December 14, 2012, by Kevin Young
Like many production professionals, Gemini Light, Sound, Video (LSV) co-owner Tim Cain started out as a musician.
“This all began with the band I was in the late 70s/early 80s. We had our own PA and rented some lights, but there really wasn’t a lighting company in Dallas, so one day my brother Terry said, ‘you know what, I’m going to buy some lights and rent them out.’ It was that simple. He started in 1981. In 1983 we brought in sound, and we’ve been together ever since.”
While it was Terry’s idea to start the business, it was Tim’s musical aspirations that led to his doing so. “I never thought about getting into audio. I wanted to be a rock star,” Cain says, laughing. “I started playing guitar when at 15 and when I was 18 I joined a band that needed a bass player. I bought a bass, started playing with them and my brothers said, ‘that’s cool. We want to do this with you’.”
Formed in Dallas, where the brothers were born and raised, the band was called Razin’ Cain and played 250-plus shows a year in its heyday. Like Gemini, the band was a family affair, with Tim on bass, Terry managing, their older brother Dell doing sound, and childhood friend, Larry Rogers (also a founder of Gemini) handling lights.
Although the band continued to tour until the mid-1980s, by 1983 Tim, Terry and Dell’s primary focus was Gemini. That said, while Cain has a longstanding passion for recording – and spends as much of his downtime as possible working in his home studio – when Gemini started out he had little interest in getting behind the console in a live situation.
Tim Cain backstage with Usher and Paul Carelli (then with EAW) when Gemini supported Usher on tour a few years ago. (click to enlarge)
“I actually didn’t start mixing until 1985. We were doing radio shows for a local station and one of our partners was mixing wedges, but having a horrible day, so I took over.” For the next 16 years, he spent a great deal of time behind the desk and particularly loved running monitors. “Being a musician I could relate to what people wanted on stage and could bond with the artists we worked with very easily.” By the late 1990s, he was handling front of house mixing as well, spending a significant amount of time on the road.
For a time, Cain says, 80 percent of Gemini’s business was corporate: “I remember looking at my brother one day – we were in a hotel ballroom; we were always in a hotel ballroom – and saying, ‘can’t we do a band just one night?’ After 9/11, though, everything changed.”
In the uncertainty following the attacks of September 11, 2001, a number of shows Gemini had lined up cancelled on the spot, and the company sought to fill the gap. It started with R&B artist Frankie Beverly (who has since become a long-term client), with other R&B and hip-hop artists taking notice.
“In 2002 the audio department went out with Frankie and Usher simultaneously, which was our first big tour. We did that with an EAW KF760/761 rig, also flying line arrays for stage fill. I’m not to saying we were the first to do that. A lot of people snickered at us when we did, but Usher loved his monitor rig.”
Gemini next went straight to Nelly’s first arena tour and continued to work regularly with a variety of R&B/urban artists for several years.
In that time, the family business has grown exponentially, becoming one of the largest production companies in the Southwest U.S. and offering comprehensive lighting, video, staging and of course, audio. There’s also a systems design/install division.
While Cain’s focus is audio, he sells clients on Gemini’s full production services. Right now, the audio department is smaller than the lighting side, but it’s growing fast.
“It’s been a very good year,” he notes. “We’ve bought a lot of d&b audiotechnik gear – one of the best purchases we’ve made.” Another staple of the loudspeaker inventory is EAW, including the 760/761, the newer KF740 line array, and SB Series subwoofers. Powersoft K Series amplifiers have been transitioned in over the past two years as well.
Over the past 18 months the company has eliminated its analog audio consoles, going all-digital – Midas, DiGiCo, Soundcraft, Yamaha and Avid.
“We also stripped out a lot of old PA boxes, but doubled our audio inventory and spent a heck of a lot of money. But what’s new in this business?” Cain adds with a chuckle. He does so easily and often when talking about Gemini. Clearly, he’s delighted with his job, his partners and his life.
Knocking Down Walls
Then again, he has every reason to be. Starting out in an 800-square-foot warehouse with a couple of offices, by the mid-80s Gemini it currently calls home, occupying about 7,000 square feet. At the time, the brothers thought the new facility was a palace compared to their old digs, but soon found they needed even more space.
“So we knocked down a wall and went to 25,000-square-feet,” he says. “You could actually drive through our building from one side to the other. I’ll tell you how big it was – my wife and I water ski, so I’d park the boat here. We just thought, ‘cool, this place is huge,’ but that didn’t last.” Soon more walls met their demise, and the company now inhabits roughly 70,000 square feet.
Gemini’s success and continued growth is a testament to how much clients value a one-stop shop. Rentals have always been a big part of the business, first lighting, then audio, and later, video. Since opening a sales division in 2005 and a showroom in 2009, the design/installation department has become increasingly busy, taking on projects ranging from arenas, concert halls and hotel ballrooms, to theatres, houses of worship and high-end corporate.
Gemini LSV production recently out in support of long-time client Frankie Beverly. (click to enlarge)
The company also provides hands-on training and product demonstrations at their shop, Cain says: “Rigging, safety and motor classes – mostly lighting – but when somebody calls and says, ‘could I come in and get someone to show me this new desk?’ Well, absolutely. I’m promoting my equipment and I’m the only one in town that has this large of a variety of digital consoles, so it’s good for us to do that as well.”
In recent years, Gemini has increasingly focused on growing the business regionally. It’s a strategy that’s served them well and, in combination with the diverse services and products they offer and the loyalty of long time clients, has helped them weather the economic downturn. “One of our best years business-wise was 2008,” Cain notes, “and although we didn’t get hit as hard as some did, in 2009 we were down by about 35 percent. In 2010 we bounced back, and 2012 has been our best year ever.”
When things did start to get lean, long-term clients like Beverly helped a lot. “In 2009, we did 80 or 90 shows with Frankie. He just never stops playing and we’re very thankful to him,” he says.
Presently, approximately 60 percent of the company’s production projects involve all departments – lighting, audio and video.
The inventory includes more than 2,800 moving lights, 600 motors, “miles and miles” of truss, and more recently, a growing number of projectors, cameras and LED walls.
Gemini now employs roughly 55 people full-time, and draws from a part-time pool of over 250 freelancers and crew.
Among that staff are the next generation of Cains. “Terry’s son, Jason, started coming here when he was 10 and working shows at 14. He’s 38 now and a very good lighting director. Dell’s son, Chad, is 29 and he’s over the top good at audio – I wish I was that good at his age. Also, my niece works in sales and PR and my daughter works in video.”
Despite the great success, Gemini remains committed to taking on virtually any sized job. “That’s the company’s ethic and always has been,” Cain says. “We’re not too proud to do something small. It all adds up.”
While the strong business ethic remains the same, Cain’s role has changed over time. “I don’t mix anymore; I book shows, talk on the phone and buy gear. These days, though, by the time we order new gear, it’s booked.”
Dell’s son Chad, a Gemini system tech, with Cain and some of the company’s new Powersoft amplifier stock at the recent EdgeFest in Dallas. (click to enlarge)
What hasn’t changed is his enduring passion for music. “My wife does voice-over work, and in the late 90s, she got tired of going to the studio so we bought a little Pro Tools rig. She ended up using Sound Forge, so I bought a Pro Tools LE rig. I’ve got a drum kit, Yamaha Motif8, a bass, seven or eight guitars, drum machines – everything you can think of. I could record all day long, every day, but I love my job. How can I not? I’ve got to do what I want to do with my life, I really enjoy this business and I’m still doing what I love.”
Gemini recently celebrated its 30th year in business with an open house at its facility, and after all these years, Cain is as thankful as ever for the bond he and his brothers have maintained. “We were always close. As kids, we did everything together, we’re still together today and it’s been a good thing.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’re brothers, we argue, and always have,” he adds, laughing, recalling his early days on tour with the appropriately named Razin’ Cain. “The band had this yellow van we rode around in that Terry called the ‘argue box,’ but at the end of the day we always ‘guard dog’ each other.”
Based in Toronto, Kevin Young is a freelance music and tech writer, professional musician and composer.