
I’m working on a project right now that we recorded in February. I hear his voice on the recording between takes, and it’s so fresh, it’s so real. I can’t believe the guy I knew I could always rely on for the best of our craft is not there any longer. I can still hear his voice when he would pick up the phone: “Hiya, Erica!” with a genuine “it’s good to talk with you” sound in his voice. For so very many reasons, Michael will be missed.
Bishop is survived by his wife, Wendy. On behalf of the family, Thomas Moore and friends have started a GoFundMe campaign to help defray unexpected costs incurred in his death, including airlift and medevac procedures. Please visit the GoFundMe site and search for Michael Bishop.