The drinks were served as usual

Tape Op confab: Looking for the perfect studio tan

It’s Friday night, a week after the end of the first ever Tape Op Conference, and John Baccigaluppi’s foot is killing him. He doesn’t know why; the night before he awoke in excruciating pain. As I follow him down a hallway of the Hangar, his Sacramento recording studio, it’s clear that the pain has not lessened much. His right foot skews at an angle that reminds me of mad scientists and reanimated corpses and his heel thumps the floor menacingly with each step.

He’s lucky this podiatric nightmare didn’t come on the previous Friday night, when Baccigaluppi and Tape Op editor Larry Crane opened the Tape Op Conference by introducing keynote speaker Steve Albini to 350 eager recorders, engineers, producers and musicians at the Crest Theatre.

But no, both of Baccigaluppi’s feet were fine that night, and the conference came off without a hitch: a great mixture of industry legends, fledgling studio owners, home recordists and musicians of all levels talking together, eating together, and swapping information, stories and suggestions. A glance at the Crest Theatre’s lobby found legends like Mitch Easter (R.E.M.’s early producer), Tony Visconti (David Bowie) and Granddaddy’s —all accessible, all friendly, all ready to chat.

The event was a gearhead’s paradise. Microphones, preamps and equalizers festooned the lobby. Conversation centered on topics intelligible only to the initiated. These were people who might have become Dungeons & Dragons players or Trekkies, had they not discovered music instead; people who didn’t kiss a girl until they were 19; people who were shunned in school. Here they could be found in their natural environment with others of their kind, and they shone like weird, slightly greasy diamonds.

Strangely, though, these diamonds don’t appear to be that interested in live music. The Tape Op-exclusive shows hosted by Capitol Garage and True Love Coffeehouse were empty caves when compared with the expected audience. “Eighty percent of the participants didn’t go to any of the shows,” Baccigaluppi reports. It seems bizarre that a group of devoted music lovers would skip the opportunity to hear live music. After all, how often do you get the chance to see national acts like Calexico and J Mascis on the intimate stages of the Capitol Garage and True Love Coffeehouse? But then you remember how myopically focused music people can be—where faders override the real people behind the soundproof glass. Perhaps they are afraid to go outside. After all, there are girls out there, and they might miss Star Trek.

On the whole, though, Baccigaluppi seems satisfied. “On every level, everyone was really pleased,” he says. And Baccigaluppi can’t help but beam with pride when he relates the parting words of legendary producer Albini: “I’ll remember this for the rest of my life. It was a great event.”

As for next year, Baccigaluppi can only speculate. “We learned a lot and we’ll see what happens,” he says. “I hope it happens. I wouldn’t mind it being here again.” As for Baccigaluppi’s foot, he says he’s going to the doctor. Just as soon as he finishes up a few things in the studio. As I walk to my car I can hear him thumping back up the curving staircase to the second-floor studio. Apparently no one in music recording wants to go outside. SN&R music columnist Christian Kiefer can be reached at