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Zappa Engineer/Pro-Audio Exec Mark Pinske Dead at 70

Across five decades, Mark Pinske was a renowned studio owner, audio executive, and live sound engineer, most notably for Frank Zappa.

Mark Pinske in 2010
Mark Pinske in 2010

New York, NY (October 5, 2020)—A consummate audio pro who made a name for himself equally in recording, live sound and manufacturing, Mark Pinske died September 30, 2020 of cardiac arrest. He was 70. Across a career spanning five decades, Pinske was an executive for numerous major audio brands, owned a studio, and was an FOH engineer for numerous artists, most notably Frank Zappa, for whom he became a trusted studio engineer as well.

Born in Arlington, MN in November 1949, Pinske went to college at University of Florida, studying business administration and ultimately earning a BSEE. During this time, he became the local ‘go-to’ engineer for recording bands and demos, but eventually moved into live sound in the mid-1970s, working in the then-emerging touring industry for Clair Brothers, Showco and Maryland Sound as he went on the road mixing B.B. King, Weather Report and others.

Moving to Los Angeles in the later 1970s, he quickly found work at pioneering console manufacturer Quad Eight Electronics, designing film consoles. He underwent a two-part audition for Frank Zappa—half in the studio and half in a live-sound setting—to become the esoteric artist’s FOH engineer. Having spent years on the road in tour busses, he accepted an offer to join the Zappa camp on the condition that he get to fly with the band—a move that helped solidify his connection to the artists he was serving. From 1980 to 1987, Pinske recorded many of Zappa’s studio albums in the artist’s famed $3.5 million home studio, Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, and also built and manned Zappa’s recording truck, which captured concert after concert for archival use as well as new compositions recorded on the road.

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Going out on his own in 1987 as Zappa began to wind down his career, Pinske returned to touring, mixing house for David Lee Roth’s ‘Eat Em and Smile’ tour, thanks to his ties with Zappa alum Steve Vai who was on guitar duties with the former Van Halen frontman. Other major tours included extensive road time in Australia with Men at Work, and manning the desk for Stevie Wonder, Bobby Brown, Terence Trent D’Arby and Bell Biv DeVoe.

During this era, Pinske also co-founded Pro Media Studios in Gainsville, FL, eventually selling his half of the business to his partner, who renamed the facility Skylab Recording Studios; the facility is open to this day. While he was there, Pinske recorded members of Bon Jovi; Aleka’s Attic, featuring Gainsville native actor/musician River Phoenix; and jazz great Al Di Meola, among others.

As the 1990s wore on, Pinske moved into the manufacturing side of pro audio, first with a four-year stint at Creamware, then moving on to Peavey Electronics in February, 2000, where over the course of the next nine years, he became the general manager of early Peavey Professional divisions Architectural Acoustics and MediaMatrix. Following a strategic alliance that began in 1998, Peavey eventually purchased Crest Audio outright, and Pinske became Crest’s COO during his tenure. In 2009, Pinske became executive director of sales and marketing for loudspeaker manufacturer Radian Audio Engineering in Orange, CA, where he stayed until eventually leaving audio in March, 2015.

Mark Pinske •