Bob Ezrin's keynote conversation with interviewer Ralph Simon of ASCAP was filled with interesting tidbits about the late Jack Richardson, like giving "the kid" the little-known band Alice Cooper to produce in 1970, to his current productions with everyone from Deep Purple to Johnny Reid and Lang Lang. He didn't need any props to entertain the packed room at Toronto's Canadian Music Week, but in the days leading up to the Producers Panel: The Evolution of A Hit, which followed his keynote, he and Jack's son, Garth Richardson -- who are longtime pals and current partners in Nimbus School of Recording Arts in Vancouver -- excitedly planned to show up with a helium tank onstage and balloons.
"Basically I feel, and probably Bob feels the same way, is that the reason why we are using helium is because it will make everyone aware of our voices," Richardson told Billboard prior to the panel. "The fact is that every hit song is about the singer; it's about the melody and it's about the actual lyric. So you can have a great drum sound. but if you have no singer, no lyric, no melody, you are screwed. So the whole thing about us making our voices really high and squeaky will get everybody to focus on our voice."
The real reason though, as he had revealed the day before to Billboard, was not as academic: "We just wanted to have fun because these are boring panels. It's fucking horrible. They are dry; they're boring and somebody's gotta have some fun."
So when fellow panelists -- producers Brian Moncarz, Warne Livesey, Justin Gray and Brad Kohn, and moderator Ralph Murphy -- took the stage Richardson did too, with a red helium tank and the requisite balloons. When moderator Ralph Murphy asked them all to introduce themselves, Richardson hurriedly filled the balloon, sucked back the air, and passed his party favour along to the other panelists.
"My name is Garth and I'm happy to be here," he said. Moncarz first refused but then joined in.
"I feel like I belong here," said Ezrin and waited for the others to follow suit.
"There is a reason for this," Ezrin he told the room. "The point we're all trying to make here is a really important point, which is that as I was walking up here today, I was thinking, 'We're doing this -- is that kind of silly?' And I thought, 'Wait, every moment we've ever spent in the studio making really good stuff, we laughed.'"
"I thought you were going to say 'high,'" said Gray.
"We laughed and we were high," joked Ezrin. "It's fun doing what we do, isn't it?"
Moderator Ralph Simon and producer Bob Ezrin (Grant W. Martin Photography)
On a more serious note, he capped his keynote interview with these cautionary words to the audience:
"This country has been so focused on our cultural heritage and on creating a cultural environment that provides resources for our artists, supports artists, celebrates artists. The country has for decades realized that our art, our culture, fuels our growth as a nation and our importance in the world, and it's our greatest export, even better than our natural resources. Now we've reached a period in history -- and it's not only our government, its also our private sector that knows these things -- and they've gotten together and done a lot to help us all be who we are, but now we're reaching a point in history where it's tough for everybody, particularly tough for governments and very difficult for big corporations to meet their obligations, and the first thing they are thinking about cutting is culture. And that's the one thing they can't afford to cut and it's the one thing we all have to be aware of -- we have to fight against it; we have to be very sensitive to it.
"Every time we see something just as simple as just a music lab closed at four [p.m.] when it used to be open until 8 or something like closing down a community centre where there were band classes for students after school, those things can't happen. They must not happen. Canada has an inordinately huge effect on the culture of the world. We need to keep doing that, and to do that we need to continually remind our government, our big companies, our rich friends, our teachers, our boards of education, everybody, that arts matter."