Thursday, April 19, 2012

Guest Post - Gordon Wood: The Early Years

Systemus engineerus
Gordon Wood is my business partner. He and I started out with similar sized rigs and would trade work back and forth.  Then I hurt my back and built a smaller rig while he was building bigger ones. (yes, plural).  Now he handles all the work I can't do anymore because I work at a church, but once in a while we mix festivals together.  It's a nice arrangement.  Early on I used to tell potential clients that he had better stuff and I was a better mixer so the only way to beat either of us was to hire both of us.  Lucky for us we got taken up on it a few times and fell into the comfortable roles of Gordon as system engineer and myself doing most of the mixing. Oddly enough I knew very little about his early years as a young sound guy, so here at last is the story.
 
So probably two months ago Jon asked me to write a little blurb about my audio career and I’m finally getting around to it......

I got started around the age of 14 doing recordings of the high-school band, talent shows, and some other minor work for local non profit groups.  I really had no tools or tricks I just somehow understood the basics of making recordings and setting up basic PA systems.  Fast forward to senior year in HS and I had a tiny system of my own for both recording and live.  Recording I was using tape and a few condenser mics and PA just two eight channel mixers cascaded together with two monitor mixes and a compressor some car speaker setups for FOH and monitors all driven by home stereo amps.  (I shudder to think about doing this now but hey you’ve gotta use what you’ve got right?)  So starting from the absolute lowest level of bare bones taught me a thing or two about what you need and what you want.

The College years......Started buying real amplifiers (Crest), more compressors, better speakers were built, more mics, more wire to solder.  Met the great guys over at Applied Audio that helped confirm my thoughts, I remember Zip telling me later on that they all thought I knew what I was doing way back then.  I still don’t think I know what I’m doing but I’m proud of what I’m doing.  So anyway despite the college years being the brokest years of everyone’s life just about every spare cent (After food and beer...) went to gear.  Since the ladies weren’t interested in the geeky guy with glasses and the soldering iron the gear kept getting purchased at a record pace.  At this point I was still torn between doing recording or live sound and reading as much as I could about both.  I finally decided on live sound with only truly live one-take recording being my path.  I just couldn’t imagine listening to the same three minute song day in and day out for weeks just trying to get what a producer wanted only to have it come full circle to the original take before all that tweaking and processing, etc, etc.  The gigs weren’t as numerous as I had a planned.  The summers did have me working a lot as a stagehand at Darien Lake PAC.  So I picked up a few things from the big dogs of the industry.

After college I met Jon here in O’Lacy’s parking lot and well at first he said he’d died a few years ago but once we started talking shop he decided that he was alive again.  The gigs started to pick back up and my system grew as the gigs demanded, maybe bigger than necessary but hey build your second rig first right?  That and spares never hurt.  This past year we both got to flex our system engineering knowledge further when we were brought into a large church in serious need of some “clean up”  I think we impressed them as they’ve hired Jon permanently and I’m in the wings when needed.  Looking forward to the years to come.  Been meeting a lot of great sound techs and band members lately and can’t wait to see what happens......
[Editor's Note: The parking lot incident went like this. Gordon happened upon me sweating it out at a festival stage in front of our favorite pub.  He saw the logo on my shirt and asked if Jon Dayton still worked for the company.  In my delirium I replied, "Naw, he died."  
Also: the Darien Lake PAC is a shed stage at an amusement park near where we grew up. They see about eighteen or so national acts and a couple festivals every summer.] 

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