BRUCE FAIRBAIRN REMEMBEREDRecord producer Bruce Fairbairn passed away on May 17, 1999, at his home in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was 49. Originally a trumpet player in the Canadian pop band Prism, Fairbairn rose to international audio industry fame in the 1980s with his work at the now-defunct Little Mountain Sound, producing top acts like AC/DC (The Razor's Edge), Aerosmith (Permanent Vacation, Pump), Bon Jovi (Slippery When Wet), Motley Crue, Poison and other "heavy" bands. He also kick-started the careers of several talented local engineer/producers, including Bob Rock, Randy Staub and Mike Plotnikoff. Bands came to Vancouver because they wanted to work with Fairbairn, and he single-handedly put Vancouver on the map as a place to come for big-budget album projects.
In 1995 Fairbairn acquired Vancouver's Armoury Studios from his old friend and bandmate, songwriter extraordinaire Jim Vallance, who had originally built the facility as a writing studio. After acquiring Armoury, Fairbairn used the studio on a number of high-profile projects, including The Cranberries, Van Halen and INXS's last album. Recently he had been working with Yes, who were nearing the completion of mixes for their new album when Fairbairn died.
A memorial service was held for Fairbairn at the Chan Center and was attended by more than 300 people. "A Celebration of the Life of Bruce Earl Fairbairn" was highlighted by reminiscences from close friends, as well as musical performances from Jon Anderson and Steve Howe of Yes, Tom Keenleyside, David Sinclair and a moving version of "Taps" played on Bruce's trumpet by his son Brent. After the service, guests were encouraged to stay and mingle on the outdoor patio and trade fond memories of Bruce, while an impromptu group of friends known as the Bozo Band played old standards. It was a classy yet casual affair, just as Bruce would probably have wanted it.
His accomplishments aside, Fairbairn was a man who always put his wife, Julie, and three sons-Scott, Kevin and Brent-first. In an industry where this is not always the case, he was known as a true family man and excellent role model who always instilled people with his "go for it" attitude. His natural leadership and organization, combined with an uncanny musical ear, gave him the ability to bring the best out of people.
BIZ/TECH '99 A HIT IN CHICAGOMore than 100 recording industry professionals gathered at Chicago's Midland Hotel May 14-16 for SPARS's Biz/Tech '99 conference, "Smart Business-Smart Technologies." The conference kicked off with a lively keynote address by Gateway Mastering's Bob Ludwig called "Navigating the Future: New Audio Formats." In his remarks, Ludwig noted that the audio industry seems to be moving in two directions at once: "Our industry is splitting apart at the seams. On the one hand we finally have the promise of very high-resolution audio formats, and on the other hand, new technologies are degrading audio data to the lowest point that will still allow consumers to download a song to their computer."
Ludwig, who has been involved with DVD authoring for two years, also spoke about the vast potential of both DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD, but noted that the 5.1 bandwagon is still being powered in part by hype and that the learning curve in DVD is steep. He told the assembled studio owners, managers and engineers that "getting involved in new technologies such as DVD means you will inevitably take a few arrows in the back," but he urged everyone to "work to see that we continue to advocate quality and become pilots of the future, not passengers in the back of the technology boat." Appropriately enough, Ludwig's speech was broadcast live over the Internet.
Biz/Tech '99 also featured a number of illuminating panel discussions tailored to the professional audience on topics including the DVD authoring business, studio business automation systems, new music delivery systems, and press relations. Additionally, a small onsite Technology Expo gave the conference participants a chance to check out an array of new products and to interface with manufacturers' representatives. And on the concluding Sunday afternoon, three Chicago studios-Chicago Recording Company, Studio Chicago and Colossal Mastering-opened their doors for tours. All in all, it was a spirited and informative two-day event. -Blair Jackson
WELCOME TO SUMMER NAMM!NAMM Summer Session 99 takes place this month, July 23-25, at the Nashville Convention Center and Arena. NAMM University is offering 31 sessions, including nine focused on technology. NAMM's annual Pre-Show party happens Thursday, July 22, from 8 p.m. until midnight. To register, call 800/767-6266 or visit www.namm.com.
MPGA LEADERS EXPLORE 5.1 AT OCEAN WAY NASHVILLEOn May 22, The Music Producers Guild of the Americas (MPGA), sponsored by Sony Professional Audio in association with Dolby Laboratories, presented the latest in a series of 5.1 "hands-on" mixing conferences, at Ocean Way Nashville. Over 100 MPGA producers, engineers and invited guests attended.
Featured presentations and detailed 5.1 mixing sessions were conducted by engineer/producers Chuck Ainlay, Ed Cherney and George Massenburg, in collaboration with Ocean Way co-owner and producer/engineer Allen Sides.
"Everyone who attended was eager to know more about what is inevitably the way ahead," said Ainlay. MPGA founder and chairman Ed Cherney teamed with Ainlay to demonstrate methods for 5.1 mixing in the studio's Neve 8064/GML automation room. "We gave the attendees actual hands-on experience," Ainlay explained. "The thing that worries most people about 5.1 is just lack of experience, but once you dive into it, there is nothing to it."
Massenburg led morning and afternoon sessions in the Sony Oxford Room. Dialog was intelligent, sometimes humorous, sometimes nonbelieving, and very productive. "Our 5.1 mixing sessions identified gaps in both equipment and techniques," remarked Massenburg. "We're glad to be here filling the gaps in technique, and we hope that the manufacturers will take the initiative in developing badly needed tools."
Dolby conducted demonstrations of its recently introduced 5.1 Headphone for attendees, and provided information about the status of 5.1 audio standards. Genelec, KRK, JBL and M&K provided full 5.1 surround sound monitoring in both control rooms and studios, while BASF sponsored lunch; a cocktail party was sponsored by Mix.
The MPGA can be reached at 323/462-8850; fax 323/462-1677; or by visiting www.musicproducer.org.
CORRECTIONSIn the noise gate manufacturers' contact box in May '99 (page 134) we printed Valley Audio's phone number incorrectly. The correct number is 316/265-9500. Our sincere apologies.
The studio on the cover of the June '99 issue, Media Resource Group, was mistakenly referred to as being in Cleveland, Ohio. It is located in Cleveland, Tenn. Mix regrets the error.
We omitted the location of Four Seasons Media Productions, featured in the June "Class of '99" (p.40). The facility is in St. Louis, MO.
Finally, the TEC Awards will be held on September 25, the second night of the AES convention.