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  • Writer's pictureGrand Poobah

Meet The Iridium's Sound Engineer - Erik Kohlhoff!

We would like for you to meet our sound-engineer, Erik Kohlhoff, who's a real goodfella... Like when you say to somebody: "You're gonna like this guy, he's all right. He's a goodfella. He's one of us. He's a music lover."

Aside from having incredible taste and knowledge in music (where you should take a moment to stop by the booth for interesting conversation), Erik is the one that makes the acoustics in the Iridium sound amazing! All the incredible sounding shows like Mike Stern, Simon Phillips, Stanley Jordan, Victor Wooten, Carl Palmer, and many others, are all due to Erik's efforts.

So here we go, 10 questions for Erik, asked by Iridium correspondent, Froggy Krinkles (friend and parole officer of the Grand Poobah).

Froggy Krinkles: Where did you learn your craft? How long have you been at the soundboard professionally?

Erik Kohlhoff: I went to IAR (The Institute of Audio Research) in 2015 and LaGuardia Community College in 2014. The two schools had a joint program for audio engineering and I graduated with Associate’s in Fine Arts. From 2016 on I’ve been working professionally in the audio industry.

Froggy Krinkles: Who is your influence when it comes to mixing at the board?

Erik Kohlhoff: I didn’t learn live sound in school. Schools just teach the fundamentals, and are focused on studio recording. I learned live sound engineering from my first boss, Billy Gastfield, who I started assisting here at The Iridium. Funny thing is he was one of my teachers at IAR, but I had forgotten that he worked here when I applied. Other than him, I learned a lot by watching videos online; at Mix with the Masters, Pure Mix, Nail the Mix, and of course You Tube. That way I get exposed to as many ideas as possible. The mixing engineers that have influenced me the most are Andrew Scheps, Tom Lord-Alge, and Chris Lord-Alge.

Froggy Krinkles: How did you end up at the Iridium? Did you work at a previous venue?

Erik Kohlhoff: IAR had a jobs board of studios and venues in the NYC tristate area. I applied to many studios in the city because that was the type engineering I wanted to do. The Iridium was the only venue I applied to because I knew it’s history with Les Paul and I knew the caliber of artists that play here. I got a call the next day from Billy Gastfield. He recognized my name and I guess remembered that I got good grades and got to class early. This was my first professional audio job, and I started as a stage hand.

Froggy Krinkles: Can you explain the sound system and what gives the room great acoustics?

Erik Kohlhoff: The first thing is the Meyer speakers that were picked out by Les Paul. He designed the sound system. And it’s not just the standard left-right mains. The room is shaped like a square from the stage and then the wall opposite the stage goes past where the stage ends. Like a square attached to a longer rectangle. So there is a part of the room the has an acoustic shadow because of the wall. Les put extra speakers to fill in that shadow. And since then we’ve upgraded the system, in 2011, to an Avid S3XL Venues system. With the digital system you can have separate graphic eq’s on each speaker individually, which is great, and set up proper delays for each one so everything is in phase.

Froggy Krinkles: What were your favorite shows to work on?

Erik Kohlhoff: When I first started I expected the answer it to be whatever band plays in a genre I listen to. But I’m not viewing a show the same way as when I go to one. I prefer to work with experienced professionals, it’s a job like any other. I've worked with rockstars who are humble like anybody else, and I’ve worked with has-beens who act like rockstars, and I will always take the former over the latter. Like I said it’s a job and I expect to be treated like a coworker not a servant. That being said the job builds an appreciation for musicianship, that’s why genres are irrelevant. There are no second takes, there’s no fixing it in post, and you get to see what real talent is. Those are the fun shows.

Froggy Krinkles: Who are your three all time favorite artists and albums?

Erik Kohlhoff: I come from a classic rock, blues, and metal background. I grew up in the nineties so I’m guessing these are going to be pretty common answers. My three favorite albums of all time, well number one is hands down Abbey Road. That has everything you need to know about rock n’ roll in it. Then two and three I’m not sure which is which, but they’re Nevermind, and Wish You Were Here which beats out Darkside of the Moon by a hair.

Favorite artist is harder to say, especially when I’m just thinking about my favorite albums. It’s hard to not say those bands. I still have to go with The Beatles. They were magic that tapped right into what the human mind finds beautiful in music. Every melody they wrote sounds so perfect that it's like it’s always been there waiting for them to write it.

Also Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus. I heard Primus in my house as a kid growing up, my dad would put on Pork Soda while he would vacuum. That gave me a love for bass guitar. When I got older and looked for other bands that had bass playing melodically I realized how uncommon that was, but of course I found Flea. And I have to say I think Blood Sugar Sex Magik is a perfect album.

(Erik and friend, Mona Feldman)

Froggy Krinkles: What do you think about the state of music today? Can you recommend any cool new artists that have a buzz?

Erik Kohlhoff: I’m a little worried. Sometimes I think I’m just getting older and don’t get young people, but things are also genuinely different. I grew up with CD’s and a Walkman. I think that was the best time for music listening even though I am biased. Still listening to whole albums but with the combination of portability allowed for constant listening, but to something cohesive with thought put into the whole experience. I love the convenience of streaming and being able to find new artists so easily but there’s no filter anymore for actual good stuff. Also the record industry hasn’t actually recovered yet from the whole online platform switch from the Napster days. That’s why I think we’re still talking about Spotify controversies.

Now for new artists that I listen to aren’t really that new. Animals as Leaders are amazing and pushing guitar playing into the future in a way that I think won’t sound dated like a lot of their peers. Archspire is also really cool, I feel like their songs have movement and variation that make them more interesting than a lot other extreme metal bands. Wolf Alice is a solid real rock band that has a modern sound.

Froggy Krinkles: Greatest guitar riff of all time?

Erik Kohlhoff: That’s really tough, there are so many! Muddy Water’s Hoochie Coochie Man which was written by Willie Dixon started it all. Then from Whole Lotta Love to The Trooper to Mouth For War, there are so many! I have to mention Watermelon in Easter Hay by Frank Zappa. I know it’s not a riff, it’s like one long guitar solo, but I think it is the most beautiful guitar recording of all time.

Froggy Krinkles: Anyone you would love to work at the board that has not yet performed at the Iridium?

Erik Kohlhoff: I don’t expect these metal acts to play The Iridium anytime soon but I’d love to work with Baroness or Mastodon. They’re my two favorite contemporary metal bands. As for acts that will be playing here soon, I’m looking forward to working with Sue Foley, Joe Louis Walker, and Mark Lettieri.

Froggy Krinkles: Coconut Shrimp or Chicken Fingers?

Erik Kohlhoff: Chicken fingers for sure. It may be basic but I love chicken, especially fried.

When Erik is not behind the board, you can find him on Instagram, Instagramming.

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