Air Raid was a rock band from Atlanta, GA that existed during the years 1973 throughout the tumultuous 70's until it quietly dissolved in the fall of 1981. Its core players were once and forever, Rick Brown (drums), Tom ("Tommy") Walker (bass), Rick Hinkle (guitars) and myself singer songwriter Arthur Offen (vocals, Grand Piano, multi-keyboards ,12 string).We were just four of the many already hard working yet still unknown young rock musicians working in the burgeoning recording studio world and nightclubs of the early 70's in the Atlanta area. All of the members of Air Raid except for me eventually ended up working at the same studio (called Melody Recording, circa. 1972). Rick Hinkle and I had grown up in North Atlanta knowing one another since high school and had always been friends. He was responsible for bringing me on as an in-house keyboard man/singer finally putting everyone in place to work together as a studio rhythm section. It was here that all four of us became fast friends and in getting to know one another musically we were able to graft our many influences into what became a unique musical quartet.
“It is a curious but enjoyable mixture of prog and AOR and is well-worth tracking down.” -Paul Jerome Smith
What were those indelible influences? First and foremost, drummer Rick Brown totally worshiped at the altar of Jon Bonham and Led Zeppelin in general. The only other drummer he would even consider talking about was Ringo Starr! He was also the hardest hitter I have ever heard in my entire life. Brown was also a rather shrewd self-made businessman. Definitely one part snakeoil salesman and two parts hardnose hustler. He always had his eye on the business side of the music world in our day. God knows we wouldn't have gotten as far as we did without his tenacious business drive and almost insane obsession for getting what he wanted when he wanted it.
I, on the other hand was the resident art student and acid head ,a total dreamer; a staunch Yes, Procol Harum and Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna fanatic . My grand Piano work mirrored Procol's Gary Brooker as well as the one and only Rick Wakeman of Yes in the multi keyboard area. (Remember in the early 70's the synthesizer was at that time exploding onto the music scene and progressive rock ala Yes, Genesis and King Crimson was the latest thing). My lyrics though, were pure Paul Kantner, one of the most inspiring people of my life for his music, words and overall vision . Keith Reid the amazing lyricist for Procol Harum was the other inspiration for me to write the best lyric that I could. Both of them made me realize that I could bring the pageantry and spectacle of historical events and the people who lived them into a rock setting. Kantner was especially good at bringing Sci-fi themes to rock in much the same way. I suppose three good examples of their inspiration here would be "Longships", "Soldiers of Fortune" and "Mystery Man".
“They delivered this one and only album, but this is as good as it gets when we talk about Pomp Rock / AOR.” -Hardrockaorheaven on Air Raid
Rick Hinkle was already a very accomplished guitar player by the time he was in high school! We had known each other on and off through our teens but when we met up later on and started working together he was not only the best R&B guitarist ever but was also incredibly fluent in every pop style imaginable. He came to the table completely schooled in the most obscure piece of Frank Zappa orchestration while knowing ALL the finer points of anything, Steve Cropper, Curtis Mayfield and even better, the delicacies of Jimi Hendrix's finest fret work. All of it came easily for him though he ultimately found his stride in a decade long study of the many great English players of the day such as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Robin Trower while he also revered local heros in the south at the time such as the great Barry Bailey (Atlanta Rhythm Section). He was very inspired by and eventually befriended the brilliant yet doomed Lowell George of "Little Feat" as they both embraced Howlin' Wolf 's guitarist Hubert Sumlin. But if you ask me, Rick Hinkle met Jimmy Page eye to eye as the crazy 70's rolled ever onward and Rick most assuredly stepped right up to that stature.
Tommy Walker was from Carrollton Georgia and a close friend of Rick Brown. He was Brown's favorite Bass player as well. I was in awe of him from the git-go as I much admired his solid chops and unswerving bassist stance. Tommy's R&B timing and well oiled grooves were unparalleled in their simplicity and punch yet when he added a Jack Casady style overdrive to his sound he managed to forge the perfect blend of 'Fender' style funk fundamentals to an enormous growling rock foundation. Tommy's prowess in the studio for quickly finding the perfect pocket and delivering a beautifully played and totally polished bass track in usually a take or two only added to his considerable mystique.
I made sure to introduce all of these players on to the bands that I loved as well as the tunes I was writing and it was amazing at just how much they understood and cared about where I was coming from. They were already fine players and I wanted to write songs for them in the worst way but the real magic of the situation was how committed we all became to creating a band. It is a once in a lifetime moment when you can get four guys from very different backgrounds to agree on a concept but in thinking back I'm sure we knew we had something that was special. Even better we already worked together in a recording studio by day (making "sound-alike" compilations of the eras biggest radio hits for the studio owner) and once business hours were over and the front door was locked we "borrowed" all of the recording gear and with the help of engineer and friend Cortney Sisk we began to record as a rock n roll band. The two Ricks and T-Bone (Tommy's nick name) taught me everything about recording and we worked well together learning how to put our songs into finished productions. The early demos we made in the mid seventies were the way we got people to take a little notice of what we were doing. They had a quality to them that helped us get to the record companies of those times but it was always a bit more difficult for Air Raid because we were not your typical southern rock band in any way. As the 70's progressed we were always playing in clubs and Holiday Inns in one configuration or another in the many different cover bands of the day. We seldom played out as Air Raid though when we did (usually at the Agora Ballroom in Atlanta) it was always a thrill. Instead we kept Air Raid as our secret studio project and kept our focus alive in full-blown rehearsals of everything we had and the new songs we were working on at the time.
By the late seventies we had done much unsuccessful label shopping and had finished a showcase in New York City working with a production company. It was in those times we were found by A&R man Ronny Vance who introduced our music to Neil Portnow the CEO of the fledgling 20th Century Fox record division. We had our eye on a producer (also a very dear friend) that we really wanted to work with (Steve Mantoani, Jefferson Starship) but Fox wanted us to work with a higher profile personality. I remember Rick Brown and I discussing it at the time. Of course he wanted George Martin because of the Beatles or Eddie Kramer because of Led Zeppelin.Neil Portnow got Eddie to come to one our rehearsals in Atlanta and Kramer ended up with a demo of some 40 tunes he recorded on the spot that very day. By June of 1980 we were in rehearsals in southern Connecticut near Kramer's home as we all prepared to record the band with the Record Plant 'White Truck' at "The Mansion" in Sharon, CN.
By this time Kramer was already a true legend in the music world for his work with Jimi Hendrix, Kiss and of course his work with Led Zeppelin. With Zeppelin he had begun using places in England such as Headley Grange (an old Victorian Home) to record basic tracks. The idea was a simple one: Put a top notch recording console into a truck and drive it up to a big mansion in the country and set up shop in the giant stately rooms , hallways and staircase landings . The band could capture a state-of-the art recording using all of the natural ambient character the building could offer. So it was that Air Raid would record using the same technique with the old abandoned Colgate family mansion. Kramer had previously recorded the Ace Frehley solo album there with amazing results.
Kramer stationed the drum rig on the middle landing of the majestic staircase at the end of an enormous entry running from the front door to the very back of the house. At the landing their was also a huge window looking out on the back lawn (more ambient brightness?). Kramer always close-miked but his forte was distance miking and much of it was done in stereo. He would close-mike the signal, then add a set of mikes in a sweet spot a number of feet away to create another signal. Still another set of mikes further back created yet another more distant ambient track giving him three distinctly different images of the sound. This method was typical of his recording setup especially when liked the sound of a particular room. On playback out in the truck he was able to bring up ,with astonishing results, a few separate tracks for any given instrument at the mixing console enabling him to create his own unique palette of dry and ambient colors for any recorded part. The drum break in "Love Wave" is an effectively outrageous example of this setup! Of course the drums took up many more tracks than any other instrument but this 'room' miking technique worked brilliantly for guitar (located in the large front living room to the left of the entry) and bass guitar as well (located in the back study adjacent to the living room).
I was located in a large front bedroom upstairs on the second floor. There was a Yamaha C-1 grand piano along with my Polymoog, two Mini-Moogs a loaned Prophet V and other assorted smaller keyboards of the era. Though I had a typical 70's style keyboard rig with me the only thing that I tracked at the mansion was grand piano. All my energy was put to tracking as many songs as possible with live useable piano for the power of getting a great take as well as giving the guys the richest rhythm section sound possible. We ended up using all of the piano I recorded there because kramer had wisely decided to put the lid up and use three 'Presure Zone' mics and then bury the entire top and sides in packing blankets to keep out the rumble of the house and other extraneous noises mostly coming from Brown unleashing thunder in the stair well. Kramer used video monitors as well that were especially helpful to Brown for upcoming cues and other needed visual signals. Once the whole set up was working and Brown got everything just right with the day to day drum sound we cut a tune a day every day for twelve days with a day off in the middle of our stay.
Living there was rough going though as the old place was very run down but I must say that" The Mansion" was a wonder! I've never seen a better hodge-podge of neo-classical grandeur with elements of medieval and gothic mixed with in with every 1920's style excess thrown in for sheer size and comfort. The photos seen here of the band were taken in the crumbling garden and pool area to the side of the house. An interesting footnote here is that recently the home has been fully restored to it's former glory.
After we finished tracking at the mansion we moved into Northlake Sound in White Plains, NY to proceed with over dubs. Northlake was a 24-track facility with a good size main room. Our days there were enjoyable as we befriended it's owner Joe Renda and a terrific engineer, Chris Cassone. All guitar overdubs and some revamped bass tracks were done first and then we moved on to more creative additions such as the intro and outro of "Longships" bringing in a Timpani drum and Polymoog 'Seagulls' to that particular sound painting . All of the Mini Moog 'trumpet' lines and other effects and drop-ins for "Drill" were added along with other keyboard parts throughout. The last work completed was the many singing tracks. I must say it was a thrill to work alone with Kramer for a week or so to bring out the best vocal performances I could possibly give.
After a two-week break we commenced with mix downs in early September at The Record Plant in New York City. Rick Brown and I were on board for all of the mixes except for "Love the way you look tonight" which was mixed at a later date. Kramer would take a day for each mix allowing him as much time as possible for creative decisions and even smaller details. He did allow Rick and I to assist as he zeroed in on a final run through. At one point he enlisted every 1/4 track tape machine in the building for his world famous 'slap' effects. We also recorded the "Love Wave" door slams on the fly out in a nearby hallway. Needless to say it was a wonderful time but with the mixes done and the project complete we bid farewell and returned home to Atlanta by the end of Sept. 1980.
Epilogue: "Air Raid" the album was slated to appear in February 1981.When it finally arrived (remember it was still a vinyl and cassette world out there) it became very apparent that we had no management of any kind in place to help us go much of anywhere. Those we enlisted to help us were limited at best. We were selling slowly and had gotten a bit of "FM" radio airplay but as usual we seemed out of fashion to the current 'new wave' releases at the very beginning of the eighties. After just a bit of exhausting road work we were camped in an old rented movie theatre rehearsing new songs and sounding better than ever though our spirits were low and our outlook grim. Our management at the time had arranged for us to do a 'demo' album of new songs for which we rehearsed relentlessly. Believe me when I say that was a wild sounding set of songs! At the same time our label was undergoing major personnel changes so the team of people that knew what we were all about was no longer in place. Our new work was passed on by the label and at least they were good enough to let us go. For that kindness I am forever grateful. So, sadly our first album languished and faded from view as did the band not long afterward. Oddly enough it wasn't long at all before the record industry embraced the CD landscape that we know so well today. So! At long last a definitive Air Raid CD is finally here. Enjoy!Peace! Arthur A. Offen, late Summer 2005Tom Walker: lives in Carrollton, GA... a private businessmanRick Hinkle: lives in Atlanta a producer/engineer. Owner of "Audio Cam" recording studios, He still is and always will be a World-class guitarist!Arthur Offen: lives in Boston a songwriter and artist and records with his own group FLAGRick Brown:(1952-2000) Engineer, Drummer extraordinaire, friend and brother