Eddie Kramer is as much a record industry historian as he is a storied engineer and producer. Apart from his work with such names as Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and Jimi Hendrix, Mr. Kramer is also a wealth of knowledge about the music business’s beginnings, which were discussed at length here.
In this interview (which, wonderfully, played more like a chat with a longtime friend), Mr. Kramer, at one point, recounted the origins of analogue tape. Developed in wartime Germany and captured by an American soldier, the Germans’ advanced recording technology (in the form of Neumann microphones and BAFS tape machines) eventually led to the first Ampex tape machines in the US. Further revisions would yield portable Ampex machines—the same with which Les Paul pioneered multitrack recording. “If it weren’t for this guy, Les Paul,” Kramer remembers, “we wouldn’t actually be sitting here.”
Of course, Kramer himself has played a pivotal role in the record business and has become something of a living historical figure. His close working relationship with Jimi Hendrix in the late 1960s led to the construction of Electric Lady Studios in New York City—one of the first studios designed with a specific artist in mind. Kramer recalled the studio costing one million dollars (in 1970s money!), and Hendrix returning from tour with bags of cash to pay off their debts. At the time, Hendrix was spending around $300,000 a year for studio bookings, Kramer reminisced, so it made sense to have his own. Sadly, Hendrix spent only about a month using Electric Lady before his untimely death.
Whether intentional or not, Kramer is also an archivist. His many candid photographs of artists from the ‘60s and ‘70s are acclaimed for their historical value in the rock community—some of which are a behind-the-scenes glimpse into life on the road. A very famous image, seen below, shows Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger backstage at Madison Square Garden, the story behind which Kramer generously shared with us.
In more recent years, Kramer has spent significant time working with the Hendrix family to restore old works and unearth forgotten recordings. At the time of this conversation, he had put the finishing touches on what will be the final Hendrix studio album, comprised much of what he considers to be “unearthed” material.
Kramer is also currently working to restore the famed El Mocambo nightclub in Toronto, where he resides. Most known for a surprise appearance by The Rolling Stones in 1977 (pictured below), he has been co-renovating the building into a two-level live venue.
It’s apparent that Kramer’s legacy extends well beyond being the “man behind the board” on some of rock music’s most celebrated recordings. From his photography to his restorative work in the industry and his knowledge of early recording history, Eddie Kramer is a man of immeasurable importance to rock and roll.
It was a privilege speaking with Mr. Kramer, and we hope you enjoy this chat as much as we did.
Many thanks, and have a marvelous time recording and mixing,