THE S&V INTERVIEW

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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 25, 2015 0 comments
To borrow a song title, things can only get better for Howard Jones. Known for such indelible synth-driven ’80s hits like “What Is Love?,” “No One Is to Blame,” “New Song,” and “Everlasting Love,” Jones has focused his efforts in recent years on his inherent talents as a songwriter and arranger, not to mention his knack for creating multimedia-driven live experiences. All of his musical gifts are on fine display with Engage (dtox music and arts), a two-disc CD/DVD set that features a vibrant 5.1 mix on DVD by Robbie Bronnimann, Jones’ longtime sound designer. Jones, 60, and I connected across the Pond to discuss the Engage project, the possibility of future high-resolution remixes of his storied catalog, and his thoughts on vintage analog gear. Jones is one man who knows how to put his dream into action.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jun 11, 2014 0 comments
Photo by Maureen Clark

There are blues legends and there are blues masters, and then there’s John Mayall. Long acknowledged as the father of the British blues scene that emerged in the heyday of the ’60s and the man who helped school the guitarslinging likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Coco Montoya, and Buddy Whittington, the 80-year-old Mayall shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. “You have no other choice, really,” he says matter-of-factly. “You set your feet on your path, and that’s what you stick with. It’s the only thing that you know to do.” His latest album, A Special Life (Forty Below), carries on the rich blues tradition, thanks in no small part to Mayall’s rapport with his band, led by a Texas-born guitar ace (Rocky Athas) and anchored by a Chicago-bred rhythm section (bassist Greg Rzab and drummer Jay Davenport). “Never plan to fade away,” Mayall sings in the title track. Dear John: We’re going to hold you to that.

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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 02, 2014 0 comments
Photo by David McClister

“I’m basically what is known as a talented illusionist.” So says piano wizard Leon Russell, but the Oklahoma native is being more than somewhat modest. His C.V. is as impressive as they come: First-call member of the legendary ’60s L.A. studio collective known as The Wrecking Crew, co-founder of Shelter Records in 1969 with Denny Cordell, spearhead of Joe Cocker’s infamous 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, and beneficiary of a revived recording career by teaming up with Elton John on 2010′s T Bone Burnett-produced The Union. On his just-released Life Journey (UMe), Russell comes full circle to show his mastery of the form on tasty covers like his piano-vamp stab at Robert Johnson’s “Come on in My Kitchen,” a slip-slidin’ romp through “Fever,” and a swing-sational full-orchestral take on Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good.” Here, Russell, 72, and I discuss his ever-unique recording technique, what it’s like being “out on the edge,” and his time in the studio with Frank Sinatra. Face it, Brother Leon: You’re a one-man Wrecking Crew unto yourself.

Bob Ankosko Posted: Nov 13, 2015 0 comments
When Larry Hornbeck stepped up to the podium to accept an Oscar for inventing the digital micromirror device—the core technology behind DLP video projection—he held up a postage-stamp-sized DMD chip and said: “It’s hard to believe that there are more than 8 million digital micromirrors on this device. Who would ever have believed that [this invention] would change the way the world views cinema.” A couple decades later I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of 8 million microsopic mirrors tilting at precise angles and reflecting light to create stunning images at home and in movie theaters. So I reached out to Dr. Hornbeck, holder of 38 U.S. patents and winner of numerous awards and honors, to learn more about his crazy invention.
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Mike Mettler Posted: May 28, 2014 1 comments
“We were united for the best sound we could get, and that was it. That was what we were chasing.” Is Linda Ronstadt revealing her high-end hopes for Hasten Down the Wind? Actually, that’s her assessment of the main goal she had for the 15 songs on her new compilation, Duets (Rhino). The ace song interpreter simply soars on songs like the tender but tough “I Never Will Marry” with Dolly Parton, the special intuitive blend she gets with James Taylor on “I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” and the complementary vocal halo she sets for Frank Sinatra on “Moonlight in Vermont.” Ronstadt has since retired from singing (in 2013, she revealed she has Parkinson’s disease), but that hasn’t stopped her from appreciating the sound of a good mix or a stellar vocal — or gently trilling a few lines of her favorite songs while we talk. Here, Ronstadt, 67, and I discuss her hi-fi proclivities, when not to use echo, how the right vocal texture tells the right tale every time, and how she learned about spotting hollow fifths.
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Dec 21, 2007 6 comments

<I>Trying to build the perfect home theater isn't easy, but it sure is worth it.</I>

Nancy Klosek Posted: Aug 28, 2007 0 comments
What's possible these days—and how much or how little money does it take?
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Jamie Sorcher Posted: Nov 30, 2012 0 comments
At Home Theater, we’re all about the gear, but our systems would mean nothing without the memorable films we watch on them. Barry Sonnenfeld has had a hand in a good many of those. A 1978 alumnus of New York University Graduate Film School, Sonnenfeld broke into the biz as cinematographer for 1982’s Academy Award–nominated documentary In Our Water.
Bob Ankosko Posted: Nov 03, 2015 1 comments
Andrew Jones has an impressive history in loudspeakers, having served as the chief speaker engineer at KEF, Infinity, Technical Audio Devices Laboratories (TAD), and Pioneer, where he established a reputation for designing budget speakers that sound shockingly good. In May, following the merger of Pioneer and Onkyo, Germany’s ELAC announced that Jones had not only joined the company as vice president of engineering but was already working on a new line of speakers.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Aug 03, 2016 0 comments
It’s one of the Top 3 moments of smashed guitars in music history, right behind Jimi Hendrix at Monterey Pop and Pete Townshend at Woodstock. But this one happened in a movie — namely, in the 1978 comedy classic, National Lampoon’s Animal House. That man on the stairs whose guitar was so violently gutted by Bluto (John Belushi) was in fact noted singer/songwriter Stephen Bishop (“On and On,” “It Might Be You,” “Separate Lives”). I called Bishop, 64, at his homestead in Los Angeles to discuss the literal sonic blueprint for his eclectic new album Blueprint, the give and take of writing with Eric Clapton, and confirming some heretofore unrevealed tech specs about that infamous Animal House guitar.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Dec 10, 2014 0 comments
When Mark Rivera isn’t splitting his time being Music Director for Ringo Starr or serving as a versatile multi-instrumentalist with Billy Joel (the latter for 32 years and counting), he’s doing what any good audiophile would — dropping the needle on some fine, fine wax. “The warmth of vinyl is like nothing else,” Rivera reports. “It really is. To me, it feels like it embraces you. It simply surrounds you.” Earlier this year, Rivera also found the time to put out his first solo album, Common Bond (Dynotone/Red River), and he’s patiently been overseeing having 1,000 copies of it pressed onto vinyl. “I couldn’t be more enthusiastic and more pleased about that,” he says. Here, Rivera, 62, and I talk about Common Bond‘s core production values, vintage gear and favorite LPs, and the ways music resonates over one’s lifetime. Ok, fine, we admit it — we just can’t get enough of that vinyl stuff.
Bob Ankosko Posted: Dec 30, 2015 3 comments
I’ve met enough top speaker designers over the years to know that they’re all obsessive. And I mean that in a good way. To design a great speaker, you have to be obsessive. You have to be prepared to spend countless hours in the lab and in listening rooms evaluating and tweaking every conceivable variable to isolate that elusive mix of art and science that yields a speaker capable of fooling listeners into thinking they’re experiencing a live performance. A tall order, to be sure. Geoff Martin is not a designer, but as Bang & Olufsen’s tonmeister, he plays a critical role in the development of every speaker the Danish company makes. What’s a tonmeister? Read on.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 09, 2015 0 comments
Chances are you know the name Michael Des Barres, but just exactly how most likely depends on your entry point. If you’ve read I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie, then you know him as the ex-husband of Miss Pamela, Pamela Des Barres. If you’re a devout fan of ’70s rock, then you know him as the frontman of cult-fave bands Silverhead and Detective. If you’re a TV aficionado, you know him as Murdoc from MacGyver — and maybe even as Dog, the nattily dressed lead singer of fictional punk band Scum of the Earth from an all-time classic October 1978 episode of WRKP in Cincinnati. And if you’re a dedicated listener of Little Steven’s Underground Garage, Channel 21 on SiriusXM satellite radio, then you’re probably quite riveted to the insights, encyclopedic rock & roll knowledge, and cheeky humor he provides between the tracks that spin during his always exhilarating weekday shift. While the man’s far-reaching C.V. is indeed impressive, Des Barres is a musician first and foremost, and all of his killer instincts have converged on The Key to the Universe (FOD Records), his strongest and most consistent record, well, ever. Notes Des Barres, “People go insane for these new songs. It’s so astounding to me, after having not really done anything on this scale in 25 years, that people are responding to them. I think I sound better on this record than I’ve ever sounded.” Recently, I rang up Des Barres, 67, to discuss the sonic philosophy behind The Key, how to avoid including any “twiddly bits,” and finding one’s own voice as an artist. MDB is a true rock & roll survivor who knows how best to overcome adversity and get it on.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Sep 24, 2014 0 comments
And then there were… five? The above photo is no trick of the tale, for you’re indeed seeing the five key members of Genesis — from the top of the stairs down, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett, Peter Gabriel, and Mike Rutherford — together again for the first time in many years. No, they’re not reforming, but rather have come together to celebrate the career-spanning documentary Genesis: Sum of the Parts airing on Showtime October 10 (and expected to see home release sometime in November), as well commemorate the September 30 release of R-KIVE (Rhino), a 37-track, three-CD box spanning 42 years of both band and solo material. “I know, who’d have thought there’d be all of this activity at my age?” laughs Mike Rutherford, a mainstay of the band through all of its incarnations. “But when you see all these songs side by side, like ‘Turn It on Again’ with [Collins’] ‘In the Air Tonight,’ [Gabriel’s] ‘Biko,’ and [Mike + The Mechanics’] ‘The Living Years’ — you go, ‘Wow, that’s a great body of songwriting.’ ” Full-bodied, you might even say. Recently, Rutherford, 63, and I talked about the band’s impetus for sound quality, why tracks like “Supper’s Ready” still endure, and what might come next. Play me my song, o musical box.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Feb 14, 2013 1 comments
Spin a few of sound re-recording mixer Greg P. Russell’s movies on a proper 5.1 or 7.1 system, and you’ll soon realize that this guy loves home theater. Having worked on more than 200 movies, including every Michael Bay opus since The Rock (although he freely admits “Armageddon was over the top”), Russell has crafted some of the most thrilling soundtracks of our generation.

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