Lou Reed was a legendary figure in the mythology of rock and roll. The late rock musician released more than 25 albums over the course of his career as a solo act and with The Velvet Underground, winning a devoted following with his poetic lyrics, experimental guitar playing, and distinctive New York City grit.
In a new animated clip, decorated record producer/engineer Sean Slade tells his story about an “explosive” incident in the studio with Reed. As Slade explains,
His gear was always the best and most expensive, because he was an international rock star. He had these wonderful custom-made monitors, and he made the studio take their monitors aside and put up his monitors. We’re doing an overdub with a big power chord, and he’s got this monster pedal board. … So he hit the power chord and it feeds back and it creates this lovely feedback in the beginning, and then the acoustic part comes in.
And then, suddenly, something happened and the assistant engineer started to scream—literally scream. I looked up and I saw that he had hit a pedal, and he increased the volume exponentially. What had happened was, he had shoved the meter totally into the red, and smoke started to pour out of the tweeters in the monitors because we had it set up for one level, and he increased the volume so much that the system just couldn’t handle it.
The engineer thought we were going to break the tape board, so he reached over to turn the tape recorder off, and I literally grabbed him and said “no, no, no, don’t touch it, don’t touch it.” Smoke’s pouring out. He gets it done, we stop the machine, and we look at each other like, “Oh god, What do we do?” So I say, alright, let’s be men, so I walk right in and say, Lou, we blew up your speakers.
And he said “Oh… Did it happen when I hit the pedal?” And I go, “Yea.” And he goes, “Did you get it on tape?” And I said “Yes.” … He didn’t care that we blew up the speakers. In fact, I think he was secretly pleased.
Watch the animated Lou Reed story as told by Sean Slade below:
Producer Sean Slade Recalls an Explosive Recording Session with Lou Reed
This animated Lou Reed story comes as the fourth part of Berklee Online’s Master Track series, each of which includes narration from one of the Berklee Online Masters in Music Business and Masters in Music Production programs. Additional videos in the series feature Prince Charles Alexander (Commercial Vocal Production) reminiscing about how it wasn’t until he recorded the Notorious B.I.G. that he learned to appreciate hip-hop; Susan Rogers (who will be teaching Psychoacoustics in Music Production) reminiscing about an exceptionally busy day in the life as recording engineer for Prince; and E. Michael Harrington (Music Business Law) sharing how he helped bring the Civil Rights-era anthem, “We Shall Overcome” into the public domain. Watch all the videos in the series here.