Since stepping out of high school in the early 1970s, Brooklyn native Mark Berry has made a name for himself in many styles and areas of popular music. From an auspicious start working with Carly Simon to successful stints with Stephanie Mills, Freeez, and Animotion, the ambitious engineer and mixer has obtained a working knowledge of the entertainment industry's ins and outs, which he's now applying to running his own Toronto-based firm, Attack Media Group.
When was your interest in music first sparked?
I remember riding in the car with my dad as a very young boy, asking "Why is the voice so big? How come the guitar's over here, and the drums are over there?" From a very early age, I was influenced by Motown, Gamble & Huff, Aretha, and Sam & Dave.
What were your first steps towards actually entering the music business?
I didn't want to go to Vietnam when I turned 18, so I did selective service. I decided to go to school and get a trade. I started going to Manhattan at night to the Institute of Audio Research. The classes were held at Vanguard Studios and taught by Al Grundy and Irv Diehl.
How did you make the transition from student to working engineer?
Well, you can't teach compression on a blackboard. At I.A.R. we got to participate in actual engineering projects. I also started writing down the names of recording studios from the back sleeves of my favorite records—Elton John, Pink Floyd. One of the studios was AIR in London. I got my certificate and went to London that summer.
I started hanging out at AIR—getting coffee, emptying ashtrays, and coming back everyday like it was a job. Joyce Moore, the studio manager, eventually hired me as an assistant, and for the next few months I was setting up mics and instruments and dragging equipment. I was in the thick of it.
What led to your break engineering Carly Simon's seminal No Secrets LP?
Because I was an American from Brooklyn, they put us together, and we became good buddies. Richard Perry was the producer. I engineered the guitar and percussion overdubs on "You're So Vain." Most of it was done at Trident Studios. Paul McCartney and Wings did "Live and Let Die" there, as well. I was an uncredited assistant engineer on that record.