A&M chapter nine

My experience with the Canadians is a book in itself.  I’m thinking these bastards deserve at least a couple three chapters.

Meet Bill Kennedy.

I’ll never forget my first time.  Neither would you.  Kurt Gibson hits the heroic home run in game one of the World Series against Oakland in ’88.  Randy Staub calls, we’d just seen the same thing, he was pumped and his buddy Bill was with him.  We all thought drinks.  I wash my hands and brush my teeth.  Change my shirt.  The doorbell rings and there’s this ugly little fucker with brilliant blue eyes and long red hair standing there.  Tight black pants, Beatle boots, a CBGB t-shirt and a black leather jacket.  Teeth like a donkey.

My first thought was The Tasmanian Devil.

I stick out my hand and he grabs my balls and says, “Nice ta meet ya motherfucker.”  Then he laughs all throaty and mocking but like a fucking witch.  Kinda spooked me.

Staub hangs back with a half grin looking me right in the eyes.

Can’t remember what the deal was but neither one of them could drive legally in the States.  We headed into Hollywood in my shitbox ’69 Superbeetle.  They rode in the back like I was the chauffer and took turns covering my eyes and sticking fingers in my mouth.  They bought my drinks, Staub got shut down by some betty in fishnets while me and the Tasmanian Devil got shit hammered.  We drove back under the same conditions.  Except for alcohol and drugs part, it was a virtual re-enactment.

I don’t even remember where we went.

For what it’s worth, I don’t do that anymore.

Bill Kennedy or Kill Bennedy, his alter ego after too much Jagermeister, was and probably still is, a crazy bastard with a big heart.  He was to help and teach me a lot.  Sometimes his own worst enemy, he’d monitor and mix so loud his clients would be driven from the room.  His maxim was to “make a racket” and he always did.  Hard drinker.  We all were.  Truth is, he drank harder than most of us and that’s saying something.  Not as hard as the rest of us and that’s saying something too.

I was furious with him for using forty seven microphones on a drum kit when I was producing/engineering my very first record for Down By Law.  Even in a studio like A&M, that amount of excess taxed resources.  A day to sort out phase alone.  Ridiculous.  Over compensation for a tiny penis.  He was doing Demos for Motley Crue in D and I was trying to make a record in C.  Prick.

Once upon a time, he had like eight Marshall stacks and six Ampeg cabinets going full tilt in D, so loud it was leaking into the live echo chambers above C, I had one patched into a mix I was doing in B.  Had to go to an EMT plate.  Bill Kennedy was an abhorrent gear and amplitude slut.  Louder was better.  He sometimes missed the point.  Subtlety was never his Devil’s advocate.  It never occurred to him.

Bill Kennedy was a dick.  I don’t know what he is these days but if he’s any less of a dick I might like him more than I remember.

We became good friends and I miss him.  Standard greeting was, “Hey fucker”.  He taught me a shitload, particularly in matters of outside the box thinking and extreme approaches to standard engineering gospel.  I learned to push all the ratio buttons in on an Urei 1176 with the input and output all the way up at once.  Gorgeously unpredictable distortion.  Child’s play. Bill would patch six of them together, turn the line amps to eleven, push the fader to the top, mute the console, turn the master gain all the way up and deselect the mute button for the adolescent pleasure of making the NS10’s smoke and spark.

Call a tech, the monitors are toast.

I learned compression and distortion, concepts rarely mutually exclusive, from Bill.

The strip joint across the the street, Crazy Girls, was known as Bill’s office.  Canadian for strippers is “peelers”.

A story about Canadians including Bill:

Randy Staub had found himself a lovely bride named Janice from the other lot so we had a bachelor party.  Events are soupy blurry but I remember spraying Bill in the face with air freshener I’d discovered in the glove compartment of a taxi and helping to toss his ass from said taxi while it was still moving.  He rolled end over end.  Ass over teakettle.

Kadump kadump.

Not sure if it was before or after we got thrown out of a mud wrestling place on Western called The Tropicana.

What happened next is unclear. We were drinking and spilling and yelling.   Staub was good to go.  He was in some sort of a diaper.  Down there on the stage.  We’d all put up hundreds of dollars.  Not me, but all the other Canucks.  Next thing, we’re on the sidewalk under the neon and there’s a handful of bouncers with their arms folded, saliva ran from their snarling lips.

Proud shithoused Canadians.

I think it was before.  The cab thing.

I had wisdom enough to discourage an actual fistfight.  Been there, done that.  No win situation.  Bad idea.

That was my genius.

What I remember next is Bill falling from his second story balcony trying to break into his own apartment after losing his keys. I think I heard his his ribs crack.  We  got in and Bill was the first to lose consciousness, maybe because his ribs were cracked.  Pain and alcohol being a formidable force multiplier.  Yes Mother, there were drugs too.

It was Staub’s idea was to paint his dick blue with one of those jumbo Sharpies.  So that’s what we did.  Painted Bill’s flaccid, unconscious penis a deep inky blue.  Bill was so pleased, he whipped it out at even the slightest provocation for any member of the wedding party and probably a few tourists.  I remember some old folks being offended.  I don’t remember what his dick looks like.  Maybe I blocked it out.  There’s a chance it never happened.

He complained to me once that it wasn’t coming off.  Soap wasn’t doing the job.  I reminded him that Sharpies were alcohol based and the answer was contained therein.  He said to me, “Fuck, I’ll just leave it.”

A Kill Bennedy catchphrase:  “Take a long, slow suck on my runny scrotum you stinking cunt.”  There was something else about eggs in a swamp and elaborate theories regarding stale semen buildup or “SSBU”.

I just knew the crazy little fucker would never supply me with cause to question his integrity.  Were I to drop the ball, it would be on me.  Bill Kennedy would never throw me under the bus with alibi or malice in mind, however.  Kind of a miserable prick but he treated me well.  Fiercely loyal.  Big heart.

Much love to you Bill.

Drinks for my friends.

7 Responses to “A&M chapter nine”

  • pat:

    Ya’ll painted Bill’s dick blue?!?!? Hilarious! Wow, I knew I was working with an odd bunch, but this I have no words for… p

  • admin:

    🙂 Thanks Miss Ricia!

  • David Lee 3:

    I never realaly got to know Randy because by the time we met he was already in his career with Bob Rock (Rock – who imho was one of the biggest D-Bags I had ever met while @ A&M & I never liked his records anyway), so I never had that ground up connection with Staub.

    Seemed a nice enough guy but he worked for Bob Rock & that was enough to put a bad taste in my mouth. That & he uses the same goddamn kick & snare samples on everything from Metallica to Avril Levine. I don’t care if they do work–how about some fucking personality & character in a recording?

    I know I know, I’m an old-head sometimes, blame it on my love of The Beatles & Motown.

    But Bill — “The Tasmanian Devil,” indeed. I remember when I met Bill, thinking he reminded me of S. Clay Wilsons’ character, The Checkered Demon.

    I Love Bill, he’s a fucking bro & took me under his wing early – only to throw me out of the nest when I needed it most & understood it the least. (thanks again fucker)

    He’s said a few things to me which changed my life. One of which I’ve already shared with you a few months back.

    However one of these statements was so profoundly shocking & revelatory to me as a musician that — had I never heard this phrase — I guarantee you that I would never been able to play good enough guitar to play onstage with Brian May in front of Bill…

    He told me @ A&M, “You know what I do when I start mixing? I push all the faders up and start soloing through things one by one. And if ANYTHING makes me stop doing this,.. (& he starts to move/bang his head up/down, back/forth like he’s rocking to an AC/DC track).. well if it stops me from doing that then it doesn’t make the party. I’m sorry if somebody is in love with it, but it fucking sucks & it has to go.”

    Brutal genius.

    So I remember then applying that thinking to my own demos & at first going,.. “man I suck,.. time to get with a metronome again for a while.” It had to all groove from now on,..

    He was/is – always – a brutally honest prick, that’s what made me like Bill right away.

    He also played T-Rex ‘The Slider’ one night for me while I was tripping on acid & I think I had a religious experience. I’d finally found that missing part of my own musical make up.

    You painted his dick blue with a sharpie? Did you move the colostomy bag out of the way first?

    God bless Bill & even Kill.

    Shots of the best Canadian whiskey I’ve ever had, Crown Royal Special Reserve — all around please,

  • admin:

    Bob was always good to, but I never worked with him…..
    It always drove me nuts that they used the same fucking samples on every record they made.
    I never fired a single sample on any record I ever made. Those are real drums you hear and I’m proud of that.
    Brutal genius indeed.

  • I don’t remember a lot of this…might have been after my time. What I do remember is that we tried to build an attitude at A&M. It started with Herb Alpert but filtered through Jimmy Iovine & Shelly Yakus. It was competitive, it was about excellence. We took it seriously. If you were on staff there you had to hold up your end. I remember working 26 hours straight on a session and my brain just wouldn’t function anymore. I had to get Mike Morongell to finish making b reels for me because I was concerned I would erase a master by accident if i kept going. And if you do that…well, that was a capitol offense…just quit because you would be fired anyway. No quarter. It was a bit like Goodfellas in that regard. But, the good news is if you thrived in that environment, you made it. Like med school and then residency at a hospital. The music business doesn’t do this anymore. Now everyone is an artist, engineer and a producer…well, it ain’t that easy.

  • admin:

    The attitude was firmly in place during my tenure and I benefited from it although it did often flirt with a boot camp/prison yard ethic. I am more than proud of what I learned there on all levels. I began as a janitor and ended up a multi platinum engineer/producer.

    With the fall of Mark Harvey and vulgar manifestation of Shelly Yakus’ corruption, the story is ultimately a tragedy.

    Without Mark’s leadership and what came to be the total lack of leadership on Shelly’s part, A&M Studios devolved into something not resembling what it’s founders intended at all.

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