When she was only 19, Karen Kane discovered the field that was perfect for her, and has stuck with it ever since. Kane is a successful music producer, recording engineer and live sound engineer. She is currently doing work in Chalet Studio in Claremont, Pizazzudio, Umbrella Sound, Number Nine, Chemical Sound and Metalworks. “As an independent I have the option of getting the best out of the city and getting the best deals.” The 49-year-old Etobicoke resident has been doing the same business in one way or another for 30 years. It all started when she was 19 working as a secretary in a recording studio in New York City. “When I was 19, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I went from going to Woodstock in 1969 in New York, two months after I fell into a job as a secretary in a recording studio. So I really didn’t plan on it I just had a love of music and when an opportunity came up to work in a recording studio back then I took it and then I chose to stay in it because it was perfect for me.” Within one year she fell into the studio manager position when the manager suddenly left. After that she moved to Boston where she was a studio manager. “Then I quickly began playing around with the equipment and became an engineer around 1974, so it’s been this work my whole adult life, which is nice. I feel very blessed and grateful to be able to do this work.”
Kane has loved Toronto ever since she moved there in 1990. “I am grateful to the Toronto music community for graciously letting me adopt Toronto as my home.”
Having been in this field for most of her life, Kane must love the work she does. She thinks working with groups is great but working with a singer/songwriter is especially great because the idea of going from a raw song and turning it into something wonderful with other musicians is most satisfying. “Also to have worked on so many albums, I’ve worked on over 150 albums, and they’re like my children. It’s very satisfying to see the list grow and have all those memories. Doing recording is just so much damn fun! And that’s one of the reasons I love it the most … and I get paid for it too!”
Some of Kane’s album credits include Big Daddy G, Ember Swift, a recorded live album featuring Janis Ian, Chad Mitchell as well as sessions for Snow and Danny Marks. In 1986 when Kane lived in Boston, she recorded Tracy Chapman’s first recording ever, which helped Tracy launch her career. She also engineered an album nominated for a Canadian Juno Award, did a CTV special live recording for the Barenaked Ladies, and did the live sound at the Molson Indy last summer for the band Miller Stain Limit.
Aside from all the fun Kane has, her job has its challenging moments too. “The most challenging part is to keep up with the ever-changing technology and keeping myself constantly current.”
When asked what advice she could give to someone going into this field she said, “You have to have a lot of endurance and perseverance. You have to be the kind of person that is organized, efficient, and can take in lots of detail all at one time and deal with lots of people all at the same time.” She also suggested going to a good audio school like Harris Institute, where she has been teaching for two years. “After 26 years of being an engineer and producer I have found a second career in teaching. I didn’t know if I’d like it or be good at it, and I just love it. I didn’t think there was anything more fun than making records, but teaching is it.”
Kane is proud to say that her greatest achievement is the fact that she has been doing her work for 30 years and independently since 1977. “I have never had to have another job. I have made a living off wonderful, creative work and I’m very proud of that. I feel very blessed and grateful to the universe somehow for keeping me going and just being able to keep going without ever giving up — even when the work wasn’t there. That’s something to be proud of.”
When it’s not music she’s involved in, she enjoys “movies, movies and more movies.” After a day filled with music, she said, when she leaves work the last thing she wants to do is listen to music or go to a concert. So she like movies, comedy, computers and cottaging.
One professional goal for Kane is she wants to have at least one hit record. A personal goal for her is to, “Keep growing as a human being and have as much fun as I can.”
Her ability to communicate with people and tons of patience are personality traits that she feels are her strongest. For Kane, one thing that hasn’t changed is her passion for great mics, analog, great mic preamps and compressors. “My passion for that will never change.”