Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (January 6, 2020)—A mainstay of the Canadian music industry for decades, studio engineer/producer Nick Blagona died Saturday, January 4, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario from complications resulting from kidney, heart and lung diseases. He was 74.
A Bavarian refugee who came to Canada with his parents at the age of 4, Nicolai Nicolaiavich Blagonadegny grew up in Montreal and became fascinated with music and technology at an early age. As a teen, he became a ham radio operator and built his first tape recorder from a Heathkit set, eventually attending McGill University and later Radio College of Canada.
Interested in becoming a studio engineer, Blagona emigrated to the UK in 1964 and quickly found work as an assistant engineer at Decca, but soon got his opportunity to move into the engineer’s chair when others called in sick, resulting in his first session being for Tom Jones. Moving to Wessex Sound Studios, he engineered The Moody Blues, King Crimson’s influential “21st Century Schizoid Man” (they opted to use his first take), and others.
After briefly moving to the Middle East, he moved back to Canada in 1971, connecting with producer André Perry. Together they decided to build Le Studio with Blagona designing the facility, resulting in a now-legendary residential recording studio in the Laurentian Mountains near the town of Morin-Heights. Over the years, the facility would host the likes of Rush, David Bowie, Bryan Adams and others. Initially working as the studio’s chief engineer through 1983, Blagona recorded The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” numerous Bee Gees tracks including “You Should Be Dancing,” April Wine, Chicago, Rainbow and others at the studio, and also became a producer for albums like April Wine’s Harder/Faster.
The Eighties found him producing and engineering Kim Mitchell, and becoming the engineer and mixer for a string of Deep Purple albums—Perfect Strangers, House of Blue Light and Slaves and Masters—as well as engineering solo and duo albums for members Roger Glover and Ian Gillan.
Later, the 1990s and 2000s saw Blagona move into mastering, working out of Metalworks Recording Studios in Mississauga, Ontario, where he worked on albums by The Tea Party and Little Feat, though he still kept his hand in engineering, capturing albums by Alexisonfire, Protest the Hero, Ian Gillan and others. In more recent times, he additionally opened Psychotropic Studios in Caledonia, ON. Across his career, Blagona had three Juno nominations and won a Félix Award for Best Engineer.
Musician Michael Lee Jackson honored Blagona on his blog, recounting a visit to see the engineer last week in the hospital, noting, “When I arrived at the hospital a few days ago when Nick was still semi-lucid, I asked him how he was doing. ‘Dying,’ he said. I said, ‘On the way here today, I was thinking about the immortality of your life’s work. Records you’ve made have been threads in the lives of millions of people you haven’t even met. Those records will always be played. Your work will be in the time capsule, I’m sure of it.’ Nick smiled and said, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ ‘Damn right,’ I said.”