I'd like to introduce myself, though some of you already know me. Like many I started out playing in a band.
We occasionally lost a guitar player and had to break a new one in. During one of these “personnel transitions,” a previous guitarist called to rent my equipment and hire me to haul it and run it. In the 1970s, PA wasn’t much bigger or more complicated than my drum kit. And I didn’t have a gig that weekend.
I had two epiphanies (light-bulb moments) that night. First, at the front-of-house mix position, with control of all the microphones, it sounds way better than it ever will behind the drums. The second bulb lit up when the band paid me, dividing the money that was left over amongst themselves. Thus began the end of my days as a drummer.
I went to college at UMass and, in those days, with a part-time job, a young person could work their way through college. I started renting my sound system to club bands and frat parties. Most of the business happened before midterms, which was plenty of time to make enough money to buy books and finally start studying.
This went on for six years. I ended up with an economics degree and a great little system that fit into a slant six Dodge van: DC300-powered Forsythe bins and 2440 drivers on metal radial horns, with a Tangent 1602. Pretty cool, but I wanted more PA. The inverse square law is a bitch. So I went to work for the biggest outfit in the valley, Sun Sound Audio, who did the spring concerts not just for UMass, but also for many New England schools.
My first week in Sun Sound’s shop was spent loading JBL components into BH800 and MH102 cabinets and the following week it was Carver amps into Calzone racks. The call from Larry Schwartz for Crystal Gayle’s Northeast dates came just in time for owner Herb Mayer to send his new EAW speakers along with the kid who had wired them, so I was on my first tour.
Sun Sound later co-developed the KF850 with EAW, and when we couldn’t buy any more, I organized the KF850 Users Group so we could cross-rent, urging Ken Berger to take my list and make it available on this new thing called the Internet. Endless one-offs are the bread and butter of regional production, but the KF850 opened the door to touring with acts like Suzanne Vega, Clash of the Titans (Slayer and Megadeth), 10,000 Maniacs and Joe Cocker.
My first tour as an independent came as system engineer for Glenn Hatch and Audio West for the Gipsy Kings in 1992. I next mixed FOH for Tony Bennett during his MTV Unplugged comeback, and went on to mix monitors for Canadian chanteuse k.d. lang for a decade, including her Drag, Invincible Summer and Wonderful World (Tony Bennett co-bill) tours. On k.d.’s Hymns of the 49th Parallel symphony pops tour, I also served as production manager.
Between k.d. lang tours, I mixed monitors for Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now symphony swan song with lang’s FOH engineer Grant McAree, and also worked for KIAN Sound on their Pavarotti and Three Tenors shows with SIM guru “Thorny” and tonmeister John Pellowe, eventually introducing the maestro to IEMs, helping extend his career by a decade. I also did a stint with Meredith Brooks, where I learned a lot of non-technical stuff about IEMs.
Along the way, there were various special projects. Long before he was a JBL VP, I worked with David Scheirman on the New York Phil and The Met’s In The Parks summer outdoor series, as well as on Pope John Paul II’s Giants Stadium appearance and on the Atlanta Olympics basketball competition at the Georgia Dome with the Dream Team.
Other memorable moments include the lightning strike at DC’s JFK stadium while working for Ted Leamy on the ’98 Tibet Freedom Festival, and working on the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting for Daryl Bornstein the first year it had LEDs. I enjoyed a decade with ATK, doing 10 Super Bowls with Bob Sterne and Redford, plus a bunch of Microsoft major events with Andrew Waterman.
In 2008 I worked for Jesse McCartney and then Jessica Simpson mixing IEMs on a PM5D both times, following a run with Irish traditional super-group Lúnasa, mixing wedges and FOH from an LS9. I’ve settled down in Jacksonville, FL where I’m a member of IATSE local #115, occasionally doing shows with the Jacksonville Symphony on weekends.
In 2011 I was Editor-in-chief of Front of House magazine for a year.
In 2012-13 I was once again on the road, mixing IEMs for Zac Brown Band on a DiGiCo SD-10.
I would love to go on another Symphony tour, and I enjoy corporate shows as well, having my own inventory of wireless mics and 360 Systems Short Cut and Instant Replay, as well as a rack of IEMs.
Along the way I was Mix magazine’s Live Sound Editor for 10 years, and I worked for Live Sound magazine during the last five. Now I’m with FRONT of HOUSE and we’ve got our own Dream Team: Dan Daley, Baker Lee, “Woody” LaCerra, Jamie Rio, Blair Jackson, Frank Hammel and Kevin Mitchell, to name just a few. We’ll continue developing our roster, adding familiar names like David Morgan, John Murray and Jeff MacKay. If you have something to contribute, we look forward to hearing from you.
Mark Frink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org