Dierks Studios in Cologne – the facility where Michael Jackson recorded his 1997 hit Blood on the Dance Floor - recently played host to In The Studio With MJ, an unusual series of seminars highlighting the experience of recording with this legendary artist.
Organised and presented by Brad Sundberg who spent nearly 18 years working with Michael Jackson as a sound engineer and technical director, this four day event also included insights from Brad Buxer and Michael Prince, both of whom were part of Jackson's recording team. The three presenters gave in-depth and highly personal accounts of working with Michael Jackson in various recording studios and at his Neverland Valley Ranch where he had his own recording facility.
"Since Michael's death in 2009, I have been presenting these seminars in various cities around the world, including the USA, Europe, Russia and the Far East." Sundberg explains. "The concept was born out a desire from Michael Jackson’s fans to know more about how his incredible projects came to life. People want to go back to the music, to where it all began - in the studio. During each seminar, guests are taken on a journey of music, stories, unseen studio footage and memories from my days of working with Michael. Most of my guests are not studio professionals, so this is a chance for them to be in a studio, feel the 'vibe' of a studio, and most importantly hear music the way I am used to hearing it. For many people, this is truly a highlight."
At Sundberg's request, British loudspeaker manufacturer PMC supplied MB2S 3-way monitors to Dierks Studios to ensure that the music, sound effects and videos played during seminars were heard with absolute transparency.
"When I was working with Michael, we usually relied on massive Westlake SM-1s, Augspurgers or Boxers for our main monitoring requirements and it wasn't until several years later that I first heard PMC speakers," Sundberg explains. "As soon as I did, I loved them so much that I actually became a dealer for them. Now I use them for my seminars whenever I get the opportunity because they delivered all the clarity, punch and bottom that I need, plus they have a very open and airy top end. This makes them much easier to listen to for long periods of time than a horn-loaded system."
Sundberg adds that guests often comment on the audio they hear through PMCs, especially those who are not used to hearing music through professional monitors.
"I can't tell you the number of times that my guests have told me that they have never heard Michael's music sound that way before. These are people that listen to MJ music every day, so that is very high praise! Listening to Michael's amazing music, including uncompressed, raw mixes from the studio, on PMC's incredible speakers helps elevate my seminars far beyond what a pair of PA speakers could ever do. I am always proud to have PMC on either side of me when we launch into a seminar weekend."
Having completed his seminar programme in Germany, Sundberg is now hosting similar events in Spain over the summer.
"Michael Jackson's creative process was unlike anything I have ever been a part of, and if I can give people just a glimpse of what it was like, that's very rewarding," he explains. "From studio production to tour prep to Neverland Valley Ranch, I was there and I am very happy to share technical information as well as my own personal memories and stories."
Photography by Reza Cifuentes (firstname.lastname@example.org)