Monday, November 17, 2008

An Oral History by Malcolm Addey

For the first episode of Oral Studio History, we were fortunate enough to get Malcolm Addey to sit down and talk with us. We recorded a conversation that lasted almost two and a half hours in Studio B of Avatar Studios.

If there were such a thing as a “classically trained” audio engineer, then Malcolm Addey would be it. He started his career at EMI Studios (Abbey Road Studios) in 1958 and worked there for 10 years. He was one of the three engineers working there at the time along with Peter Bown and Stuart Eltham.

In 1968, he crossed the Atlantic and went to work at Bell Sound Recording Studios in New York. After a few years at Bell Sound, he started working at A&R Studios at the invitation of Phil Ramone. Malcolm continued to work in the New York area and remains active in the New York audio engineering community today. Malcolm, whose career spans 50 years, has extensive engineering, mixing and mastering credits.

He has worked with Buddy Rich, Art Blakey, Kenny Burrell, Chick Corea, Kool and the Gang, Jimmy McGriff, John Lee Hooker, Cedar Walton, Cliff Richard & the Shadows, Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, Debbie Boone and countless many other artists. He even overdubbed Bach trumpets on the album Magical Mystery Tour.

Malcolm has seen and experienced how recording sessions were done both in the UK and US and brings an interesting perspective on how the profession has evolved.

The lively discussion has been split up into five segments, which you can listen to separately. In this segment, Malcolm Addey talks about his early years leading up to his employment at EMI Studios. Here is Part I of the interview.

Part I: (24:03)

  • Malcolm Addey came from Hull in Yorkshire
  • From his early years, had an interest in music mixing
  • Wanted to work at the BBC but they were not hiring anyone under 21
  • Joined the National Service (draft) at age 18
  • Was a telegraphist in the Air Force
  • After the service, worked for the Ministry of Civil Aviation for 2 years in Gloucestershire
  • Moved to London
  • Applied to various studios and was hired by EMI Studios (Abbey Road) in March 1958 at age 24
  • EMI Studios was built in 1931
In this segment, Malcolm Addey talks about his years working at Abbey Road Studios. Here is Part II of his interview.

Part II: (32:50)

  • After 3 months at EMI studios, promoted to pop engineer
  • Peter Bown and Stuart Elthan were the other pop engineers at the time
  • Within one month of becoming an engineer, worked on Cliff Richard's "Move It" which became a big hit
  • Worked with other artists such as Shadows, Adam Faith, Helen Shapiro, Ella Fitzgerald, Dakota Staton, Nelson Riddle and Ernestine Anderson
  • There were four pop producers
  • Three producers were dedicated to 3 labels: HMV, British Columbia, Parlophone (comedy, jazz)
  • Producer George Martin (Parlophone)
  • Producer Norrie Paramor (Columbia)
  • Producer Wally Ridley
  • Producer Norman Newell - recorded Broadway shows, ballads with big orchestra and placed them at labels
  • EMI Studios served only EMI
  • Cost of the sessions did not come off the artists' royalties
  • EMI acquired Capitol Records in 1956
  • Norman Smith joined EMI Studios in 1959, became an engineer in '61 or '62
  • Studio 1 - large studio
  • Studio 2 - pop studio
  • Studio 3 - chamber music

In this segment, Malcolm Addey talks about how he came to the U.S. to work for Bell Sound Recording Studios in New York. This is Part III of his interview.

Part III: (33:48)

  • EMI had American label affiliates, i.e. American records released through UK labels
  • Through the association, Malcolm worked with Connie Francis, Mel Torme, Paul Anka
  • Visited US in October 1965 - went to New York and Los Angeles
  • Started thinking about working in the US and explored opportunities
  • Received several offers, accepted the one from Bell Sound Recording
  • Took a 4 week vacation to test the waters in New York and officially resigned from EMI Studios
  • First time experiencing a profit making studio - working at a faster pace in filling the rooms
  • There were 4-5 engineers working at Bell Sound
  • Studio A - the "big" studio, taller, at the top floor
  • Studio C - could accommodate 10 people, small groups, demos
  • Studio B - where Malcolm often worked, slightly smaller than A, had a little vocal booth, could fit 20-25 musicians
  • Studio D - quadrophonic room, later was used for voiceovers
  • US studios were much smaller than UK's except for Columbia and RCA Victor (24th Street)
  • In general, independent studios had smaller rooms
  • Viewlex (duplicating company) acquired Bell Sound Recording
  • Bell Sound's main competition at the time was A&R

In this segment, Malcolm Addey talks about his years working at Bell Sound Recording Studios in New York. Here is Part IV of his interview.

Part IV: (16:08)

  • Main floor of Bell Sound was 2nd floor - Studio B & C at either end, island in between housed edit (4-track mixer) & mastering rooms
  • Worked on R&B, jazz, commercials
  • Worked with Joe Brooks ('70s) and a film he worked on called "You Light Up My Life"

In this segment, Malcolm Addey talks about how he went to work at A&R Studios in New York and concludes by offering some advice. Here is Part V, the conclusion of his interview.

Part V: (31:51)

  • Became freelance and signed exclusive contract with Bell Sound
  • Also started small, self-owned remote recording (not a truck), modular recording
  • Worked 1968-1973 at Bell Sound Recording
  • Bell Sound was acquired by a board member of Viewlex, business suffered
  • Met Phil Ramone at an A&R Christmas party in 1975 - invited to work at A&R
  • Met with Art Ward (one of the owners) and signed contract with A&R
  • A&R had a larger facility, bigger organization, bigger clients, higher rates, better equipment
  • Worked mainly out of A1 studios on 799 7th Avenue
  • Continued to work in NYC and out of his own editing room or "post production suite" that was setup in the mid-'70s

Addeyisms on doing things properly:

"Short cuts don't work in the studio."

"If a studio session is set up and looks good, it is going to sound good."

Final Advice:

"Stop looking at screens is as if that's all there is. Use your ears. The whole thing is about sound. It has nothing to do with squiggly lines on the screen. They are a tool that assist you. The only thing that matters is what is coming out of those loudspeakers and LISTEN."


Producer - Kirk Imamura
Engineers - Brian Montgomery, Roy Hendrickson
Assistant - Bob Mallory