Guy Charbonneau has long been one of the audio industry’s most colorful characters. There’s the matter of the heavy French accent (he’s French-Canadian), made all the more challenging by his rapid speaking style; the man is rarely at a loss for words. But mostly it’s his effervescent and enthusiastic personality that wins people over, coupled with a fierce dedication to his craft: Le Mobile has been a top player in the highly competitive remote-recording world for 25 years now, and Charbonneau has made many, many friends in the business during that time by putting a good product on the road. When I mention to him that he’s regarded as one of the true nice guys in the business, he laughs and says, “I’d probably be a lot nicer if I didn’t own the truck — it makes me crazy sometimes!”
Although Charbonneau got his start and did most of his early work in his native Quebec, Le Mobile would make its first big imprint when Charbonneau relocated to New York City in 1980. Four years later, he took his truck out to Southern California, where it has been based ever since, taking advantage of that area’s incredible confluence of media — recording, film, television, radio; there seems to be no lack of work, even in these economically challenging times.
Charbonneau believes that the key to Le Mobile’s success has been a combination of hiring good people, buying high-quality equipment that is well-maintained, and genuinely caring about the work. “For me, it’s never been about just ‘digital this’ and the ‘brand-new that,’” he says. “What about the music? That’s why we’re there — to capture that! I think what has kept us busy, especially in the past four or five years, is people like the way our truck sounds. Maybe it’s the Neve or the Studers or something else; I don’t know. But people know that I’m a nut about maintenance and that I keep adding little things here and there to make it better. They know that when they hire us, it’s going to be right and sound really good.” A respected engineer himself for nearly three decades, Charbonneau is also effusive about his chief engineer, Charlie Bouis, and his crack support staff. “This is a people business,” Charbonneau says, “and Charlie and the others have proven over and over again that they can work with anyone, doesn’t matter what the style or job.”
In this business, equipment does matter, of course, and Le Mobile is outfitted with a blend of analog and digital technologies. The truck’s centerpiece is Charbonneau’s faithful Neve 8058 console (“I’ve looked at others, but it has been so good,” he says.) and a bevy of recorders, including a pair of Studer 827 DASH digital multitracks, Studer A800 analog multitracks and a Tascam MX-2424 hard disk system, among others. “I’ve had projects where I’ve used all three of those,” he notes. He has a 24-bit Pro Tools rig for editing and a plethora of fine mic and outboard choices. The truck is also equipped for surround work.
With literally hundreds of clients over the past quarter-century, including most of the high-profile rock acts, dozens of one-off events and work for nearly all of the major film and television studios, Charbonneau still maintains an almost childlike glee for his work. He has nice words to say about almost anyone you care to name, including his competitors in remote recording, many of whom he considers good friends. “It’s tiring sometimes,” he says of the business. “You wear so many hats when you own a truck. You become a mechanic. If I need to, I can be a driver. I’ll help wash the truck. I’m looking after every little thing. And, obviously, I’ll engineer. That’s what makes me happiest.”