Walter Sobczak

Analog Specialist

IMG_8771.jpg

While specializing in biochemistry at University of Toronto, Walter Sobczak began his career in music in the early 1980’s as bassist for the post-punk band The Sturm Group. The band performed live extensively, also opening for artists such as The Cult, Siouxsie and the Banshees, John Cale, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Flipper, Killing Joke and The Cramps. Bands that opened for The Sturm Group included Change of Heart, Chalk Circle, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (first ever show, on a dare), and The Cowboy Junkies. The band was #1 in CAPAC’s collective reading of Canadian College Radio Stations in 1986, and received favourable reviews in The Record, CMJ, Rockpool, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and England’s New Musical Express. Sturm Group’s second album achieved British distribution with Red Rhino/the Cartel and US distribution with Rough Trade.  One of the band’s songs was included on the soundtrack for the Canadian cult film classic “Roadkill”, which also featured music by The Ramones, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Handsome Ned and The Cowboy Junkies. The band called it a day in 1989.

While this was going on, Walter began his studio career in a busy downtown Toronto studio, Wellesley Sound Studios, as an assistant engineer. Experiences included being an assistant engineer on The Dirty Dancing Soundtrack album, which sold an astounding 26 million units, and was the third highest selling album of all time, at its time. Walter moved on to become an engineer at the same studio in which he engineered Michie Mee’s first single for First Priority/Atlantic (first Canadian rapper to be signed to a US major), a Maestro Fresh-Wes single on the platinum selling Symphony in Effect (first Canadian hiphop album to achieve gold sales and also winner of the Juno Award in the first year of the Rap Recording of the Year category), the Dream Warriors, the independent Yellow Tape by The Barenaked Ladies (first independent recording to achieve platinum sales in Canada), and the riot grrrl post-punk band Fifth Column (selected 25 years later in Pitchfork Magazine in "The Story of Feminist Punk in 33 Songs") .  Walter Sobczak engineered several songs on the Billy Bryans production The Gathering, an album compilation which won Juno Award for Best World Music Album, in the inaugural year of the category for Best World Music Album.  He also engineered and produced/co-produced the albums by Scott B Sympathy, Dream Warriors, and Organized Rhyme (which was fronted by Tom Green, before Tom Green's career as a comedian).  Walter moved to production around the same time he took the freelance route and produced/co-produced Fifth Column(which garnered Single of the Week honours in England’s Melody Maker), Monster Voodoo Machine and others.

In the early-mid-nineties, Walter co-founded, co-wrote, engineered, mixed and produced the Canadian recording artist Raggadeath.  Raggadeath signed a co-publishing agreement with Warner/Chappell Music Publishing Canada and released an EP on Fringe Records.  Following the band’s first independent video entering at heavy rotation on Much Music, Raggadeath signed with Virgin Music Canada.   Raggadeath’s first live performance was televised nationally at the Much Music Video Awards and the song "One Life" was nominated for Best Alternative Video at the MuchMusic Video Awards.  "One Life" also was voted Favourite Song in Chart magazine's year-end reader's poll.  The band’s music was ubiquitous as the soundtrack to Molson’s “I Am Canadian” mountain snowboard-theme beer commercial for a full year.  Raggadeath's second album was released on Attic Records in Canada, Roadrunner in the Netherlands, TWA in Australia, and Edel in Germany.  The band broke up in 1997.

Having worked at most of Toronto’s large studios, Walter settled into The Studio at Puck’s Farm. The studio was built and designed by owner Frazier Mohawk (aka Barry Friedman), In late 60’s Los Angeles, Frazier Mohawk was an influential figure, assembling and managing Buffalo Springfield, working for Elektra as A&R, and also producing records, including Nico’s Marble Index, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Kaleidoscope, The Holy Modal Rounders, and Essra Mohawk.  The acoustics of the studio were inspired by the classic rooms of Los Angeles.  Frazier Mohawk knew that a good room is one of the most important components of the recording art.  The studio was built with 150-yr-old elm, ancient drumlin stone and 28’ high ceilings.  The room was magnificent for live-off-the-floor and “in concert” recording.  Walter was Chief Engineer at The Studio at Puck’s Farm 2001-2012.  The studio specialized in analog recording.  Records which Walter Sobczak engineered or engineered/produced at The Studio at Puck’s Farm during this time include Art of Time Ensemble, Jenn Grant, the Supers, Eastern Magnetics, Ryan Oliver (CODA Magazine - Top 10 Jazz CD Releases of 2007), Rattlesnake Choir, Autorickshaw, and Avi Granite (DownBeat Magazine - Best CDs of 2008).  In a magazine interview, Bruce Cockburn says “you go into the barn go down the corridor and through some doors and all of a sudden you’re in what Goldsmith described to me, absolutely accurately, as a perfect recreation of a state-of-the-art 1970s studio”.

Walter Sobczak currently works out of Revolution Recording, a very well-equipped and well-built studio in the tradition of the classic rooms, complimented by much of the same superb analog equipment and tape machines.  Revolution Recording is located in downtown Toronto.

© 2017 Walter Sobczak