Larry Crane is the creator of Tape Op Magazine. For nearly 20 years Tape Op has been a must read for those looking to learn and explore ideas in creative recording.
Fittingly, Tape Op got it’s start in the mid 1990’s as a photocopied, hand-stapled magazine with spray painted covers. Since then Larry and his partner John Baccigaluppm who handles layout, publishing and more, have grown Tape Op into an audio magazine with the largest circulation of any out there, and, amazingly, it’s still free!
Larry is also the owner of Jackpot Studios in Portland, OR. In over 18 years of operation, everyone from The Shins to R.E.M to Pavement have recorded there. We were lucky enough to have Larry take some time out of his incredibly busy schedule to chat with us.
Can you tell our audience how you got started in recording?
I began messing around with a couple of small Sony reel-to-reel decks (3 1/4”) my parents had used to send audio letters back and forth while my dad was at sea. I graduated to cassette in the later ‘70s. I recorded weird electronic noise of my own and bought some mics to record friends in my teens. I released cassettes from 1980 on and joined a band in 1985 that put out 4 albums. I 4-tracked on cassette and soon that turned into more gear.
What was the idea behind starting Tape Op Magazine?
I wanted to learn more about recording. I wanted to talk about how records on “real” budgets were made. I wanted to talk about creativity over gear.
I was reading that Tape Op has the largest circulation of any audio recording magazine, do you have any idea what made it catch on?
All of the above! It also started at a time with there appeared to be a democratization of recording due to computers.
The forums on Tapeop.com are really great and very active. Do you ever find time to participate?
There’s not enough time to do everything I wanna do. I pop in occasionally but we also have some great moderators who keep an eye on things there. I’ve learned to delegate!
Have you ever done any live mixing?
Only a little. I do not like the pressure and the nasty looks from the audience. I like making artifacts far more.
How do you protect your hearing?
I use Planet Waves earplugs all the time.
Your videos on Lynda.com are wonderful, and tres informative. Do you do other teaching?
I have done workshops at my studio, as well in other cities. I have 10 students and we examine their mixes and tracking sessions and talk about ways to improve everything, from songwriting, production to mixing and mastering.
Jackpot studio has been around a long time.
18 years almost!
What advice can you give our readers about keeping a studio going these days?
Be part of a community. I’m in session with 2 guys today that used to record in my home for $10 an hr in the mid nineties. They had faith in me then, and we liked each other’s skills and music back then. I didn’t start this studio for my own ego or obsessions; I started it for artists I wanted to work with and so people in Portland would have an affordable choice and someone that really tried to make them sound good.
Do you have any advice for folks who work only inside the box (only computer, plug-ins and headphones)?
Good luck. If you want your records to sound like the classic albums you like, then you better study the process and techniques. Very few albums that people bring up as reference to me were done in the box or even on a computer. But the recording equipment also can have FAR LESS of an impact on the album than the rooms, players, and instruments. Don’t chase the things that don’t matter… but you better figure that out on your own or take one of my workshops!
And lastly can you give a mixing engineer who is just starting out one tip?
Hire someone much more experienced than yourself and go sit and watch them work on your tracks. Nothing else will get you this far. No one, not even Bob Clearmountain, has special tricks when it comes to mixing that will change your results overnight. Just like playing music with others, it’s about listening and reacting.
There is starting to be a lot of scuttlebutt around Hi-Res audio. Any Thoughts?
Hmmm…. I just downloaded a 48 kHz, 24-bit flac version of Tom Petty’s new album this morning. It sounds good through Burl convertors and quality monitors. 24 versus 16 bit is important. I’m not sure most consumer or even hi-fi setups will evidence 192 kHz though!
When tracking at 96 kHz, which I do a lot, I can see a lot of info up to 40 kHz in spectral analysis, even on a vocal track. I think that info is important to the quality of the tracking and mixing, and I try to keep rates as high as I can up to 96 kHz when working. It’s all capturing everything you can then shoving it down a depressing funnel for end user delivery. Vinyl, cassettes, MP3s, AAC, CD and all are letdowns. Most converters are letdowns. Headphone amps in mobile devices suck. Unbalanced -10 dB audio sucks. Nothing beats a full res master in the studio after mixing.
How have you managed to keep Tape Op free all these years?
Advertising pays for printing and shipping. Originally the mag was not free, but it didn’t really make any money. Having a lot of readers makes the ads worth more. Offering free subscriptions gets us the readers. Most mags make little money from paid subscriptions. Journals offer ad free content with a high cover price and usually have fewer readers.
Do you have any passion projects on the go that you want to tell us about?
My wife puts in comedy events and I help her with those… www.jennazine.com
If someone loses their print edition of Tape Op and feel a gaping hole in the nearly complete collection is there anyway to get back issues?
All our issues that we still have print copies of are at Hal Leonard.www.halleonard.com
We also have all our content digital online via purchase or subscription in several forms.
That is great news! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Larry!
Larry can be found at the following virtual places:
Tape Op’s Review of the UE Pro RM can be found here: