Who is Eddie Ciletti?
EC began life in Philadelphia, PA. “Born in the fifties” as the song goes. The Phonograph above belonged to my mom. My dad hooked it up to the back of the TV set. At three, I could recognize the patterns of the record labels. I used to watch as my dad changed tubes and capacitors, often getting in his way. “Get outta my ligtht” he would say. But I was hooked. Dad was and is inspirational in the way music makes him happy. He has always had a great voice, singing along with faves Art Lund and Frank Sinatra. We’ve just finished a 2 CD Art Lund compilation of 52 songs, most of which even his record company lost track of. At a very early age, Music, Happiness and Technology were linked as one for me.
IN 1975, I got my first job as Keyboard Technician (a.k.a. “Roadie”) for Daryl Hall and John Oates. Hall and Oates, Buzzy Linhart, Loggins and Messina and Bonnie Raitt were musical favorites during my collegiate years. To work for one’s idol was truly enlightening… I was treated well by “The Artist’s,” though the road experience was more like boot camp. I was a very green geek-in-training. All the counter-culture in the world did not prepare me for the business of music.
After two “tours,” I settled in LA with The Hello People (HP) to learn about Recording Engineering. Greg Geddes (HP) and Steve Selberg (of BGW) were my teachers. I liked the look of LA, but I was still green and didn’t “get it.” Love sick, I returned to Philly for a cheese steak and two studio gigs. At Quad Recording and Sound Stage in Pennsauken, NJ, I met George Carnell, who was working with a band called CATS. In Sept ’76, I drove my 1963 Plymouth Valiant (with push-button transmission and slant-six engine) to Ft Lauderdale, Fla to visit my friend John Zambrano (who saved my ass on the HP tour). I was running away from a broken heart, but it caught up with me. I did get to work at MCI, building / testing / commissioning recording equipment, where I met Glenn Coleman.
In 1977, I re-joined Hello People when they supported Todd Rundgren‘s “Back to the Bars” tour. After that, I was hired to replace Michael Guthrie as chief technician at Bearsville Studios in upstate NY. A great learning experience, I expected to work with Michael, but he returned to Record Plant and I worked alone until I hired Shep Siegel, now of Data Cube. Shep’s site is extremely cool. He has a bit o’history to share…
After the Woodstock Era, I went on the road again, working for Tommy Mottola (again), his Champion Entertainment Company was managing a four-piece power-pop ensemble, SUSAN, featuring Rickie Byrd
(later with Joan Jett), Tom Dickie, Chas and Mick Leland. Chas and I remained close friends for a long time. On my way north to complete the last leg of that very loud tour, I returned to Philly to visit my mom, who was sick. Timing being everything, I missed her by perhaps an hour or two… :(After B’ville came Eddie Offord, Engineer and Producer of the first two YES and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) albums. He was set up in Levon Helm‘s house in Saugerties NY. (Levon was the drummer for The Band, of “Big Pink” fame.) Eddie’s studio gear included a quad mixer designed for the YES and ELP tours, plus an MCI 24 track “portable” recorder (in 3 road cases). There was no control room. (Eddie O was also set up at Turtle Creek Barn, owned by Bearsville, where he recorded David Sancious and Tone.) The house burned down, but I did get to record Jack Dejohnette there and I made friends with Kasim Sulton an extremely talented plucker of strings and modulator of the vocal chords.
I spent 1979 at home with my dad. That’s pretty generous. I was in Philly trying to be a recording engineer / producer, living with my dad, but probably not giving him too much emotional support. I did hook up with John Doelp (now Celine Dion‘s Executive Producer). John and I recorded LOVE INJECTION, a mild R&B dance tune by TRUSSLE for Elektra at EARMARK recording studio at 4th & green in Philly.
John then teamed up with Don Rose, in 1980, his EAT RECORDS had signed Boston’s HUMAN SEXUAL RESPONSE (HSR). (Don was the founder of Rykodisc). I recorded HSR at downtown recorders. Ben Wisch mixed the album at what is now QUAD recording in NYC.
On Easter Sunday night, 1980, I drove to NYC with T.J. Tindall who I had met in 1975 thanks to Jim Zubernis, now an OBGYN, not bad for a guitar roadie, you might even say a logical transition!!! TJ played with Bonie Raitt as well as Duke Williams and the Extremes, not to forget all those great Gamble and Huff records… TJ and I stayed with his then girlfriend, Carla Bandini, who was an engineer at Sigma Sound, NYC.
My first job in NYC was at Chelsea Sound on 14th street. The studio has since been home to Baby Monster, owned by Steve Berg of Steve Forbert fame. I also worked at Nola Recording, still in business on top of the Steinway Building on 57th street. Jim Czak and John Post, formerly of Bell Sound, are still using Errorl Garner‘s Steinway B.
Late in 1980, I toured with Randy “just when I needed you most” Van Warmer as sound engineer. I built The Ranch in1981 along with Neil Simon (not the playwright) and where I met Ira Wasserman (a networking specialist) and Robbie Norris, who now manages Quad Studios in midtown Manhattan (where HSR was mixed). The recording console — an early MCI JH-416 loaded with 24 modules, the opamps had been upgraded by me to 5534s. I moved that console from Earmark Studios at 22nd & spring garden to 4th and green in Philly, then it followed me to NYC!!! I have recordings from that console made in all three studios. (The re-connection was coincidence. The man searched me out.)
While At The Ranch, I worked on the John Waters soundtrack for Polyester where I met actor Tab Hunter and the aranger-musician Michael Kamen who wrote the score. Debbie Harry was also in the studio to record for the Muppets.
Try as I might to record and produce teen pop records, each pop/rock band that came my way became heavier and heavier until the Plasmatics showed up. They had been recording in another studio but something went wrong and somehow my name popped up to finish the project. So, I did some overdubs and mixed it. Rod Swenson, their manager, forbid me to use wide panning. He was on the phone the entire time I mixed (on auratones) so the level was never above that of conversation. A pair of 1176s were in between the mix buss and an AMPEX ATR-102 running at 15 IPS, no noise. The multitrack was a 3M M-79.
Around that time I went to see The Plasmatics at BOND in time square. I also did on-air sound for them on the Tom Snyder show. The studio filled with smoke after the car hood was blown off!
Wendy was a pussy cat, gentle as could be. I ran into her at a health fude store once, just south of 14th street on 6th.. The guitarist (who lived in my east village ‘hood and who I often saw on the street and the subway) and bass player were also very nice despite their Road Warrior garb. Rod Swenson, was the cold and calculated type, very much the boss.
That’s just one of many stories. So, how does the album sound now that it’s on CD? You tell me! I still have the vinyl and I also have a radio promo cut with the Ranch’s studio-owner-texan (John Andrew Parks) as announcer.
In 1983 I took two jobs to recover from a financial disease, “ma-funds ah-low.” By day I wired Photomagnetic, an audio post house for film. At night, I rejoined Glenn Coleman to build two transfer consoles for Atlantic Recording Studios, managed by Paul Sloman, formerly of Record Plant, NYC. It was at this time that Hector La Torre (later of EQMagazine) would ask me to write reviews and audio articles. I was not into the concept, at first… Then, after two brief detours, I spent a year and a half working at RECORD PLANT, NYC. I learned so much from Paul Prestopinoand Neal Steingart. Paul is master of wood and metal, music and words. Neal is equally gifted. He turned me on to Aram Friedman (brother of Dean Friedman)…After the Ranch, I spent alot of time at SKYLINE studios where I met Judy Elliott Brown, we share a birthday and birth year. TJ and I recorded several albums there until I quit…
In march 1985, I left a regular gig at Record Plant Studios (RPS), NYC to attempt the life of a free lance technician. By night, I wired Charlex, (thanks to Aram) an extremely hi-tech video house. By day, I started with two project studio clients, tripling the number of clients within the first year. I freelanced for Record Plant, going on the road to do LIVE AID, FARM AID and a bunch of PBS specials including Pavarotti at the Philly Academy of Music, Saturday in the Park with George and the Statue of Liberty Celebration. ( I was really surprised to see that Ronald Reagan had a sound effects guy to enhance applause during his speaches. No Lie!!!) After three years, I had slightly more than doubled my RPS salary of $20,000 / year and was getting regular requests for installations. I found an investor, a workspace, a couple of employees and have kept quite busy ever since as Manhattan Sound Technicians, Inc. After 19 years, renting was getting old so Polly and I moved to West St Paul, Minnesota.
I view the audio industry as a sort of pyramid, primarily focused around the “Project” environment. At the ground floor are hobbyists and recording enthusiasts, AKA “Home” studios. (Sometimes this is a split-level affair!) On the next several levels are my clients — the Project Studios — people who make their living from making music and/or audio production. At the top are the few and the proud: the World Class studios with in-house technicians.
Before DAT and ADAT changed everyone’s business, I serviced about a zillion Tascam 38’s and MS-16’s, Otari 5050’s and the Fostex A, B and E series machines. Being a veteran, I cut my teeth on 3M, MCI, Studer and Ampex machines. We also did an assortment of mixers, amps, outboard gear and cassette decks.
Most of the time I made house calls while my crew repaired stuff that could be brought to the shop. The sheer volume and repetition — plus Friday classes in electronics — was experience enough for my techs-in-waiting. Tricky things like tape path or high-power, direct-coupled power amps required my attention. I even learned to lap heads for all those really old machines like Tascam 3340’s and 80-8’s.
On occassion, folks would ask if I would take a look at their consumer VHS decks. I did, though the guys in the shop resented me for it. For other than obvious problems, it wasn’t really worth their time due to the actual value of those things versus what we could charge. The knowledge, however, sure helped when DAT decks started showing up. Then the Alesis ADAT happened…
Nearly overnight, most of the Big Apple Project Studios sold their analog decks to people who would not be my customers — their needs were less critical, their budgets smaller. Since ADATs were initially covered under warranty, we didn’t see much of them. (Alesis has only two authorized service centers in NYC.)
I had already begun to see the handwriting on the wall and made the transition to DAT. This delicate work became increasingly more difficult for my crew and so, after ten years, MST was “downsized.” This turned out to be most liberating because now I could pursue personal interests such as video and computers rather than manage and distribute work to my employees. Maybe I didn’t mention what it was like to be an employer and business owner… Believe me I learned alot.
Once free of the management monkey, I started taking interesting part-time gigs with friends in the video domain. It turned out they were most impressed with my tape path skills. With several years of 4mm DAT under my belt, digital video decks were not all that scary to me. In some ways, they were far easier because everything is bigger. ( DAT decks — especially the Walkman-like portables — are like working on a watch!) In addition, professional decks have built-in diagnostic software, back-panel outputs for oscilloscope connections and “NOVRAM” (Non-Volatile RAM) that can hold both user presets and adjustments such as tension, record and playback levels and EQ. All that wasted time on cheesy VCRs finally paid off.
I spent a year and a half working for Austin Williams at R/Greenberg Associates, returning full-time to MST in mid-April’96, and having a much better time..