JUST THE FACTS
Location: Las Vegas
Years In The Business: 30
Favorite Tools: Avalon 737 mic preamps, Sonnox plug-ins, Avid Profile console, Waves L3 Multimaximizer
Worked With: The Whispers, Earth Wind & Fire, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Beyoncé, Anita Baker, Natalie Cole, Chris Brown, Babyface, Burt Bacharach, Mary J. Blige, San Diego Pops Symphony, Nashville Pops Symphony, Jacksonville Pops Symphony, Stevie Wonder, Kelly Clarkson, Gladys Knight, Faith Evans, Erykah Badu, Dionne Warwick, The Temptations, and many others
Asked what quality he brings to the job that attracts so many A-list clients, Rick Camp notes with a laugh, “It’s being able to come up with a good mix fast.”
But he quickly follows that every situation presents unique challenges with examples: “With Jennifer (Lopez), it was a 50-foot thrust going out into the middle of the audience that the PA was just blazing on. She sang some songs on a headset microphone and it was a bit of a challenge to get that mic over the band and keep the band pumping. With Earth Wind & Fire, they were used to hearing their vocals hitting the back of the arena. If they couldn’t actually hear their vocals bounce back to the stage, they felt like they weren’t loud enough.”
And with Burt Bacharach, Camp continues, the quest was ensuring a mix meeting the venerable artist’s stringent standards. “He has very sensitive hearing and could tell, from the stage, when one violin was out of tune or one section was too loud in the mix and he’d be like, ‘Rick, the viola’s too loud’.”
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Camp excelled as a trumpet player in high school and then moved on to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. That was in 1980, a time when pop musical styles were transitioning to more of a reliance on synthesizers and bands were getting smaller. Both meant that the artists he grew up listening to – Earth Wind & Fire, Chicago, and Tower of Power – were becoming less influential.
“I saw what was going on and it was like, ‘You know what, horn players are going to be out of work here, real fast.’ If I wanted to be in the music business, I knew I needed to do something else. I always did sound for the bands I played with, and it just came naturally to me.”
Ultimately the move from the stage to the console provided him with more opportunities to be creative than he would have had as a horn player. “But I never went to school for audio,” he adds. “I taught myself by working with local bands and sound companies and reading. I also read a lot of books and called up manufacturers like SSL, Neve, and Midas to get the manuals for their consoles.”
Camp began his touring sound career in 1987 while working for Cincinnati’s Festival Audio on the national Miller Sound Express Tour. Mixing a local band that opened for popular West Coast based R&B artists The Whispers led to meeting the production manager and FOH engineer, Michael Carter, an association that would prove to help take his career to the next level.
Camp in the studio with Walter Orange of the Commodores. (click to enlarge)
The two stayed in touch following the tour, and the following year when Carter needed a last-minute replacement to mix The Whispers at a gig in Delaware, he reached out to Camp. He went on to mix the group for the next 12 years, and by 1988 relocated to Los Angeles.
“That’s where they were based and there were more opportunities in LA,” he explains. “I couldn’t have done what I’m doing if I’d have stayed in Cincinnati. I never would have met the people I’ve met.”
Once there, one gig led to the next, keeping him busy, and he eventually signed on with Earth Wind & Fire during the band’s resurgence in the mid-90s. He’d been working as both a house and monitor mixer, but the work with EWF put him at FOH almost exclusively, with the exception of occasional monitor roles with the likes of Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder.
By the late 90s, he was manning the desk for some of the top touring artists in the world, including Madonna and Destiny’s Child, as well as that latter’s lead performer Beyoncé when she went solo. And Camp continues his association with Carter to this day. crediting him with helping foster mix gigs with Chris Brown, Mary J. Blige and a variety of other high-profile performers.