Meet Mike: The life and times of the Feedbackers' frontman and production company founder
I look down at my pen hand, then the piece of paper upon which I scribed the answer almost reflexively. My eyes dart back to the question. Describe being a musician in Montreal using one word. I pause, reflect on my choice, and move to the next question.
Describe being a sound engineer in Montreal using one word.
Not to imply calling something difficult as an insult; quite the contrary, often-times difficult processes yield the most remarkable results. There is, for instance, a certain rush to which most artists can attest when diligently loading a tiny vehicle full of hundreds of pounds of gear, bringing it to a venue, setting up their stage and getting through soundcheck, then waiting 2 to 4 hours for their moment onstage.
The atmosphere and energy as they patiently wait for a room to slowly fill in with crowds from other bands, their own friends, the guitarist’s mom who’s never missed a gig— that Tesla Coil-like magnetic charge in the air building gradually as the crowd makes their way into the room and closer to the stage. Then, the promoter loses it about half an hour after the opener’s planned set time: the show will now begin for real.
By that point everyone is so juiced from this vibe, they almost give too much, both the performers and the audience alike. Whether it be metalheads forming a circle pit and flailing limbs like it was an Olympic event (I’m not even kidding, YouTube ribbon dancers, mute it, then play Napalm Death. You’re welcome), or people gyrating with no control to a soulful funk band, it’s potent. It’s an emotional experience best resumed in the words of a power-supplied, chill-multiplied John Travolta character: it’s electrifyin’.
It’s that or 14 people show. “Difficult.”
Sound engineering is basically dealing with all of that, plus making sure that the mix is as good as you can make it sound with any/all available tools. An added bonus is getting through it without biting off a lead singer’s head or just angrily unplugging a guitarist’s immoderately loud amp. “For the last time, if you need to hear more of yourself, you have a monitor for that. STOP TOUCHING THE MASTER VOLUME. And where’s the bassist? WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE’S STILL NOT BACK FROM WORK?” Man, thank the gods for drummers, they just do what they’re told when you tell them. Except when you tell them to play quieter.
All of these generalizations, of course, are likely an accumulation of emotion from the fact that I am the lead singer and guitarist in one band, bassist in a few others, and started all of this by first playing drums. Years in these varied positions make you very aware of the almost satirical patterns associated with event planning, promotion, and hosting/performing. Every glorious moment of anxiety and sweat.
That, plus my partner and I created an audiovisual company wherein we record, film and produce live or studio events and content. We are one sound guy and one video chick, as well as our trusted crew, and working with artists is something we have grown both accustomed to and quite fond of.
But yeah, there’s definitely gonna be some stories to come out of it. That’s like half the fun.
Mike Gerbasi is a Montreal based musician and sound engineer who co-runs his own audiovisual production company, 73 Studios. You can find his bands, The Feedbackers and the Task Managers, on Apple Music and Spotify.