Hell to the Chief
by Daniel Beroff
It was the 90’s, and I was an engineer working my way up through the ranks of the NYC studio scene. I’d already had years of live 24 track engineering experience in New Jersey.
One day I was assisting at a popular facility. My colleague, a great dude and experienced hip-hop engineer, was at the board.
The session involved recording one performer: A Native American chief. He wanted nothing more than a recording of himself playing his drum while singing.
Great, I thought. An opportunity to do a special recording, for the kind of client you don’t see every day. The engineer wheels, in my head, started clicking. Ok, maybe we could do a pair of classic l.d. condensers, in either m/s or x/y array. Find the optimal location that would best blend the Chief’s drum and voice. Or even do a 421 for the drum and a l.d.c. for vocal. Add a tiny touch of Lexicon 480 vibe. Record direct to ½” 2 track. Done.
Unfortunately, I was only the assistant, and there was no chance for me to run my ideas by my colleague.
Here’s where things went horribly wrong. Engineer decides to track to 2” in separate passes, first just the drum, then the vocal. You can imagine the Chief’s bewilderment as he recorded the drum track, then tries to sync his vocal to it. Total epic fail. I watched this in horror, and there was nothing I could do. The worst part about it was that the client did not even question it, he must have assumed that well, the engineer knows what he is doing, so this is how it’s done.
Grrrrr ! Anyway, that’s my war story.