John Roden. New York (July 30, 2007)–Legendary monitor engineer John Roden died earlier this month, losing a battle with pancreatic cancer; he had been diagnosed only a few weeks earlier. Aged 53, he passed on July 1, leaving behind his partner, Noreen O’Riordan, Director of Lighting at Entec Sound & Light, and two sons–Kieran (9) and Thomas (6).
Having spent three decades as a freelance monitor engineer, Roden worked with a virtual Who’s Who of popular music, handling stage-side chores for the likes of Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Sting, Eric Clapton, George Michael, Ozzy Osbourne, Christina Aguilera, PiL, the rarely touring XTC and dozens more.
Roden recounted how he broke into the industry for Pro Sound News during an interview on McCartney’s 2002 Driving USA tour: “I used to sell books when I was 17; I’ve sold books, biscuits, and ice cream in my career–not door-to-door, but to retail outlets. I had some friends in a band and I started to schlep their equipment for them. I was the guy with the estate car–a station wagon, you’d call it–so I could get a lot of gear and people around.
“Next thing I knew, they said, ‘We’re about to go to Holland for a six-week tour–do you want to come?’ I wanted to go, but it meant giving up my job. I thought about it and decided, ‘Yeah, go set up a drum kit and see Holland. That’s OK.’ So I was about 20 when I started to get into this business, but I was only playing at it.
“The band had a PA and a fold-back system, and they decided it would be better if they had a little monitor mixer, too. They said, ‘There, you have a go with that.’ From there on in, it’s all I’ve ever done, and as the years have gone by, things have gotten better. I’ve mixed monitors for AC/DC, Annie Lennox, Eurythmics, Michael Jackson, and many others.”
His most famous client, however, was McCartney, and the former Beatle paid tribute to Roden during an industry concert for an audience of 300 at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts on July 5. There, he introduced “Let It Be” noting, “This next song I want to dedicate to a crew member, John Roden, who just passed away last week. This is for you, Johnny.”
The respect was mutual, as Roden made clear during the 2002 interview. “I remember the first few weeks I started to work for Paul in the late 1980s. I had, you know, monitor insecurity: ‘Everything all right, Paul? Can you hear yourself, Paul?’ He finally said, ‘Yep, this is the first time I’ve ever been able to hear myself in my career.’ That made sense, because you know what it was like during the Beatles, and even during Wings monitors weren’t at the standards they’re at today. He said, ‘You’ll know if I’m not happy.’ Paul is one who will say nothing if it’s right. You’ll get a nod–because it’s to be expected, right? If it’s wrong, if you made a mistake or something, you certainly know about it . . . and that’s cool, too, because you know where you stand! But I’ll tell you, he’s a great boss, a fabulous, lovely guy.”
Other acts Roden mixed over the years include David Gilmour, Macy Gray, The Pretenders, Phil Collins, Luther Vandross, Sinead O’Connor, The Stranglers, Black Sabbath, Englebert Humperdinck, Thomas Dolby, Squeeze, Wham, Grace Jones, Amy Winehouse, John Hiatt, Janet Jackson, John Fogerty, The Spice Girls, Anita Baker, Plant & Page, Judas Priest, Al Jarreau, INXS, and plenty of others.
While he was often quick with a joke, Roden nonetheless took live sound seriously and was always willing to share his knowledge with others, as he did recently in a December PSN article on choosing the ‘right’ vocal mic. Respected throughout the live sound community, he was appreciated not merely for his skills behind a desk and his sizable technical knowledge, but his warm and affable nature as well. He will be missed.
John Roden Tribute