So I dialed the number, fully expecting to tell this old fellow that he had reached my studio’s answering machine in error. Ordinarily, I would have probably just ignored it for what I believed it to be, a misdial. For some strange reason I called back. After a few rings the same elderly voice answered with a “Yeah?” Interesting way to answer a phone, I thought.
“Hi.” I responded, “My name is Mark Certo with Radio Link Productions in Charlottesville. I am returning a phone call from a Bob Monroe. May I speak to him please”. “This is Bob,” the man said with a shaky voice taking another moment to clear his throat before asking “Who is this?” I repeated myself a little louder (a tactic the young take when they are talking to the elderly) and added, “You probably called my studio by mistake. I am just calling as a courtesy to let you know that you dialed the wrong number. You called a recording studio.”
The man on the other end sounded a bit confused and asked “Who did I call?” “Radio Link Productions”, I said for what I was hoping to be the last time before hanging up. There was another brief pause before he spoke again. “Oh. Oh, yeah! I have a question for you. Can you mix to zero vu?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. This was not at all what I was expecting. The question, for those of you who don’t know, is the sort of question one might ask of a recording engineer. It basically asks: can I do my job correctly?
I shook off the surprise of being asked such a technical question by an older gentleman, and immediately responded. “I wouldn’t be much of a recording engineer if I couldn’t. Yes. I can record without distorting the signal”. All the while I am thinking, who is this guy?
“Hmmm.” he grunted. “I have someone on staff who can’t seem to manage it.” He paused for another moment. I broke the silence. “So how can I help you Bob?” “Well…..I am not sure that you can.” he said with a hint of a grin that was clearly audible to me. He went on to explain that he had a studio in Nellysford and asked if I knew where that was?
I couldn’t believe my ears! A recording studio in Nellysford, VA., was way outside of my picture of reality. I knew all of the studio owners in town. We were few and all vying for the attention of a limited number of recording musicians in the Charlottesville area. Nellysford Va, was a sleepy little town with a main street and an IGA grocery. Now I was being told there was a studio there.
“Yes. I stayed at the Rodes Farm Inn during my honeymoon. Good fried chicken there.” I replied making small talk to mask my overwhelming curiosity. “So, does your studio record musicians? How many tracks do you have?” So much for discreet inquiry.
“Oh. We have quite a few tape machines.” The cracking voice announced without a hint of bluster. “Listen. Can you come out here this week? I’d like to talk to you about mixing about 50 masters for me.” “Sure.” I said as casually as possible. 50 Masters translated into several hundred billable hours. I made an appointment.
The drive to Nellysford from Charlottesville, is about as picturesque as it is confusing. After I turned off the main state road, I was told that I would make a left at the dumpsters, drive about a quarter mile to the fork and make another left. There I would see a barn which was practically falling over from age. At the barn, I would see another house on a hill to my right with a road leading up to it. This road would continue upward beyond the house on the hill, but I was given instructions to park my car in the small lot near the house and enter through the side entrance.
Fortunately, I was used to such driving directions, after having lived in rural Virginia for a few years. Trees. Forks in the road and old barns were commonplace landmarks. I knew I was at the right place when there was a sign at the property entrance which said The Monroe Institute of Applied Sciences. Where the hell am I?