Randall Frazier has been running sound at concerts and engineering records in and around Denver for two decades. As a sound engineer and talent buyer at the Walnut Room for nearly ten years, Frazier left his mark on Denver's underground scene. He helped install the sound system at Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, and now he runs it.
Performing and touring with his own musical project, Orbit Service, Frazier came into contact with and befriended experimental psychedelic rock band the Legendary Pink Dots. He's served as the press agent and tour manager for the band, and for singer Edward Ka-Spel's solo efforts, in the U.S.
In late winter, Ka-Spel announced his collaborative album with Amanda Palmer, I Can Spin a Rainbow; the album was released May 5, with tour dates set for North America and Europe in the spring. Frazier is currently on the road, performing sound engineering duties and managing the North American leg of the tour.
We had a chance to talk with him via e-mail regarding his role on the tour and the reopening of his Helmet Room recording studio in the foothills near Denver.
Westword: What is your role on this tour, and what kinds of things do you anticipate doing?
Randall Frazier: I’ll be tour manager and sound engineer for the U.S. run of this tour, which is just about a week long. So I’ll be connecting with the venues, setting up sound checks, making sure we have hotel rooms booked, all that good stuff. Immediately after that, this tour is heading to Europe, where they will be in the good hands of Joep Hendrickx, who was sound engineer for the last Legendary Pink Dots tour in the U.S.
You've worked with Ka-Spel in the past as a creative collaborator, tour manager, PR agent, etc. How did you come to be affiliated with his tour with Amanda Palmer?
Edward and I go back to 2005, and we’ve become good friends. Edward and Amanda have been friends for quite a long time, so all of this is happening from my connection to Edward.
What is it you appreciate about working with Ka-Spel?
Edward is just a genuinely kind and gentle person, and always encouraging. He’s inspired me to push my musical boundaries, and he’s also taught me the value of being spontaneous and letting things go out into the world as a musician. Sometimes, as an audio engineer, it’s easy to get caught up trying to “fix” things that I hear as wrong. I’ve learned that too much “fixing” can sometimes deplete the initial energy or vibe you had going, and in the end, it sort of takes away from the music rather than actually helping it. Sometimes the first take is the best, even if you are off key a bit, or there’s a noise or something that may bug you if you’re too critical of little things like that. In the end, it’s all about the song and the feeling that goes naturally with it.
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Are there technical challenges or any others you anticipate having to overcome on this tour that maybe you haven't faced before?
I’m probably going to encounter mixing consoles I haven’t worked on before, and every room is going to be its own space with its own acoustics and things like that, so I just have to be ready and on point to deal with it. I know that we’re going to be using acoustic piano and violin on this tour, so I’ll wrap my head around that a bit, and I do plan on bringing some specific microphones with me just for the piano. Working at the Mercury Cafe for so long gave me a lot of experience dealing with those sorts of scenarios. Really, I’m just ready to dive in and do my best work, which is a philosophy that’s been working for me for the past twenty years.
You recently set up the new incarnation of the Helmet Room. When do you anticipate bringing people in to record, if you haven't already?
The studio is up and running, although I haven’t been bringing bands up to record. I’ve been staying very busy with booking and running sound at Ophelia's, so it’s difficult for me to make time to get too involved in recording full-on records. What I have been doing mostly is mixing and mastering for bands that have recorded elsewhere, and it works out very well for me this way, because I can do it on my off days and weird times, which are generally early in the morning. For some reason, early mornings work best for me creatively.