Steve Marcantonio Shares His Love of Food & Music (Especially The Beatles)

Steve Marcantonio Shares His Love of Food & Music (Especially The Beatles)

Posted by Auralex on 9th Sep 2020

Note: Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. The interview was conducted by Kevin Booth, Auralex director of sales. Robb Wenner, Auralex artist relations, produces the podcast and jumps in with questions. To hear the interview, subscribe to Auralex Creative Spaces on your podcast platform of choice.

Kevin Booth: I went through your discography, and I was just blown away. I was like, ‘We can't get all of this in here!’ But there is a lot of work done here. I have 261 records that you've engineered from the 1980s to today. I'm sure there's a lot of work in the gaps of this that isn't on the list, it just wasn't a featured release or something.

Steve Marcantonio: I was the assistant engineer, I forget what it was for, but it was Mick Jagger. But that was just one day, so I don't need to put that on my discography for anything.

KB: How did you get started in the music industry? What drew you to it initially?

SM: This place I’m in is called The Music House because I grew up in a very musical house. My grandfather who came to America from Italy in the early 1900s was an arranger and had a band. And then I lived in a house upstairs. My cousins were like 20 years older than me, Joey and Anthony. Joey played the bass and in 1964, replaced the original member of the Four Seasons.

Ever since I was a little kid, I was always tuned into sound. We had AM radio, and we had little transistor radios and I would hear all these different records and I would notice different things on them, and I always wondered how they get that sound. My cousin Joey from the Four Seasons, he was and is still great to me. I was working General Motors in 1978. I graduated in 1975. We were shut down for changeover, they had to change the parts over for the new models, and Joey said to me, “I was on the phone the other day with a friend of mine, Roy Cicala.” And when he said that name, I knew who that was because I used to study the album credits, I saw Roy Cicala’s name and Record Plant [studio]. I went to meet Roy and he took to me like that [snaps fingers]. That's how I got my start in 1978.

KB: So you started at the bottom?

SM: I started at the bottom. I was still working at General Motors. I was unemployed. I was making 95% of my pay. I was looking forward to the Jersey Shore for the whole summer - way before the TV show, mind you. And then I met Roy, and as soon as I walked into the Record Plant, it was like a drug. I was addicted immediately. I spent most of my days and nights at the Record Plant the whole time I was unemployed from General Motors. I started from the bottom. I cleaned the rooms, I made sure all the supplies were there. Those are back in the days when you needed grease pencils, razor blades, leader tape, flanges, reels, track sheets and take sheets. But yes, I did everything I had to do and then I hung out later in the lounge, just waiting for people who needed help.

KB: And everything about that session had to be written down and recorded. It wasn't saved in Pro Tools…

SM: Yep, you had to do recalls and stuff and also the tapes itself. When I first started, we call them “carding in,” so when someone records something, you have to get a blue card and write the number on the side. The tape library was what I was in charge of. That all had to be just right and the way they did things at Record Plant was almost militant in a way where you couldn't mess up and everything was just so because we were very in-tune with the music and the project.

KB: How long before you learn to make good coffee and then got on the mixer and was able to engineer?

SM: First of all, the coffee was horrendous. I didn't know a thing about recording. When I heard someone say, you know, “I put the telly on that night compressed and then I just did a little 10K,” I was like, what? “Hey, let's send the bus over to the verb and gate the chamber.” It took a while just to understand that. The other thing too, which is really important, especially the younger adults or kids coming up now wanting to be an engineer, producer, whatever - you have to teach yourself how to listen.

Even sitting off to the side, I can hear something that's out of phase. That's the first thing I ask at Blackbird Academy, I do stuff for them. I always want to know from them - can you hear phase? So that's something you have to learn what you're hearing. At the Record Plant when I first started, I'd say within a year I was trying out things. After two years, I did my first live two-track. Roy would not allow you to go in on free time and do multitrack because he didn't want you to keep coming back. He wanted you to learn everything in one shot so a live two-track was great because you got great sounds and you're mixing at the same time. So I got up fairly quickly. And back then it was that way because it was so much work.

KB: When did you realize that would be a career path for you?

SM: It's funny, you should bring that up too. Just the other day, my wife and I were talking about me working at General Motors. Now, if I had stayed there, I probably would have made money, I would have probably had a nice retirement fun shirt, but I would have been stuck in New Jersey. I remember when I was at General Motors, I kept saying to myself, “Man, I gotta get out of here.” The one thing I thought of was my dad. My dad worked 34 years at Exxon, but he was in D-Day. I said to myself, I don't want to grow up like my dad, and it wasn't a slight to him. When I got the opportunity to go to Record Plant, I knew that was going to be my life.

KB: So at that time, were there any artists or engineers that you admired or worked next to that you admired that kind of shaped you?

SM: Well, Roy Cicala. Absolutely number one because he took me in. It could have had something to do with my cousin. But I think being Italian, he was attracted to me in that way. Jimmy Iovine started almost like me. Roy would bust his chops and have him sit with him. Roy called him on Easter Sunday to answer phones, and Jimmy came in. That was like a test.

There were so many things I saw, but I didn't know what he was doing. Like for instance, Anton Fig was a drummer who just came to New York, and we were working a lot. We did a Garland Jeffreys’ record. The song was called Matador and it was reggae style and Anton just played kick, snare and hat. So Roy wanted to overdub toms and overheads, and we had 24-track. So we had tracks already that we had symbols on. Those are overheads. And I remember it was 15 and 16 were drums left and right and drums left and right was symbols and toms, we had to combine them both. So really, we had the symbols, we need the toms, so Roy did this thing where he disconnected the erase head [on the tape machine] and we recorded the tom overdubs onto the symbol tracks without erasing the symbols. And Anton had to play perfectly through the first time.

But then, during my course there at Record Plant, guys like Jay Messina, who recorded Aerosmith and Miles Davis, for instance. David Thoener, who's done tons of stuff, he did a lot of J. Geils Band that I got to work with. And William Wittman. Those three engineers, I loved their style. And I got different things from them. Jay was always taught me how to perform in front of clients, what to say, what not to say. Dave Thoener was really intricate in a lot of ways and I learned a lot of intricacies. William Whitman was really fast. I learned from him how to do things fast, which is the way I do it here in Nashville. So yeah, those are my four biggest influences.

KB: “What to say, what not to say” - give us a couple of examples.

SM: Well… [laughs]. I was an assistant engineer. So you know, first and foremost, STFU. Don't say no. When you're setting up for a session, don't play other music, because you never know if one of the band might walk in and he's hearing you playing something else.

Don't ever give your opinion on something, because that can really rattle the cage. I have a great story, Kevin, of what to say and what not to say. I was there at the Record Plant for maybe two weeks and I was just walking around with Roy, and Lou Reed was doing his Live at the Bottom Line record. So he was mixing and Roy stopped in, I'm with him, and Nils Lofgren came in, so this is in 1978. When Nils left, Lou Reed said, “Boy, Nils is tiny. I didn’t know he was that small.” So out of nowhere, I said, “Yeah, I didn't think he was that small, either.” He said, “What did you say?” I said, “I didn’t think he was that small, either.” He says, “You’re an a**hole.” From then on, I learned my lesson, I didn’t say boo.

KB: So with that kind of background and working at the Record Plant, what drew you to Nashville and when did that happen and how did you get there?

SM: Well, that's a great question. I got the perfect answer. Dave Thoener was doing a record for Rodney Crowell. Rodney was married to Rosanne Cash, who was Johnny Cash’s daughter. Rodney is a singer, songwriter, artist, producer, and he's extremely successful. He was doing something there and he needed to punch in a vocal on something he did. Dave asked me to do that upstairs in Studio C. I went with Rodney and I set up a mic, and I listened to what was on tape and tried to replicate it and I did. I punched in and out, fixed it and that was it.

Two years later, he calls me up in New Jersey and says “Hey, Steve Mark.” He called me Steve Mark. There were two Steves at Record Plant. When I came there, I was the second one. I had to be known as something else. Anyway, Rodney called me up and said, “We're doing some tracks for Rosanne’s Best Of, can you come out here?” This was 1987. That turned into a full record, which is called “King’s Record Shop.” It was actually a really, really cool record. Too much reverb but a great record.

Then I met other people like Josh Leo and Tony Brown. And I started commuting for five years, I commuted back and forth. That was before they had their new airport. I used to fly through Atlanta. Here in 1987, it was still Mayberry. I remember, I went for a sandwich somewhere, and of course, it was the spongy bread. I'm thinking, I can't live here. There's no sandwiches here!

I stayed at the Hampton Inn and they just opened up an Italian restaurant across the street. I go in there and say, “Can I get just some linguini with garlic and oil?” The waiter says, “We have garlic butter, sir.” What does that mean?

Anyway, it’s gone beyond here. Now it's overblown. Yeah, but I still love it.

KB: Do you think that the general public really has any sense of how much goes into record making?

SM: No, none at all? Nope.

When I teach the kids over there at Blackbird [Academy], when I'm doing a session, I have a tracking session where I have bass drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, steel guitar, keyboards and drums. Yeah, like six live musicians. When they come in the control room, they want to hear what they did. I always tell my students that when I'm tracking a song, I'm starting the record right there. So I'm trying to get balances, I even put a compressor on the playback. I'm trying to make it sound like a record right then and there. And I'd be damned if it doesn't. When the musicians come in, and they say, “Sounds great, Steve,” that's all I need. I know that I'm recognized by those players, because you know, those players, they're the artists for that day. Whoever the artist is with the label, they're going to come and go, but those musicians are going to be there for a while.

I remember years ago, when you were doing a project, you might have spent four months working on a record in three different rooms. So if you're tracking something and you go upstairs to do overdubs, well then you have to put the tape on the machine, you have to rebalance the console, and rebalance the cue system. So that's why when we did records back in the day, we never really had our record balances going. It was just rough. And what we mixed, we started from zero. Now, when I'm doing a project and I follow it through, by the time I'm ready to mix, it's 75% there.

When I send out rough mixes, in some cases, I know that I don't have to impress anybody, so it'll be a really rough mix. But you know, sometimes a rough mix could get you a mixing gig. So just have to make sure it's it sounds at least decent.

My good friend Justin says we're here to capture the moment. We're capturing the performance. We're not creating performances. That's what you do sometimes, you know, guys put together a performance using all program stuff, and that's great. That's great that there is that kind of music out there. But when you're doing rock or country or whatever, it's, you know, it's real musicians. So I just capture performance, you know, I’m not cutting and pasting it.

KB: So you have a couple different decorative objects over your left shoulder there, one of which is a Grammy, I believe for the Glen Campbell record [“I’ll Be Me” in 2014]. And the other?

SM: This is the Academy of Country Music, the ACM. It's like the Hollywood version of the CMAs. Back in 2000, I think it was the first year they gave out an award for Engineer of the Year. And I won in 2006. I've been nominated quite a few times afterwards but never won again.

I read Geoff Emerick’s book, and I don't think he ever got the award for Sgt. Pepper[‘s Lonely Hearts Club Band], that won Best Engineered Record, I think, but he never got it and I don't think they even like congratulated him on that.

KB: That’s a nice segue because I wanted to talk about the Beatles. I realize you're a Beatles fan because I've seen several pictures. You're wearing a Beatles shirt. We're all Beatles fans, I believe. And there's “Abbey Road” behind you. It's hard to pick your favorite Beatles record, but “Abbey Road” might be one of them?

SM: It's not hard for me to pick my favorite Beatle record. It’s the White Album. That's definitely not their best record, you know? “Sgt. Pepper's”, “Let It Be,” “Revolver” and “Rubber Soul.” White came out in 1968, I was 12. I remember that record just blew my mind because first of all, it was all white. And then you open it up and inside both pockets, there were the four pictures, which were cool pictures. Of course, there was that big poster that had several pictures and the lyrics to everything. My brothers and I wore it out. We had to buy it twice. That's my favorite record of all.

KB: Have you seen on YouTube something called “Understanding Lennon/McCartney?” They are a couple hours apiece and it's just all footage. There are some conversations that are really surprising to hear.

SM: There’s so much more stuff coming out now. For instance, I never knew McCartney played drums on “Dear Prudence.” I think he played “Birthday” and “Back in the USSR” or something like that.

KB: You had a really surprising opportunity to work with John [Lennon].

SM: Yeah, matter of fact, I'll tell you a part of it that I normally don't. It was 1980. For most of that year, I was working on the Blues Brothers soundtrack for the movie. There were three of us: the producer, engineer and me. A lot of time was wasted, I won't get into too much how it was wasted.

But John, unfortunately, was recording at another studio, our nemesis. It was right around the era, 1980, when we got this thing called the BTX. It was that white little console with the buttons. I perfected it. In September of that year, Jack Douglas had to come to the Record Plant for something. And they wanted me to work with him because I knew that BTX unit. I said, “Oh man, this is great, I get to work with John.” The producer insisted that I stay with the Blues Brothers. He didn't want to let me go. But that's cool, that's flattering. Bob Tischler, great guy, and I learned a lot from him, and Jay Krugman, who is the engineer.

I said, “Okay, well, I don't get to work with him.” But later in December, after the album had been out for months already, and they already gone through like two or three singles. When they recorded “Double Fantasy,” they did enough music for two records. “Milk and Honey,” I think, was going to be their second, but they have this song that Yoko's called “Walking on Thin Ice.” It was kind of a dance song. They wanted to do overdubs and mix it. That was the premise and I was available. They came in December 1, 1980, the mix room at the Record Plant and we decided what we're going to keep from the basic tracks and then we did some overdubs, keyboards, guitar with John, vocals and then mixing. That went right to the eighth [of December]. That Sunday night, they came back to listen to the mix, and I said goodbye to them on the elevator. An hour later, he was gone.

But it was great. It was a great week, even Yoko. I had heard horror stories about her, but she was cool. You meet certain people in this industry, and of course, they're not all your friends. But every once in a while, you connect with people. Like I'm friends with a lot of artists around here. In fact, I'm very close with Vince Gill. He is like the nicest guy in the world. And I equate that to John. He was so cool, so nice, and he didn't have to be, but he was so nice to me. And we had a good time, he really took to me.

KB: That's so shocking. I remember when that happened [the Lennon assassination]. Everybody knows where they were when they heard that. And you were as close as anybody to that.

SM: Yep. Matter of fact, that night, Willie Nile was downstairs doing a record. There were like two other projects going on. I had a nine o'clock session with a girl named Karen Lawrence who was in a band called “1999,” I think [ed. note: “1994”]. I was setting up for that session. Those were the days. I worked eight straight days with John and Yoko, then at nine o'clock, I had to set up for a vocal with Karen Lawrence. I would have probably been there till like two or three. Of course that didn't happen.

Thom Panunzio was doing Willie Nile, Thom is a producer and engineer. He asked me to get him an autograph for his cousin. I said I never get autographs for anybody. That was one of the things they taught us, don't ask for autographs. John gave me an autograph. When that happened, I came down into the lounge and everyone was shocked, sitting on couches. Thom was sitting on the couch. I went over and handed him the autograph. They were shocked that a) I asked for it and b) that I gave it to him. I think the receptionist got his last autograph, and I want to say she got a good penny for it.

During that week, I was talking to John, there was a new device called the [Electro-Harmonix] Clap Track. You just hit a button. It was made in New Jersey. Pre-computers. We looked it up in the phone book. I said, it’s on my way to work, let me get it for you. He gave me two crisp $100 bills. When he was gone, I said to Roy, who knew Yoko, “Give this back to Yoko.” And Yoko must have remembered that because she got me a platinum record of “Double Fantasy,” even though I didn't work on it. That's called ‘being honest.’ I urge everyone out there, in every facet of life, but especially in this business, you got to be honest, because your lies will catch up to you.

KB: And a takeaway for the students is that you learned the BTX, and you said you were the best at it, and you became the guy, so even the smallest thing you just mastered and be the best at, you'll be the guy who [gets the call].

SM: It's like I tell these kids coming up, when I had to clean, I made sure everything polished well, pencils sharpened, because when they see that you can do that, then they'll go, “Hey, you want to hang out with me tonight?” The thing nowadays that I tell these interns, when they make a food run, that might be the most important thing that an intern can do. Because if you get it wrong, how are you going to be able to remember what mics to put up and where to place them and this and that? You have to be good at everything you do coming up the line.

KB: I did some minor recording, but one thing that really speaks that I hear other engineers say is that you have to set up the room and you have to make it comfortable. You have to make it feel like a place they can come in and be creative. It becomes their place as soon as they walk in.

SM: I tell my assistants when they're setting up for a session, it's got to look absolutely neat because you never know when they’ll take pictures. Neatness counts.

Robb Wenner: You've worked with a lot of iconic artists. Is there anyone you haven't worked with that you've always wanted to work with?

SM: There’s two people. First of all, my biggest influence in music besides the Beatles was Todd Rundgren. I would have loved to have worked with him. Although I hear he was not cool to be around in the studio. At this point, I don't even want to meet him because I don't want it to spoil it.

Two musicians that I would love to work with are Vinnie Colaiuta and Brian May. Because over the years, he has turned into my favorite guitar player. And you know, it's funny how you asked me who would want to work with you're probably expecting an artist. It would be much more exciting for me meeting an athlete than an artist.

But Brian’s solo in “We Will Rock You,” in my opinion, is the best rock solo and it sounds tremendous. I think there's an isolated track of that somewhere on the internet. I saw something on him where that guitar that he has that his dad made is what he uses 85% of the time. He was in Nashville at Blackbird two years ago, I probably could have met him but I wasn't around.

KB: The rooms that you've worked in, can you tell us about that? When you're looking for a studio, you're looking for a room that sounds good that you want to be in. Tell us about that, the importance of the room and how it sounds.

SM: It depends on what you're going for, obviously with the room. In my career, most of the time, I relied on heavy big drums. Big roomy drums. Matter of fact, when I first came here, I don't think they were even recording room sounds.

But as music has progressed, it seems like now the what these kids like nowadays, they like the nice tight rooms for the drum sounds. Have you ever watched those videos on Vulfpeck? Yeah, they do these videos online and they have that one drummer’s real tight sounds.

There are a couple rooms in town that I absolutely love. Blackbird Studio D is my favorite. It has an 80 or 90 input API. I love recording on API. They have incredible outboard and they have plenty of isolation, which is key. The staff there is amazing, and their tech is amazing. Vance Powell, a great friend of mine, said you have to have three good things for a studio: good air, good electricity and good maintenance. Unfortunately, most studios ever since things started getting bad, the first thing they did was get rid of their tech, because that's a costly employee to have. Blackbird’s got five or six rooms of Ocean Way. Who else? Oh, Sound Stage.

I would say Studio D at Blackbird is my go-to place here. I've been around long enough now to be able to make anything happen. I just went to Arkansas two weeks ago with a brand-new client who's great and has a studio in Arkansas. It's a great tracking room but too live, if you can understand that. The control room was okay, and it had a NeoTek. So, I used a lot of outboard. I was running back-and-forth, I was on my hands and knees, I was controlling Pro Tools. Because there's no reason to complain about any of that. Because my job is to get those guys up-and-running as quick as possible, because time is of the essence. It's not about me, it's not about the sounds, it's about getting a performance from them for the song.

So here in Nashville, the song is key. It's all about the song, we say. When I'm doing a tracking date for, let's say, Dann Huff, who does one song per three-hour session, I've got to get things ready so that they can get up and rolling. Now if something goes out on me in the middle of getting sounds, grab another fader, whatever the quickest thing is. You have to kind of cut your losses and go with Plan B. I know that at Blackbird D everything works really well, and they've got so many mics. So that's my go-to place.

KB: Yeah, and those rooms are designed really well. They're acoustically treated; the treatments kind of stay out of the way.

SM: Yeah. And both tracking rooms have real chambers, which is great. And of course, the microphone collection is phenomenal.

KB: There's a lot of mythology today with recording from home where you get the driest sound you can so they can add ambient later. Certainly, if you can record at Blackbird, you don't have to do that.

SM: You know what, I rely on my room sounds for my drums. I don't like using reverb at all.

KB: Your control room there has some acoustic treatment in it, to say the least. And all that's just to control the ambience of the space, the first reflections, right? You have a lot of treatment around the first reflections of your room. Some people may not realize that speakers’ energy, they emit energy from all sides of the box. The speaker is designed so it moves this way. But there's energy that moves around the room and it comes from the box and it hits the wall and comes back to you, you receive it as direct information. But it's not. So, to get that direct information, you have to kind of tweak that, absorb that. And that’s what we’ve done with your room.

SM: It's phenomenal. People come here and they listen, and they love it immediately. It's the experience that I have here, that I can hear something and adapt my ears to what I'm hearing. These days, I've been listening low. Very low.

KB: 80 db low? 70 db low?

SM: About 70. I checked it on my meter. Of course you don't get the full bottom end and this and that. But, you know, when you hear it on the bigs [monitors], you're cool, you could tweak from there, I'm really into that. And also I have a sub, I've got the KRK V8 and V4, and I got the 10 inch sub, so I have to be careful with my bottom end. And talking about all the treatment in the room, you can have the best sounding room but the hardest thing I think for any engineer is the bottom end. Is there enough bass guitar? Is Ottoman low end right or is it muddy? Is it cloudy? So that takes a lot of getting used to.

KB: Yeah, in engineering, there's a lot of talk about frequency, what frequency different instruments are in, what frequencies have a wavelength, right? You can calculate wavelength. So, on the low inside, an 80-hertz sound wave is 14.5 feet. So that's for it to revolve. That's one cycle. So, if your room is 15 feet or 14 feet deep, it really hits, finishes its cycle in the corner of the back wall and then starts to either pass through the wall or come right back to you.

SM: This room is a bass trap. So, you leave the door open, then it works out great. That's also my vocal booth. So it's a really comfortable vibe in there. I've had singers, I've had guitar players. Tom Bukovac is like one of the main guitar players here. He played in here and, you know, I had the amp cranked in there. And I was cranked up in here, no leakage and it was great.

KB: Signal chain, you mentioned APIs. What is your favorite signal chain?

SM: For vocals, the [API] 3124V, I think they're called, they sound really cool. Of course, I love the [Neve] 1073. The 1073 works especially well on vocals for me, and acoustic guitars, whereas the APIs, I find, are great for drums and guitars, but also vocals, too, you know. And as far as compressors, I have two API compressors that I use. A Distressor is my favorite go-to.

[UA] 1176, they're great. Pultec EQ. A Tube-Tech compressor works great. And I still like using an LA-2 [Teletronix LA-2A]. Back when I first started, I always heard “Telly Pultec.” What is he talking about? He wants Teletronix LA-2A and then the Pultec.

KB: Do you have any advice for aspiring recording engineers? You have students at Blackbird, I'm sure you have something in your pocket that you tell them all.

SM: Yes, I always leave them with a positive vibe. Too many people my age and above are negative on a lot of things, they're negative about the music. They're negative about some of the ways records are made. But nowadays, what I like to say is that your palette is wide open nowadays, anybody can go in their bedroom, or anywhere, and take a computer and record their own song. There's even GarageBand, you know, so it's very easy to do. And if you're inclined to do anything musical, I would suggest doing that.

The way things are nowadays, you can make a quick video, put it up on YouTube and before you know it, you have 100,000 views. The rest is history. So as far as wanting to be an engineer or producer, I think those days might now have shifted to wanting to be an artist. I'm the last of a breed because I don't play an instrument. I'm not a musician. All I know how to do is engineer. Those kinds of engineers are not around anymore. You have to know how to play or program in order to be a really good engineer. Because nowadays the songwriters are engineering and producing the records. I talked to a couple of my neighbors. One daughter is learning guitar and one girl is learning violin and piano. I think it's great that kids will also pick up a real instrument and learn how to play it.

KB: What has what has changed for you now?

SM: Well, obviously the whole computer thing has changed, having to do work into computer. A few years ago, I was working with a producer who was using a very well-known mixer. I screwed up so many times because I didn't send the proper files. I didn't do this; I didn't do that. And it really shook me and it was a wakeup call because I knew I wanted to do this for a while. So just learning, I use Pro Tools, love Avid, they're in a resurgence now, they just got a new CEO so they're great. But just keeping up with them. When do I do upgrades? This and that. Your T’s have to be crossed and I's dotted properly. Otherwise, you can mess up. So that part of it was tough.

KB: COVID-19 has really changed everything, right? How's the artists going to create content and get it out there? How are you going to record? What's the business in Nashville look like?

SM: Phenomenal. The studios opened wide about six weeks ago, I think. I've already done maybe a dozen sessions. Now once again, I'm going to bring up Blackbird because I've been there and I'm sure all the other studios are following. But at Blackbird, they take your temperature when you walk in, everyone's wearing a mask. They also have these ultraviolet lights. At night, when the people are done, they zap everything. Do they really? Yes. And John [McBride, studio owner] just got some air purifiers for the [Blackbird] Academy. So, they're doing everything they can. I did a string date with how many string players? There might have been 12 or 16. They all had to have their own stand. And they all have to be six feet apart. And they never came in the control room. That's the other thing, too, is sometimes the guys don't come into control. But business is booming here, Kev. They're doing a lot of work. And you know, I did some Christmas music with Lady Antebellum. Because of COVID, I started something that I never finished. A couple of musicians were calling me about a problem they were having in Pro Tools. They were road musicians. And now they're home. And they want to work on Pro Tools and they forgot. So I did this thing, Pro Tools Basics, where I went over things. But that's what's happened, a lot of the road musicians, they're now home trying to make music. They either don't have the proper stuff or they're on version six of Pro Tools.

KB: I saw a Bluetooth Marshall speaker on your desk and I assume that you listen to some mixes through that guy.

SM: It's awesome. I also have the Behringer Powerplay P-16. It's a cue box. It has a limiter knob on it. So sometimes I'll put it in here and I'll run my mixer through the cue box and put the limiter on to simulate radio.

KB: Is there something about you that we haven't talked about or that would be unexpected, a hobby or activity that you like to do most?

SM: Well, cooking. I like to cook. I think that's another businesses that’s going to suffer terribly. But I love cooking. And you know, I'm a sports fan. I'm losing interest as we go. But that's one thing that engineers are not; they're not into sports at all. But I'm a big fan of all the sports.

RW: I've had the pleasure of dining with you and with food you've prepared and it's awesome. Is that something that you did when you were a kid too?

SM: Being Italian, of course, every Italian’s mother was a good cook, and my mother was the best. I actually filmed some of her recipes. She made this one pasta called cavatelli. You know, you take a strand of dough like a snake and you put it through the machine, and it spits out these little canoe-like pieces of dough. I remember my mother, she had this thing, this crank thing, it's like an antique. My mother gave that to me when she died, which is a prized possession. My parents influenced me big time even though they hardly did anything. I'm very good to people. I believe in kindness and love and peace and that was what I got from my parents.

KB: That ingredient of love is so important.

RW: And not to sound corny or whatever, but you do the same thing love-wise with music.

SM: When I was at the Record Plant, for instance, I worked with the J. Geils Band and I brought in a tray of baked ziti. I have a picture of Peter Wolf with a tray of ziti and a spoon.

Another time, I was working on that Blues Brothers project. My mother made the best veal parmesan. She made veal parm for us, and it was me, the producer and the engineer. So we’re eating and John Belushi stopped in about six, seven o'clock, and he was coherent that day. We had Good John Belushi that day. Asked him if he wanted some, he didn’t and left. One o'clock in the morning, I see the phone ringing, I pick it up. “Hey, it’s John. What are you doing?” I said “We're still working.” He said, “Got any veal left?” I said yeah. He came to eat the veal and left.

KB: Thanks for hanging out with us, Steve. I could plug some of your things, you know, your Facebook page…

SM: I've taken a break on social media.

I have this new client, Billy Taylor, his son Dylan was at Blackbird and they're in Arkansas. They did the music for the Arkansas Country Music Awards, and I've been doing music with them. I've been having such a blast. Billy's a great guy. He just ordered an API console. So I might be going out to Arkansas more.

I'm 63, Kevin, but I feel like I’m 23. I want to do this for a while.

The Gear of Steve Marcantonio

Auralex ProPanels

Auralex ProPanel ProClouds

Auralex DST-LENRD Bass Traps

Auralex SonoFlat Studiofoam

Auralex ProPADProPAD-XL Monitor Isolation Pads

Auralex SubDude-HT

API 3124V

Neve 1073

KRK V8 Monitor Speakers

KRK Subwoofer

Empirical Labs Distressor

Pro Tools

Bluetooth Marshall speaker

Behringer Powerplay P-16