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Taking Notes From The Guys Part II or META-reality

I felt a bit nervous to meet some of my idols, or at least idols of the industry.

When Jim Pace, managing director of the METAlliance, OK’d my press credentials for the “In Session with the Guys” event at Capitol Studios Hollywood [see “Studio Sense,” PAR May 2010 — Ed.], I felt a bit nervous to meet some of my idols, or at least idols of the industry: seven legends of the music recording world, engineering in a master-class setting at one of the world’s most famous studios.

There was someone for everyone to fawn over. For true-blood classic rock and Triple-A format, there’s Ed Cherney. For long-haulin’ Nashville hit mixes, there’s Chuck Ainlay. Then there’s our perennial EQ-free golden boy, Al Schmitt; our modern home-recording advocate, Frank Filipetti; our pop-music recording pioneer, Phil Ramone; and, for lovers of gear and innovation, there’s George Massenburg. Finally, the fan in me had Steely Dan engineer Elliot Scheiner.

Taking nothing away from their hard work, dedication, and innovation (something most of us engineers can relate to) there’s always an element of right person, right place, right time to any fortunate career. Each of these men was established in the business long before its recent deflation and indie migration. Some of these guys might be just as well known for their print ads in the major mags, none more classic than Chuck waterskiing with a mic pre. I’m trusting by nature. But having been around the block, when I see guys doing their product endorsements, I have to wonder about the motivations behind the mugging. From what I can tell, each of the META guys really use and truly believe in the products they pose with.

After watching the guys put their formidable skills to the test right before our eyes, I was, on the one hand, relieved to find out they don’t do anything significantly different than I do and, on the other, depressed to find out the same. Why was my career not touched by an angel? There could be many reasons. I believe it ultimately comes down to the battle going on between one’s head and heart. Whatever one’s vocation, it’s the personal things one needs to sort out that end up coming out in one’s work. For instance, I have been historically motivated more by the need to have things just right than by the need to let go, which can make for a solid, but restrained recording. Is it because of my parent’s divorce?

Whatever makes these guys successful to the level they are (over the rest of us) could be the same subtle genetic difference between a tycoon and an accountant. I’m pretty damn good at what I do; you can check out my website and judge for yourself ( But the main regret in my own career is that I never sought out a mentor: someone who could have leapfrogged my knowledge, perhaps in the way the METAlliance could help some young up-and-comers today. In my new sales job for Vintage King, I find that much of the time my customers are very well informed about the gear they’re considering purchasing. This was not possible before the ‘net and the forums. META intends to populate the ether with truly solid techniques for achieving the highest audio quality: knowledge that might otherwise be lost when their generation is gone. George Massenburg is one of my favorite people. Everything he says is provocative, witty, informed, and leadingedge. Lots of people have can have big, crazy ideas — amazing ideas. But George is one of the few who can execute his ideas — solid or virtual, hardware or software. George started METAlliance.

According to Wikipedia “meta” means “to indicate a concept which is an abstraction from another concept, used to complete or add to the latter.” Considering today’s recording industry is an abstraction from what it was, the collective knowledge of the METAlliance is needed to complete the knowledge of the community.

Alex Oana has been a recording engineer for 20