A&M chapter ten

Meet Randy Staub.

I called him Rusty Stub.

Randy Staub, while still a crazy as fuck Canadian, was the polar opposite in demeanor to Bill.  Val Kilmer’s Iceman to Bill’s larger than life cartoon monster.  I learned so much by watching him rather than being taken by the hand, he was talented and I owe him.  Stoic and soft spoken.  Disciplined like a scientist, a Canadian hallmark, he effortlessly made things sound giant.  Rode his bike back and forth from Sunset & La Brea to Van Nuys on a few hours sleep.  Ten miles at least with serious hills in between.  Every night.

The guy was good, I courted him like I was gay.

Every now and then he’d wait for me to acquit myself of all things janitorial because he was too tired to ride home.  I became his hag, but he wasn’t a fag.

He had focus.  You’d think he was arrogant.  Nope.  Focused.  Generous and ridiculously smart.  Kinda dark, definitely more than meets the eye.  A quiet charisma with rockstar good looks.  Still he had a degree of innocence and sincere humility. He’s a celestial body in his own right these days.  Google him.  Randy Staub.  He became a wizard.  I like to believe I witnessed the final stages of that transformation.

Didn’t take long at all for him to be picked up by producer Bob Rock as his engineer  (Metallica, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Cher, The Cult, David Lee Roth, Skid Row, The Offspring, 311, The Tragically Hip……).  I did everything but wear a dress and paint my face for this guy.  I took his tapes up to the library every night.  I stole his ridiculous bike shoes, filled them with cocoa mix and duct taped them to the ceiling of the mix room.

I wanted his attention.

Late one night after U2 wrapped, he asked with an eggplant stained wine grin if I knew where my car was.  He’d stolen it.  My shit box ’69 Superbeetle.  Told me my keys were at the front desk, but wouldn’t tell me where it was.  Pay back for the shoes on the ceiling thing.  Took me and Randy Wine hours to find it.

“Slow but steady ay?”  Him letting me know he wasn’t impressed yet.

There’s more.

He mentioned to me late one night in his quiet way that he hadn’t tracked a band in a while.  Too long he said.  He’d been in The Mix Room for months.  He was asking me to find a band, an open room and to assist him.  Keys to the universe.

I don’t remember if Cameron De Palma, nephew to Brian De Palma, was still working as a runner at A&M at that point, but we had become good friends.  His was one of the best bands I never got to record.  Studio D was open the following Sunday, Randy’s only day off.  I set it up with The Harvinator.

Staub needed rest so we didn’t start until early evening.  They were not anything like a heavy or hard band, but that’s what Randy managed to extract from them.  Although it took hours it seemed to happen in minutes.  The biggest and most aggressive Cameron’s band had ever sounded and probably ever would.  Before I knew it the main monitors were cracked wide open and the band was sounding like I’d never heard them.  The song we tracked was political, “Surgical Strikes”.  It was the very first time I’d witnessed an engineer make it bloom huge so easily.

The experience still looms large in my mind.  I have a peculiar recall for the way things sound.  It was unlike anything I’d ever heard at that point.  I was floored and excited.  My head swam and my heart raced.  My ears were on fire.  Fucking awesome.  I was inspired.  One of just a handful of times that proved I’d ended up in the right place.

He had made this band who’s music I adored, explode with what I saw as the simple ease of an expert and adept craftsman.  Arguably not what they were supposed to sound like but that didn’t matter.  He wielded his power to bend them into what he wanted to hear.  He smiled at me just once, when he saw on my face that I understood what he’d done.

A wizard.

Late in the morning, after the band had left, all the cables wound and I had taken all the mics and auxiliary outboard gear back to the shop, I found Randy neatly arranging all the mic stands along the wall by their triangular bases;  a simple puzzle.  All arms facing the same direction like a company of soldiers.  There was to be a string date the next day.  A thirty or forty piece orchestra.  The powers that were would never even see the condition we left the room in and that was really beside the point in his mind.

Good engineers cannot afford dominance from the right hemisphere.  They rely heavily on the left side.  I’m good with my left brain but it’s no face card in a poker game.  Most interesting occupations require good dancing between the two.  Rusty Stub had it nailed.  That means he wasn’t normal.  None of us were or are.  At one point or another, you breathe that shit or you don’t.

You may be in it longer than you’re feeling it, but you don’t last unless you breathe it.

Anyway, then Staub gets married and there’s this huge rock & roll wedding down in Newport Beach at the Four Seasons I think.  He sent a Limo for Bill Kennedy and Scott Humphries and I was invited along by both Bill and Randy.  It had a push button liquor dispenser.  I shit you not.  Like ‘B’ for burbon and ‘V’ for vodka…….all the way to Newport Beach.

There were girls with us, I think one was named Jeanne and she was the hot one.  None of us banged either of them.  The Wedding and reception were classy and chaotic.  There was a dinner of some sort where I seem to remember Bill causing some controversey with his blue dick.  Humphries sneered at my jeans but I had a shirt and jacket.  Half the dudes at the ceremony were in jeans including all the guys from Little Ceasar.  Did I tell you Humphries was a dick?

I remember the party we had in the beautiful suite provided by the Randy and Janice consortium.  An ocean view and the honeymoon suite kept sending tubs of beer and hard liquor.  Literally every fifteen or twenty minutes room service was at the door with a galvanized tub full of Coronas or bottles of Jack or Tanqueray.  Not buckets.  Tubs.

There was this girl named Carol but I’d been drinking for twelve hours and I just couldn’t make that work.  She was hotness.  Red hair, excellent rack, a clever mind……….. the Maid of Honor I believe.  I don’t blame her for never taking me seriously after that.  Great smile.  Cool woman.

Woke up the next morning with Bill Kennedy yelling and spanking my forehead.  I opened my eyes.  Ocean View.  Bright Ocean View.  “Beer!”, he was yelling.  With one hand he was smacking my face and with the other he was holding a bottle of Miller too close for me to focus on.  At least it blocked out the sun.

I was into photography at the time and I took the most brilliant black and white portrait of bill that morning.  In his robe and sunglasses, smoking a camel and drinking a beer.  I gotta find it.  Roland the Headless Thompson helped me develop the film and make some 8×10’s

We went whale watching.  There were drinks on the boat.  The seas were rough that day.  There was a group of us but I don’t remember who.  That group got to watch me end up on the shoes of tourists a few times.  I’m not a puker so I don’t think I puked.

Next thing I remember we’re on our way back to Hollywood in the Limo with the push button liquor dispenser.  I think the girls were with us.  We smoked a lot of pot.

It took me three days to feel normal.

The whole experience was very valuable to me.  I learned some very important life lessons.

The first one is, make sure you don’t get so hammered you can’t seal the deal.  Sheezus.  Rookie move.  The the second is, try not to get so hammered you black out sporadically and eventually realize that huge chunks of a very good time are missing.  Been pretty good at those things since.

Also, don’t go to places you’re likely to fall down if you’ve been drinking.

I remember running into Randy outside of Tower Records on Ventura one night.  It was summer and his eyes were clear but the look on his face I wasn’t used to.  He’d just finished some ridiculous ordeal that was a Bob Rock production.  Twelve to eighteen hour days for months on end.  It may have been Metallica’s Black album.  Probably because it was done at A&M.

He’d been sleeping for the last few days.  He told me I was the first person he’d seen that he knew outside of the record he’d been on for months.  He told me he was over sleeping and needed to get out and about.  He was raw.  Almost confused.  I honestly think he suddenly saw himself in my eyes and grinned a little at it.

“Slow but steady ay?”  He said.

Drinks for my friends.

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