Late Spring News 2018

Yikes, I got busy for a moment and sorely neglected my website. Here is some of what I've been up to these past few months.

Mastering marvelous new albums by The Tins, Israel Nash, Occurrence, Matthew McNealProfessor Rhythm (Awesome Tapes From Africa) and many, many more, including a few knockouts that I can't talk about yet.

Celebrating the release of Barbara Dane's career-spanning boxset Hot Jazz, Cool Blues & Hard-Hitting Songs, in collaboration with Smithsonian Folkways, with her live performance at the Freight & Salvage.

Writing, researching, writing, revising an essay on The Sonics of Historic Recording Media, included in the new book Music Preservation and Archiving Today (Rowman & Littlefield), edited by Norie Guthrie and Scott Carlson.

Interviewing fellow mastering & restoration engineers Maria Rice, Josh Bonati, and Michael Graves for an article on The Aesthetics of Remastering Reissues for Tape Op Magazine.


Teaching the students at SAE/Expression in Emeryville about the making of Pet Sounds, about Ralph Peer and the Bristol Sessions, about phonautographs, magnetic tape, distortion as aesthetic texture, Max Martin's songwriting prowess, and so much more.

Plotting conference panels and talks for the AES Conference on Audio Archiving, Preservation & Restoration, happening at the LOC in Culpeper, Virginia this June. (And chairing the restoration track for the fall AES Convention in NYC - hit me up with ideas!)

Serving as a Governor and, now, newly elected Secretary of the SF Chapter of the Recording Academy.

And riding my bike, drinking coffee, planting a garden and eating radishes harvested from that garden, so even though sometimes it seems like it (and happily so), life is not all about my work.

But I love my work. 

Archival or mastering projects? Let me know! 

Beautiful Tapes

Take a moment to appreciate the beautiful typography and color choices on these analog tape boxes. (Then imagine what's recorded on the tapes!)

Summer News

I started this post analog-style while camping over the July 4th weekend. Woke up at 6am, and the whole campground was still sound asleep, so I had coffee and blueberries and wrote while the birds chirped and the sun slipped through the leaves.

Two upcoming events:

On Friday, July 7th, I join Jonathan Wyner (M-Works Mastering, iZotope) to talk about audio restoration and repair. Our discussion will be moderated by Coast Mastering's Michael Romanowski and takes place at Fantasy Recording Studios and is sponsored by the San Francisco Chapter of the Audio Engineering Society. There will be excellent examples of noises and demos about how to remove them, moderate them, love them, but mostly remove them.

On Saturday, July 8th, Jonathan, Michael and I will do our best to Demystify Mastering in two intimate sessions at Coast. We promise not to dwell on loudness but, rather, to cover preparing mixes for mastering, the art and craft of sonic sculpting, deliverables and more.

A few choice mastering & restoration projects:

Umoja's 707 is sure to liven your summer dance parties! This classic 1988 South African bubblegum pop record is out now on Awesome Tapes From Africa.

Ron Pope's Work drops next month. Truly a pleasure to work with this talented musician and with prolific engineer Ted Young. (Seriously, check out this guy's discography!) These songs are moving, intimate, fun, warm. Catch Ron on his Dancing Days world tour this fall.

Congratulations to Philly's Man About a Horse, whose self-titled album debuted at #11 on the BIllboard bluegrass charts! (You may remember their excellent and timely cover of Radiohead's Electioneering.) Exciting to work again with Matt Werden on this one. (We also worked together on Michael Daves's Orchids and Violence).

The Container's Self-Contained is a collection of early demos from James A. Smith of the Beach Bullies. These songs are hooky, swaggery and sweet, and I especially fell for "Rita's Legs." So glad these tapes were found, restored and remastered (by me), and released by Manufactured Recordings.

Rabasi Joss recently released her debut Heliotrope, a collection of jazz/soul/folk/genre-spanning songs produced by Baba Israel and featuring Soul Inscribed. I take full credit for convincing her to record a cover of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic"!

In case you missed it, I also published this zine - Save Your Stuff! Beginner's Archiving For Musicians - with illustrator/graphic designer/musician/mother of two Kelley Vaughn-Kauffman. I used it in a workshop I led for Women's Audio Mission in June and (hopefully) inspired a room full of women to adopt file naming conventions and back up their hard drives. The first printing was gone in a matter of days but we printed a second batch. If you would like a hard copy, please donate $4 (to cover printing and shipping) and we'll send you one! Digital version coming soon... 

Discovering "Lost" Recordings

If I had a nickel for everyone who send me a link to this story about the lost Bob Marley tapes that lay, forgotten, in a hotel basement for 40 years and turned out to contain original live recordings of his concerts in London and Paris in the mid-1970s... I'd be at least 35 cents richer. 

Of course a bunch of people sent me that link. Because I'm that person. I'm the one you call when you find the musty, moldy tapes in the basement and need someone to clean, digitize and restore them. I've been there: in a barn surrounded by stacks of A-list master tapes; in a basement lined with boxes filled to overflowing with tangles of DATs and cassettes, handwritten labels scribbled with names would make your eyes pop; having a friendly chat with a musician who suddenly recalls that, yes, she might have a few old recordings from early in her prolific career downstairs.

According to a meticulously researched paper published by AV Preserve in 2015, there are an estimated 537 million recordings in collection-holding organizations, the vast majority of which have not been digitized. That's just the stuff in libraries and archives! What wonders still exist in basements, closets and attics? 

That's what motivates me to do this work. That moment of anticipation and joy when you wind a reel on a tape machine, hit play, and hit pay dirt. I still remember when I dropped the needle on the scratched up original promo 45 of Scott Fagan singing "All For the Sake of Love," an utter heartbreaker. And when I popped in the cassette of early Jack Ruby recordings and heard this. There's something about the nearly forgotten that captures us and reminds us how powerful and yet how fleeting a musical performance can be. We are lucky that so many have been recorded, and luckier still that a few get caught into the sifter and are digitized, restored and sent back out into the world to remind us of our musical past.

Still, when I hear about the discovery of "lost" tapes like these Bob Marley masters, I get a little shot of happiness, because I know it's going to happen again. And maybe next time, it might be me crawling around in the basement of an old hotel, scraping off the mud, trying to discern the names on the labels, rescuing a nearly forgotten audio treasure.