What's in Your Fridge: Garth Richardson
What’s in Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz Ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6 cubic-foot refrigerators.
On the grill
Garth "GGGarth" Richardson
Who are you
By his own admission, Garth Richardson isn't much good in the kitchen. His forte is in the recording studio, as he has proven by engineering and/or producing mega-selling records by everyone from Nickelback and Hedley to Rage Against the Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Richardson is the owner and operator of his own studio, the Farm, as well as one of the city's top rehearsal facilities, Vancouver Rockspace. He's also helping to usher in the next generation of studio wizards: along with Bob Ezrin and Kevin Williams, he is one of the founders of Nimbus School of Recording Arts.
My first concert was 1971, Maple Leaf Gardens: Edgar Winter, White Trash, and Alice Cooper on the Love It To Death tour. I was that kid whose father, the famous Jack Richardson, actually produced the Love It to Death record with Bob Ezrin. So, front-row seats and backstage passes, right? Not a chance. The only way I was going to that concert was with my mother, her rules. She picked my outfit: beige dress pants, plaid button-down shirt, and a bright purple vest. The seats? Second-last row, Greys, which, if you know Maple Leaf Gardens, they call it nosebleed territory. And as for meeting the band backstage? There was no way my parents were going to let their innocent child hang out with a guy who's a girl, who's a guy... my dad had enough problems dealing with that himself, in working with Alice. Of course, eventually, with Alice, we became family, but at 13, I was on my best behaviour, sunk down low in my seat, mortified lest any of my school chums would see me with my mom in my purple vest. As for the concert itself, I was completely blown away. This was the tour when Alice hung himself, chopped off his head, there were balloons, confetti—I don't know what my mother thought of it all, but for me, this was one step closer to me realizing what I loved and what I wanted to do for my career.
1973, The Who, Quadraphenia tour, again at Maple Leaf Gardens. My dad's engineer at Nimbus 9 Studios in Toronto, Jim Frank, couldn't make the show, so he gave me his two tickets. This time, at 15, I took the girl next door, wore whatever I wanted, and sat in the Golds. This was when Keith Moon was still their drummer and The Who were at the peak of their career. To this day I've never seen a show like it. The raw power of four guys on-stage with a guitar, bass, lead singer, and drums—it was the epitome of what a rock concert could and should be. I had to do this. Vest or no vest, I had to make rock 'n' roll my life's work.
Top three records
Whenever I work with a band, as we get to know each other, I always ask them which five records they would take to a desert island. I find it tells me a lot about their taste, diversity, and sense of musical history. After they struggle with this for a while, they always ask me the same question. And I still struggle. As a music lover, and doing what I do, it's like asking which of your children you would leave behind. At any rate, today, here they are, in no particular order: Led Zepplin II, because my brother played it over and over when he bought his first record player. Gentle Giant, Free Hand; I find this to be one of the most antipop records ever made. This is a musician's musicians band. Bob Ezrin and I opened a school in Vancouver, Nimbus School of Recording Arts, and one of the exercises we give to production students is playing a song through twice and having them describe the song structure, among other things. I gave them Gentle Giant's "Just the Same". Halfway through their listening they put down their pens in protest. "Unfair, too challenging, too hard," they complained. Lead singer Derek Shulman became president of RoadRunner Records and, finding him on Facebook, I thanked him for changing the way I listen to music. Third choice would be Famous Blue Raincoat, by Jennifer Warnes, singing the beautiful songs of Leonard Cohen. Produced by Rosco Beck, I had the honor to second engineer on final overdubs and mix, which means I had the absolute pleasure to watch Leonard, red rose in one hand, glass of red wine in the other, stand on one foot while singing "Joan of Arc". This is life-changing. And I learned so much from engineer Frank Wolf.