Andrew Godfrey: Audio Engineer, Friend to Musicians
By August Edwards
Before music can travel to you through the air, live or however you listen to it, it is manipulated by an audio engineer. One such professional is Andrew Godfrey, who is synonymous with Launchpad of Albuquerque.
At Launchpad, part of Andrew's job entails making sure the show runs seamlessly, which is made possible by his distinct manner of humble authority. That is just the beginning, however - it is clear that this sound guy holds immense respect for the art and community of music, and it shows in his work.
Andrew, Albuquerque born and raised, got his musical start at a young age. Growing up in a house filled with constant exposure to music, namely ‘70s and ‘80s rock, he and his brothers learned musical discernment from a synthesizer program on the computer. Messing around with prerecorded tracks, he could make his own beats. He added, “Since I was little, my parents had this two-track analog cassette deck that my brothers and I would record ourselves on.”
Perhaps it was an advantage having early musical freedom and immersion, including taking piano lessons at a young age; however, the devotion and work ethic that he practiced throughout his entire life is the prime component to his current musical involvement. He eventually learned how to use a soundboard at his family church at age 13—the same age he began playing guitar in his own bands.
What followed felt natural to Andrew—he took it upon himself to learn how to record his band. “That was before Google and YouTube and all of that, there were no tutorials. I found a book in the library on how to record a tape demo," he said. "I was using my desktop and just a channel-4 soundboard and could only record one thing at a time. I couldn’t figure out drums when I first started, but I recorded synthetic drums, the bass, then guitar, then my friend’s vocals. It was a lot of trial and error, making silly mistakes and losing files, having to record things over again.”
At 18, he moved to Washington, D.C., and after pursuing higher education in both Maryland and Texas, Andrew returned to Albuquerque as a certified sound engineer, poised for whatever job opportunity might arise.
His hard work began to pay off: “I started working for Joe [Anderson] at Low Spirits. I was there for eight months before they started needing engineers at Launchpad. I’d gone to Launchpad shows since I was a teenager, so I was like, of course I wanna work at Launchpad! So, I got trained [and] I only got a few shows in before my first big show I had to do—Cattle Decapitation. I got to do that whole show."
Andrew's pride is unmistakable yet quiet, and it's a pride that can inspire similar expression of creative passion in others.
The audience does not see what happens before doors open. It is mostly a time for good-natured comradery and focused preparation. Andrew noted, “All these Albuquerque musicians, they wanna rock. They don’t mind if there are three people in the room or 300 people in the room, a lot of them put out the same energy.” Likewise, an inarguable quality of Andrew is his unwavering energy.
He runs the tightest ship he can despite having a profession that is dependent on the competency of so many other people. His night can begin an hour to seven hours before doors open to the audience. For local bands, he hopes they show up an hour early, so he can give the first band a great soundcheck that will also serve as the standard for the night. His professionalism and straightforward attitude is matched by his amiability, which is how he succeeds at getting along with the local bands that frequently come through Launchpad.
Live shows center around the spectacle of bodies producing music, and audio engineers can go unintentionally ignored by an audience. “At Launchpad I’m behind a booth, and you’ll only really notice me if something goes completely wrong and it sounds horrendous. Or it’s a recording and you can’t hear the vocal, you can’t hear the lead guitar, something like that. Good engineers know where to put things in the mix. I’ve never seen that come naturally to anybody. Everybody has an ear for it, but getting that final product is not something easy to come by,” the engineer explained.
Being an audio engineer is suited to Andrew's tastes and appeals to his sense of purpose: “I like working with all types of music, and Launchpad is great for that because one night you’ll have rock, one night you’ll have hip hop, one night you’ll have extreme metal, the next night you’ll have an acoustic duo that sing the softest notes you’ve ever heard. And that’s how I prefer listening to music, I don’t like listening to the same thing all the time. There’s also the thrill of having that challenge of, I want to make this sound the best that it can sound, and it’s totally different from what I did last night."
And ultimately, he puts himself in a position to learn and always become better. One way he learned how to run sound at Launchpad was by watching the touring engineers do their job. "They might be doing a ballroom one day, a small arena the next day, or they might have just come off of a festival, an outdoor festival, and now they’re here at Launchpad and they’ve gotta rewire their brain to make the band that they’re working for sound good," he said.
The math, science, and art of audio, "the way the audio moves across the air,” as Andrew puts it, might not be totally comprehensible or even on the radar of the average music listener. However, each of us is closer to the emotion of the art than we may readily realize.
Simply put, any music recording is a valuable, irreplaceable artifact of life. “I’ve done recordings years ago where friends have since passed away, and I still have that memento of recording their guitar playing or their singing and that’s gonna live on forever. Everyone’s gonna have that little piece of the person that’s gone," Andrew said.
His recording work is another outlet for him to practice his skills in sound. Using a mobile unit that he can bring to people’s practice spaces, he is required to be resourceful and quick on his feet. “I just did a song with Innastate, and it was cool seeing all the reactions to that. People loved the sound, and they had a cool video [to go along with it] that they did up in Santa Fe. It was cool to see that project come together. It’s not just recording, mixing, and mastering—I’m doing something for a bigger project.” Connections like this can be the best part of many creative endeavors.
Live music itself is a celebration of life, something that is dearly missed in the near year since COVID-19 precautions have taken place. "There were parts of the shows that aren’t glamorous and I still end up missing that too. I kind of miss people just being rowdy," Andrew said. “The weirdest thing I’ve probably seen is a trashcan get thrown onto the stage during a hardcore show. Generally, everyone’s pretty cool. Even people moshing. I get people moshing right into the sound booth. They’ll either hit the side of it, or even enter and kind of fall into the sound booth. I help them up, and the show goes on.”
The not-so-glamorous rowdiness can sometimes be crucial to a great rock act.
"[recently] I was talking to Adam Smith from Crushed!? about how he had climbed up the scaffolding of the left side of the stage at Launchpad, swung upside down and started playing," Andrew said. From the standpoint of someone who is essentially a caretaker of Launchpad, like Andrew is, maybe it's not ideal that someone like Adam Smith will hang upside down from scaffolding; but Andrew has a balanced sense of control from his sound booth that allows him to view revel in the divinity of performed music.
Even though he is collaborating with Barney Lopez and Chris Walsh to put together the Launchpad live stream series, he finds key aspects missing. "There’s just no audience, there’s no one for the band to vibe off of. That’s the part I think I miss the most. Everyone being there, having a good time, dancing, singing along."
There are ways, Andrew explains, for people to actively support musicians. “Even just watching the livestreams and commenting on YouTube or Facebook posts, letting the bands know that you’re enjoying their music I think would be like the biggest moral booster for any of the bands that we’ve recorded. They miss live music probably more than anyone else does. They’re sharing parts of themselves, literally," he said.
It is a great comfort to know that someone like Andrew Godfrey is handling the sound booth at Launchpad. His outward support of the audience and his genuine investment in local and touring musicians is admirable. He promotes compassion, which can come in the form of good show etiquette, like getting on and off stage in a timely manner, and he also encourages bands to not be afraid to take the next step in trying to book a show.
Even - especially - with the Launchpad virtual streams, he is invaluable in creating a top notch live show experience for your home. The work that he, Barney Lopez, and Chris Walsh put in far exceeds just a recording from a cell phone. Though it is not an easy task, the purpose is clear to Andrew: "I think Albuquerque musicians deserve a lot more.”