1970 Moved from home town Las Vegas to Hollywood, Calif. Dave was a guitar playing, song writing type of kid who got exposed to audio engineering through stocking, and then selling electronic parts to the entire entertainment industry of Hollywood. Yale Radio Electronics, on Sunset Blvd. Tubes, capacitors, resistors, connecters......plus high end audio and video equipment.
His first experience of the interior of a recording studio was at Sunset Sound. As he and his brother Steve walked to the studio one night, they noticed a paint job on a Porsche parked outside. It was totally psychedelic, with stars and other 60’s graffiti all over the long hood, with many coats of lacquer…..absolutely beautiful. Brushing by them, right out the door of the studio, was a wild looking chick that jumped into the Porsche and sped away…..that chick was Janis Joplin. They were told that when they entered the studio,
1972 DCT Recorders. A mastering studio also on Sunset blvd. Dave went in and received an opportunity to learn how to cut records (real records, acetate to vinyl), make tape copies, EQ, etc. He was hired as a non paid, sweep up kind of apprentice. The engineer that was training him totally disappeared after approximately 1 week. Never came to work, and was never heard from again! ......“I had nothing to do with it”….exclaims Dave. That moved him right up to a real job. Cutting dubs, and eventually 16 trk mixes for the next two and a half years. He worked on projects that involved Billy Joel, Elton John, Barry White, Little Richard, Seals and Crofts, Iggy Pop,
“Little Richard was flaming at the time, he took one look at me and went “oooooeeeee”..... out loud!
“Now Iggy Pop for some unknown reason just started taking off his clothes while we were doing playbacks one day until he got totally nude, we asked that he put them back on again.… Please!”
“I’ll never forget Barry White wearing a black leather vest open with no shirt on. Big fellow, his bare protruding stomach brushed against my arm as he was leaning in to watch me cut his album. He was at his career peak…..
“One of the old Ampex tape machines ate the Checkmates master tape as I was rewinding it after cutting one side of their LP. I was playing back the disc that I had just cut for them. They were all standing with their backs to me listening at warp level, grooving and dancing, with me carefully picking the tape from inside the flanges and frantically trying to see what damage had been done. I did two or three splices and put lots of tape over the badly crinkled spots without them ever looking around. I knew there would have to be drop outs and I had to check it right in front of them. As I hit play and the crinkly tape started coming through the guides, the music broke into a totally psychedelic freak out section of the song and you couldn’t tell that anything was wrong with the tape. By the time I actually cut the final master it had sat smoothly packed for a month or so and flattened out. It sounded perfect and they never knew of any problem."
“One afternoon I met Eden Ahbez. He was a magically peaceful little guy wearing white robes. That was not too unusual to see in Hollywood in 1972, but he was for real! You could tell that immediately. He came in pretty often for a period of time to cut dubs for a big song writing festival in Hollywood. He became our favorite client. While living in his VW bus in the desert outside of LA with his little dog, he had many stories to tell about things like the time he followed an ant carrying food for hours one day in the desert until it found its hole and dissapeared. Their was always a moral to the stories he told, but always subtle, he conveyed it more in his eyes and his manner, than what he actually said. His claim to fame in the material world, is that he wrote “Nature Boy”, one of the worlds greatest songs. If you listen to that song you will be getting the essence of Eden. One day he gave me a wooden flute that he had carved himself, which I still have. I am very glad to have met him.”
After two and a half years Dave got burnt out and quit DCT without having another job (he never did that again). He was hired as a second engineer for Dave Hassinger’s Sound Factory. The job lasted a weekend…..being let go because of a couple of big misunderstandings, and their engineer on drugs. Too bad! Dave was already booked for the next project on Monday. He would have spent the next couple of months working on Linda Ronstats’ hit album “You’re No Good”, with well known engineer Val Garay. “Sometimes you win some, and sometimes you really, really, lose some.”
For the next (lean on money) year, he did production sound on two movies; a couple recording projects, wrote and published songs, and learned a few things about life.
1974 Davlen Sound Studios, N. Hollywood. Dave was hired as a second engineer. Working on great projects…. Fleetwood Mac “Rumors” (Grammy for “Album of the Year”), Al Stewart “Year of the Cat”
“One night KISS came in to the studio with Eddie Kramer engineering. Eddie did all of the Jimmy Hendrix projects and many other classic rock albums. KISS was on the road and just came into Davlen to get some material down on tape. The studio was “dead” sounding to Kramer, so he had me moving four double stacks of Marshal amps, and a big drum set two or three times looking for the best place. Finally the drums wound up in the long lively hallway alongside the studio. The session started at 7pm, but tape didn’t roll until about 2am or so. I was amazed at how tight they played. They were so theatrical on stage with all the makeup and blood stuff… nobody I knew in the biz took them too seriously…..but they kicked ass! Finally after literally running for hours we were rolling tape. I was standing behind Kramer listening, when I looked back and saw the 2 inch Studer tape machine go flippity, floppity…...it ran out of tape! I couldn’t believe my eyes!
“One of my all time favorite albums was Pink Floyds “Dark side of the Moon” Musically and sonically a masterpiece. When we heard Alan Parsons was coming in, it was a big deal. They were coming in to Davlen to do vocals, and mix Al Stewart. Once again I stood there listening to raw unfinished hit songs ….especially “The Year of the Cat” I learned a lot spending a week or so with them“
Another night at Davlen working as a 2nd engineer on the Harry Nilsson sessions, around 3 or 4 in the morning, a very well known, and now famous engineer (no names please) just didn’t come back from the restroom. Much to everyone’s disappointment, the session looked like it was over. They were in the middle of doing vocal and guitar overdubs. With Dave already running the tape machine, and doing all the punch ins, patching tracks, etc…. he just jumped into the middle of the console, and said “Giddyap!” (Well, not actually those words). They did overdubs until about 10 am. The owner of the studio was a little surprised that they were still in session when he came in that morning, but was really surprised to see Dave engineering. Dave went home that morning and crashed. When he came back around 6pm to align the machines for the 7pm session, he noticed that Harry Nilsson and the studio owner were still hanging in his private office, and quite wide-eyed looking….. hmmm….what could they have been doing all day??
His first recorded and mixed project, was a two song single for Clarence Franklin, it was produced by his mother,
Shortly after that project Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme requested Dave to do their next project. Dave had worked with them a couple of times before assisting engineer Humberto Gatica. In fact they all went out on a dinner break one night to an upscale Chinese restaurant. The owner knew Steve and Eydie and offered to order for them, first class treatment. It was by far “the best Chinese dinner I’ve ever had”. So anyway Dave was a little surprised that they had asked for him to engineer the three nights booked. He wanted to make sure that the studio manager had not misunderstood them. Maybe they were requesting him as an assistant like before. He was very concerned that they would come in and say, “Hi Dave, good to see you.….where is Humberto?” Not at all, they did request Dave as first engineer by Humberto's recommendation. As this was a big opportunity, Dave looked forward to it….. until he saw the set up. It was a 37 piece orchestra!! Arranged and Conducted by Don Costa. Strings, horns, rhythm section, acoustic guitars, a harp, celesta, vocals….you name it.
David’s first recorded and mixed album was (at the time) the most expensive country album ever made. Other country albums would cost about 10-15 thousand. The Dan McCorison album, produced by Chris Hillman (of “The Byrds”) for M.C.A. was 55 thousand. It was treated more like a pop album (which could cost 150,000), great studio, with top studio players. They had James Burton, Al Perkins, Steve Cropper, Bernie Leadon,
Shortly after the albums completion, Seals and Crofts came in with producer Louie Shelton, requesting Dave to engineer some string and horn dates. After that, he wound up on his first free lance session, going to Armin Steiner’s Sound Labs and doing vocals. “Having Seals and Crofts break into their vocal sound with my hands on the faders was really exciting!"
As he started on the first project as an independent, the other two projects fell apart. The artists lost there deals, as many were at that time around 1980. The record biz went into a real slump in LA. Many engineers were out of work. Producers Workshop welcomed Dave back….but it was slow. While hanging in there for almost two years freelancing and living on savings account money, Dave worked with Johnny Lee “Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places”, Ann Murray “Save the last Dance for Me” (Urban Cowboy soundtrack songs), Jennifer Warnes “Could it be love” and not too many more…….
Things were getting even worse in LA, when Dave got an album project from CBS Records, flying the red eye to way, way upstate NY, where he arrived at a makeshift recording/rehearsal studio. “When I walked in, they had a 15 inch Altec speaker dangling by the wires”. It took almost a week of doing maintenance to make things just work, before the artist decided we should abort the project. Dave caught all the blame from the upper CBS people for the failure. The album was done a year later by another engineer at a major NY studio for probably 15 times the price they were trying to do it when Dave was involved.
1982 While on the east coast he went to NYC. He stayed there until the present. As a freelance engineer, he worked mostly at The Ranch Recording Studios, also doing projects at the Record Plant, The Power Station, Right track, Quad Recording and other studios in the NY area. Working on many projects for artists like: Phoebe Snow, Cindy Lauper, Astrud Gilberto, Marianne Faithful, Jocelyn Brown, Sherry Winston, etc…..Also engineered for Gene Simmons producing one of his groups. “Gene is one of the smartest and funniest guys I’ve ever worked with”. Dave also went to Stockholm, where he Co-Produced and mixed "Totta’s Blues Band“.
Dave started a production company with partner McNeil Johnston called Outland Productions. They built their own MIDI studio where they co-produced radio spots, and music for film and video. During this developing and purchasing phase, Dave had to supplement income by bartending 3 nights a week. “I had a ball! Steady money too! What a concept after freelancing for so many years!”
Birdland a small jazz club on 105th and Broadway. Dave wound up tending bar there. In 1996, when the owner decided to move Birdland to midtown, he asked Dave to set up a sound system. Other than doing the sound at the “Palomino Club” the “Whiskey” and “Madamn Wongs” in L.A. for release parties of groups he had engineered for, Dave hadn’t really done live sound before, but was interested in doing something new. “I bought and set up the equipment, ran the wires, hung the speakers….all on a shoe string budget….most of the same system is still in use”
David's studio was also a remote set up, where he would pack it up and go to other venues and record “live” music. Such as three of the International Association of Jazz Educators conventions. The one in New Orleans 2001 was very interesting and challenging….his partner in crime Chris Ranney and Dave recorded 14 bands in 4 days, in two separate venues….including four 18 piece big bands. The following two NY conventions were no less interesting with many more fantastic groups and big bands. It included recording and mixing the popular CD Billy Taylor “Live at IAJE”. During this time Dave recorded remotes all over NYC. The Vanguard (yes, in the kitchen), Sweet Basil (yes, also in the kitchen), The Blue Note (in the stairwell), Macor (also the stairwell), The Copacabana (in an open hall next to the stage), The Jazz Standard & The Iridium (hey they have a control room….whatayaknow),
2003 After working at Birdland five + nights a week for seven years Dave had had it, and quit. He is now doing audio in an A/V capacity, for corporate and political conferences in all the classic NY hotel ballrooms, The Waldorf, The Plaza, The Ritz, The Carlyle, St Regis, The Four Seasons, Tavern on the Green, etc. Sometimes at museums like the Guggenheim, The Met, Museum of Natural History, NY Historical Society. Also old NY gentleman’s clubs like The Metropolitan Club, The Sky Club, NY Athletic Club, etc. "Beautiful places I would probably never have seen". He calls it “Corporate audio….and I love it!”
What will the future bring?
“Who the hell knows!”