Name Greg Calbi
Company Sterling Sound
Role Title Managing Partner and Senior Mastering Engineer
Headquarters 88 Tenth Ave, New York, NY
How did you get started in the music business.
My first job out of college was driving a remote recording truck at Record Plant Studios in New York City. The first gig was for the Yes Close to the Edge” tour in 1972.
How did you come to be at Sterling Sound?
In 1976, Sterling needed a mastering engineer to replace Bob Ludwig, who had left for Masterdisc, George Marino recommended me. I had just mastered Springsteen's Born to Run, Bowie's Young Americans and Eric Carmen’s “All by Myself”, so even with less than three years experience, I had some credibility and got the job.
Name three people whom have been critical to your career?
Roy Cicala, owner of Record Plant, who hired me, mentored me in mastering, and decided not to fire me after a practical joke involving fire extinguishers
and the NYPD went awry.
Jay Messina, who I assisted at Record Plant and in a more subtle way taught me how to conduct myself as an engineer.
Roy Halee, whose belief in me expanded my client base and inspired
me to love the work of audio engineering.
Tell me about the last year you’ve had personally and professionally?
I've had the opportunity, this year, to delve into the process of artists like Picasso, Matisse, and Miro, and have begun to look at the work done by recording engineers, mixers and mastering engineers as more of an artistic expression than something which has a right or wrong. This has encouraged me to make a more personal sonic stamp on my work, and accept either the acceptance or rejection of the work as a necessary part of the process itself. In mastering, you are a partner not a creator so the line can be blurred, but I believe that the freedom that comes from feeling you are making art results in better work.
What challenges have you faced?
Every day is challenging as clients send me their work, work that is extremely
important to their individual careers. By either transforming it or preserving it, I am responsible for what the public will ultimately hear. Subsequently, I have a responsibility to each and every one of them to do my very best work every day.
How do you celebrate?
I'm Italian, need I say more.
Which artists inspire you on a visual / creative level?
Most inspired by the great songwriters and composers... too many to name but here's a few: Piazzolla, Sibelius, Mahler, Beethoven, John Prine, Randy Newman, Lucinda Williams, anyone whose art changes the way life feels while in earshot of their work.
In what ways can people be more socially responsible for the health of our music industry community?
We must fight for better royalties for artists and producers in this new age
of streaming. As the profits have been decimated, the recording budgets have plunged, and quality has suffered. There is an entire generation of talented and creative people who are financially suffering as a result of the new technologies. A better balance needs to be achieved.
If you could provoke change in any area of the music business, what would it be?
See above, and add the formation of union of sorts which could enable all the free-lance musicians, producers, songwriters and engineers to form a group to get more affordable health care for their families.
Tell me about something you learned the hard way?
When someone tells you a secret, keep it a secret. The pleasure that comes from revealing one is far outweighed by the pain of loss of the trust of a friend.
What is art to you?
Any sincere expression of self which through study and hard work finds a physical or aural form and affects me emotionally in any way. Obviously, it is a supremely personal judgement.
*Photograph by Isaac Rosenthal