Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Clair Krepps, March 31, 1999

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Krepps' early work with the Ampex 200

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Partial Transcript: --uh, should be past the leader now.

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Krepps discusses his memories of various people's involvement in the circulation and creation of the Ampex 200. He also discusses his early studio work as an engineer using the Ampex 200 and other adjacent technologies.

Keywords: Ampex two hundred; Audio engineering; Audio masters; Colonel Ranger; Crosby, Bing (Artist); Magnetic sound tape recording; Magnetophon; Magnetophon recorders; Mullin, Jack; Rangertone tape recorder; Recorders, tape (models): Ampex 200; Recorders, tape (models): Ampex Model 200; Sound engineers; WW2; WWII; World War II; World War Two

Subjects: Acoustical engineering.; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound studios.; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--Equipment and supplies.; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History; World War, 1939-1945

00:09:17 - Progression of multi-track recording technology

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Partial Transcript: W, w--I mean, didn't people see the, the, the multitracks coming?

Segment Synopsis: Krepps asserts that the multi-track recording technology progression had little to do with the sound engineers but rather a shift in being more efficient with their costs for hiring studio orchestras to create demos. By approaching it this way, the producer and engineer could evaluate what is necessary to add in each tape. The practice of using the multitrack system allowed for creating a more elaborate demo so that it was easier to evaluate the potential success of the record before hiring a more expensive full orchestra. In the words of Krepps, "You don't spend your money until you know you have something." He provides the example of his work with producer Bob Crew in recording the original demo with The Four Seasons & Frankie Valli and recording and stacking violin sections on multiple tracks to get one cohesive product.

Keywords: 8 track recording; Audio masters; Crew, Bob; Eight track recording; High fidelity sound; Multi-track recording system; Music demos; Sound mastering; The Four Seasons & Frankie Valli

Subjects: Acoustical engineering.; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound studios.; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--Equipment and supplies.; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History

00:15:06 - 1948 musicians union recording ban

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Partial Transcript: Well, did anyone tell you about the, the musicians union in 1948 stopping all recording?

Segment Synopsis: In 1948, the president of the American Federation of Musicians, James C. Petrillo, instituted a union wide halt on all music recording involving musicians. Krepps recalls being a music engineer for Capitol Records at the time and not being able to work for months during the ban.

Keywords: Bans; Brazil (Song); Capitol Transcriptions; Discs; Echo (reverberation) chambers; Goodman, Benny; Harmonicas; Harmonicats, The (Artist); Instruments; Lover (Song); Mastering; Paul, Les; Petrillo, James C.; Pressing plants; Putnam, Bill; Tape; Vocal groups; Vocalists (singers)

Subjects: Acoustical engineering.; Labor unions; Musicians; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound studios.; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History

00:22:02 - Converting disks into audio masters / acoustic recordings

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Partial Transcript: So, how did you do a master from a disk? I thought the disk itself was the master.

Segment Synopsis: Krepps explains the process of audio conversion for master production as a method of playing back the original disk on a turntable, and playing it through an amplifier to then record the master. This process was assisted by a company called Cinema Engineering that was located on the west coast. They created a sound equalizer for the film industry. This equalizer was used to create better sound quality for audio masters. Krepps also talks about creating masters for Les Paul and using both disk and tapes to convert the audio quality into one master. They briefly discuss the pitfalls of mastering acoustic recordings. MGM began competing with Les Paul's recording sound where he would speed up his guitar sound.

Keywords: Audi tape; Audio engineering; Cinema Engineering; LPs; Multi-track music recording; Multi-tracking; Music technology; Page, Patti; Paul, Les; Records, kinds of: long-playing (LP); Sound engineering; Sound equalizer

Subjects: Acoustical engineering.; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound studios.; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--Equipment and supplies.; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History

00:32:39 - In-session microphone adaptations / music innovation

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Partial Transcript: Tell me something else here.

Segment Synopsis: With the advent of Les Paul's "close miking" technique, Krepps recalls what he describes as a trend and necessity among the Depression era sound producers and engineers to go to unconventional lengths to create music that was high fidelity with the few resources that they had. When asked about Les Paul's close miking technique, he recalls his own moment of in-session improvisational innovation: while recording with a bass band and a vocalist on the popular RCA 44B-x microphone, Krepps recalls the sensitivity of the microphone and having to stand at least 18 inches away from the microphone while recording or else it would distort the bass in the audio. Because the bass was over powering the vocalist, to achieve a more balanced recording Krepps ran to a close convenient store and purchased a maxi pad to place on one side of the microphone. He also recalls creating his own amplifier and playing back songs from the closet, citing that it was good for neutralizing the bass that would otherwise rattle the house if it was not buffered.

Keywords: Bands; High fidelity; Improvement; Japan; Kotex; Microphones (models): RCA 44-BX bidirectional; Microphones (models): RCA 44BX bidirectional; Microphones, placement of; Musician's Amplifier; Orchestras; Paul, Les; Quality; Resourcefulness; Sarser, David; Speakers; Technology; Vocalists (singers)

Subjects: Acoustical engineering.; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound studios.; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--Equipment and supplies.; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History

00:39:51 - Starting Mayfair Recording Studios

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Partial Transcript: Um, I'm just--I--bear with me just a second here.

Segment Synopsis: This segment discusses the creation of Mayfair Recording Studios and the first studio projects that Krepps took on with his brother in 1965. Because of the lucrative start that they had in their first studio venture, the two began to think of ways that they could mass produce studio technology and equipment across the country. They were very successful and popular, having worked with all types of popular musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, as well as legendary producers like Tom Wilson.

Keywords: Dylan, Bob; Hendrix, Jimi; MGM Studios; Mayfair Recording Studios; Music production; Sound engineering; Wilson, Tom

Subjects: Acoustical engineering.; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound studios.; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--Equipment and supplies.; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History

01:01:10 - The advent of the Pultec

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Partial Transcript: Um, so--oh, let's see.

Segment Synopsis: After decades as an audio engineer, in 1951 Krepps came up with an idea for a type of machine that would balance and streamline the audio quality of the final audio master. This audio equalizer was called the Pultec and it was created to correct and edit the quality of the recording by fixing room acoustics as well as variations in types of microphones.

Keywords: Audio equalizers; Microphones; Pre-equalizers; Pultec; Sound engineering; Sound equalizers

Subjects: Acoustical engineering.; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound studios.; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--Equipment and supplies.; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History

01:16:44 - Celebrities and the decline of independent studios

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Partial Transcript: This, this is funny.

Segment Synopsis: Krepps asserts that the decline of the independent studios were a product of industry capitalism as well as the prominence of the in-home semiprofessional recording studios used by wealthy recording artists. He believes that the greed and social capital around having a studio creates lack of business and ability to compete for independent studios. He also feels that this impacted the demo industry as well because many times artists would come to the big studios with music already finished and there would be no need for a demo to be created in house. The popularity of these in-home studios in turn only make room for big record companies and the wealthy artists who can afford to produce in their homes.

Keywords: Audio masters; Capitalism; Music production; Record industry; Semiprofessional recording studios; Sound engineering

Subjects: Acoustical engineering.; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound studios.; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--Equipment and supplies.; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History

01:27:40 - Career from Knickerbocker mastering studio to Atlantic Records

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Partial Transcript: Um, I don't want to take up too much more of your time because I know you said you have a lunch today.

Segment Synopsis: Krepps talks about beginning his mastering studio, Knickerbocker, and his recording studio Mayfair, before selling to United Artists Corporation. He talks about how he came to work for Atlantic Records, and their struggles to build another studio in New York.

Keywords: 75 Rockefeller Plaza; Atlantic Records; Dowd, Tom; Europe; Knickerbocker mastering studio; Mayfair Recording Studio; Mayfair Records; Producers; Ross, Steve; United Artists Corporation; Warner Bros; Warner Brothers; Warner Communications; Wexler, Jerry

Subjects: Acoustical engineering.; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound studios.; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History

01:34:21 - Opinions on modern engineering and artists

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Partial Transcript: And, and--but--and I wonder too, did you have a sense of being kind of outmoded by new styles of music and new--

Segment Synopsis: Krepps talks about his views on modern sound engineering and artists, especially the trend of purposeful "mistakes." He talks about some of the artists he recorded, and the last hit he worked on. He talks about his work as a consultant.

Keywords: Artists; Atlantic Records; Be-bop; Bebop; Changes; Classes; Consulting; Drummers; Experimental Department; Flack, Roberta; Franklin, Aretha; Gillespie, Dizzy; Gillespie, John Birks "Dizzy"; Grooves; Killing Me Softly (Song); Lyrics; Microphones; Mistakes; Monaural; Monophonic; Noise; Popular music; Pressing plants; Quality; Record stampers; Records, kinds of: long-playing (LP); Retirement; Striesand, Barbra; Teaching; Tuning; Words

Subjects: Acoustical engineering.; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound studios.; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--Equipment and supplies.; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History

01:43:34 - Building Knickerbocker Sound and Mayfair Recording Studios

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Partial Transcript: Oh, Clair, I'm getting tired.

Segment Synopsis: Krepps talks about how he financed building Building Knickerbocker Sound and Mayfair Recording, and the favors he did to get equipment for his studio. He talks about being the first 8 track studio, and the issues with recording on 8 track tape.

Keywords: 3M Corporation; 8 track tape; Articles; Audio Engineering Society (AES); Brothers; Compensation; Consoles; Construction; Consultants; DB Magazine; Dowd, Tom; Fairchild, Sherman M.; Favors; Financing; Joey Dee & the Starliters; Knickerbocker mastering studio; Mayfair Recording Studios; Monaural Ampex 300; Peppermint Lounge; Pictures; Recorders, tape (models): Ampex 300 monophonic; Recording; Recording lathes; Roulette Records; Schmitt, Al; Testing; Twist (Dance)

Subjects: Acoustical engineering.; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound studios.; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--Equipment and supplies.; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History

01:57:03 - Conclusion and stories about people in the recording business

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Partial Transcript: Yeah I want to look at that c--I mean you and I can talk again can't we?

Segment Synopsis: Krepps talks about his health and his age. He tells a few stories about the recording business, including Teddy Reig convincing Frank Sinatra to record "Doing the Hucklebuck," and a story about recording Count Basie. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: African Americans; Age; Annapolis (United States Naval Academy); Audio Engineering Society (AES); Basie, William James "Count" (Artist); Bird Land; Doing the Hucklebuck (Song); Films; Gin; Health issues; Jewish; Levy, Morris; Milk; New York (N.Y.); Personality; Producers; Reig, Teddy; Sinatra, Frank (Artist); Songs; West Point (United States Military Academy (USMA))

Subjects: Acoustical engineering.; Musicians; Sound engineers; Sound recording industry; Sound recording industry--History; Sound studios.; Sound--Recording and reproducing; Sound--Recording and reproducing--History