Tag Archives: Dr. John

Airlift Productions – From Dream to Reality Brick by Brick on Iberville

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Airlift Productions 3927 Iberville Street location, under construction in 1989

If you ever recorded at or visited or got silly during Friday ‘happy hours’ at the now-the-stuff-of-legend Airlift Productions Iberville Street location … have you ever paused to consider what it took to create that remarkable space?

It’s not too bold a statement to say that my blood is quite literally in the mortar that holds the very bricks in this wall together!  For though I am not a mason or a brick layer, I certainly played one in 1989 on Iberville Street.

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Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants ~ like a proud papa ~ at the Airlift shingle, Iberville Street, NOLA 1992

With the help of just one other guy (Joe Delery now works in the crime division of the NOPD), I also pounded the nails, hung & floated sheet rock, packed insulation, laid carpet, and wired the entire facility. Whew! 

And oh, the people who were destined to walk through that front door to record within these walls … Peyton & Eli’s pop Archie Manning,   Mayor Marc Morial, his mother Sybil, the Rev. Avery C. Alexander, Dr. Morgus the Magnificent, Ronnie Lamarque, I CAN Learn founder John R. Lee, WDSU’s Norman Robinson …

Dr. John Autograph to Airlift Mike on old Airlift Iberville Street Notepad
Dr. John Autograph to Airlift Mike on old Airlift Iberville Street Notepad

Dr. John (Mac Rebennack), Oliver Thomas, Senator Jon Johnson, Congressman Bill Jefferson, Academy Award winning documentary film maker Charles Guggenheim, Anders Osborne, Theresa Andersson, Bishop Paul Morton…

And a whole host of radio rebels, stand-up comics, misfits, in-laws & outlaws!

The mantra through the entire construction stage was ‘Build it…and they will come!’  What a passion, what a studio… what a time!

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Airlift Productions – as it looked in 1992 on Iberville Street … Reel-to-reel analog decks, outboard gear & mixer, the way recording used to be done. Oh, if only you’d lived then, kids.

 

** A “Mike McCann” classic VoiceOver/Production Demo from the 90s, all produced on Iberville with R-R tape – for NOLA clients like WVUE-TV, Pat O’Brien’s, Times-Picayune, etc. ***

But as much as I loved this location, Iberville street, the elevator, my Endymion parties, and having Venezia’s Italian food, Angelo Brocato’s, Mandina’s & Liuzza’s but a block or two walk away … I flooded twice at this location – and this was well before Mother Katrina came to town!

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Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants outside the Iberville haunts, shortly before the 2001 move to Pomona

So, I ran with my prophetic visions and in early 2001 moved the entire Airlift Productions business well out of the flood plain and to the high ground just the other side of the now-infamous breached 17th Street Canal .  To start over.

Yet again.

But Airlift on Pomona – along with its construction & marketing challenges – is the story for another blog and another time.

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Amy Landon recording audio books at Airlift Productions New Orleans, March 2017

“Working with Airlift Mike in NOLA was an utter pleasure. I was in town for business for a month and needed to maintain my audiobook recording schedule. Mike was accommodating and a pure professional. He mastered the punch and roll technique in 24 hours to be ready for our first session, and over the course of the month we laid down 5 books and a number of auditions. His studio sounds great. The vibe & atmosphere can’t be beat. You’d be hard pressed to find a better recording studio in the southeast – no matter what your needs. I wish I could have stayed!” ~ AMY LANDON, Los Angeles-based Actress & Ultra-busy AudioBook Narrator

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New Orleans Premier VoiceOver & Recording Studio  ~ Audio Alchemy from the Big Easy … since 1984

Airlift Productions – we’ll leave the mics hot… and the light on for you.

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Christmas 2016 Reflections & What Most Don’t Get About Airlift Mike

frenchquarterfogWith Christmastime in New Orleans, together with all its trappings and sentiment in everyone’s windows and on their minds, allow me to tap the brakes for a second, reflect, and unpack a few things.

As a lifelong learner, and student of philosophy, world religions, and mystical thought, it would be safe to say that I’ve lived  what could best be termed an unconventional and totally unorthodox lifestyle.

While most of my peers have chased money and jobs, I learned years ago to instead pursue passion and purpose. And simply allow the dollars and opportunities to then fall in line. 

1407-nighttime-pomonacrateOne illustrative case in point is this one I share with you here: In my 32 years of owning and operating Airlift Productions here in New Orleans, I have NEVER commuted!

Ever.

As the great souls Emerson & Thoreau taught me, “Build a better mousetrap – and the world will beat a path to your door.”

They have.

Imagine, if you can, the colorful characters, historical heroes, fascinating personalities and captivating individuals who’ve knocked at the Airlift Studio doors to come “work” with me.

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The Airlift Productions Studios on Pomona in 2016

I’ve been fortunate enough to have recorded and worked closely together with (deep breath) and in no particular order….

Archie Manning, Dr. John, Chef John Besh, Quvenzhane Wallis, Deuce McAllister,  Charles Guggenheim, Mayor Marc Morial, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Stacy Head, David Menasche, Carrie Nye, Bo Walker, Buddy Stall, John Lee, Luno Bordelon, Jerry Christopher, Ronnie Lamarque, Anders Osborne, Theresa Andersson, Lee Zurik, Zak George, James Carville, Mary Matalin,  Alden Ehrenreich, Toby Kebbell, John “Spud” McConnell, Morris Bart, P.H. Fred, Mike Weldon, Reverend Avery C. Alexander, Brad Edelman, Rich Lenz, Norman Robinson, Heath Allen, Greg DiLeo, Donald Surtain, the Right Lane Bandits, Bishop Paul Morton, Senator Jon Johnson, Congressman Bill Jefferson, Edoardo Ballerini, Oliver Thomas, Morgus the Magnificent, and… well, a host of multi-talented voice-over artists.

Not up to speed on some of these folks? Let the Googling begin.

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Airlift Productions Studio’s custom-designed Mayan “Gift of Life” Stained Glass Window

Point being? Through all the crazy weather – storms, hurricanes, blisteringly brutal summers – each and everyone of these folks came to me, to Airlift Productions, to “the better mousetrap”.

Mind you, this is no brag, no empty boasting, but simply an observation as to a much richer and fulfilling way to live one’s life.

And what a life.

Marching to the beat of one’s own Walkman, instead of following the crowd, has always led to experiences few will ever get to taste.

Having discovered my first tape recorder at age 12, and after many years of stage-acting and then a rewarding radio career, how cool is this?

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Micheal Ziants and the new “Annie” Quvenzhane Wallis, recording for Chrysler and sharing a few laughs at Airlift Productions in 2014

I now get to live out the rest of my life here in NOLA from what was once only a dream in my head, from my Airlift Productions… and I now get to spend the rest of my days dancing with the muse that first brought me to the party!

My hopes and prayers during this Christmastime in 2016 is that you, the reader of these words, one day, find … yours.

Merry Christmas & Feliz Navidad from way down yonder in New Orleans – and Airlift Mike.

AirliftProductionsNewOrleansColorLogoAirlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans… since 1984

2016 ~ Janus/January and NOLA Airlift Reflections

janusJanuary is the month for reflection. And prognostication! (u like that word?)

In legend, named after the Roman god Janus, who had two heads & faces, January gives us all pause & cause to look back (reflect) and forward (predict/prognosticate) at the same time.

So, let’s do that.

As a VoiceOver & Radio dude operating a full-blown recording studio & production business in the great city of New Orleans, LA for now-THIRTY years, I guess it would be safe to say that I’ve got some pretty fascinating stories to tell.

From working with – and RECORDING – everyone from Archie Manning to Dr. Morgus the Magnificent, Quvenzhane Wallis to James Carville, Ronnie Lamarque to Dr. John, Mayor Marc Morial to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Reverend Avery Alexander to Congressman Bill Jefferson (I could go on and on, name dropping, but you get the idea) – what a RIDE!

When it comes time to reflect, it’s like,  OK, so where do I start?!?

I sure do miss some old friends. How about we start there?

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Buddy Stall made radio magic for YEARS with Airlift Productions NOLA

I miss my old buddy Buddy Stall. As Louisiana historian, writer & public speaker, Old “Gaspar J” sure could spin a yarn. And always about the people and the town he loved.

Buddy passed (dropped his body) in 2011 at the age of 81, but not before leaving quite the mark on the Crescent City.

His books and speeches about “The City That Care Forgot” are legendary, and were they ever fun!

BuddyStallAutographToMicheaWe worked together for years. Ironically, one of his final gifts to me was the DVD of the special documentary he’d made of the great cemeteries of NOLA!

Give a LISTEN to just one of our radio gems that we cooked-up together through the years. This one is to sell our Louis Armstrong International Airport …

** The Late Buddy Stall making magic at Airlift Productions, NOLA **

Wow!

Reverend & State Rep Avery Alexander Recorded VoiceOver At Airlift Productions NOLA
Reverend & State Rep Avery Alexander Recorded VoiceOver At Airlift Productions NOLA

Or, how about having the opportunity to record the late Reverend Avery C. Alexander for an Academy Award-winning documentary film, as I worked side-by-side with the legendary Charles Guggenheim?!?

(I mean, really. Who wrote this screenplay? And how many ever get a chance to live this kind of life?)

The Rev’s candid, honest & heartfelt sentiments resonate and reverberate from last century to this one.

** Avery Alexander talks of David Duke, the KKK, and anti-Catholic & anti-Jew bias for Guggenheim Documentary at Airlift 1992 **

January 2016,  reflections on not only some of the great spirits who’ve spent time at the Airlift Productions microphones, but how about the BUSINESSES that have come and gone?

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The late legendary & seminal NOLA Recording Engineer Cosimo Matassa sharing a table with Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants at the Big Easy Entertainment Awards Show, Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans, 1991

I spent 17 years with Ronnie Lamarque “Bridging the Gap” (remember when he had 7 dealerships on both sides of the river and lake?), I wrote and recorded many commercials for Archie Manning when he & his partner Steve Smith had the long-gone Gold’s Gym franchise on Veterans … and one of my fave old accounts (which has sentimental bearing here) was David Ervin’s “The Daiquiri Factory”!

Imagine using kids from a daycare to “reminisce” (really, can kids do that?) to sell an alcohol-fueled Eggnog Daiquiri on the radio to adults.

Crank up the speakers on your digital device and listen to the gang at Judy’s PlayCare in mid city NOLA make you all misty, so you’ll open up your wallet to buy a daiquiri … back in 1992 —–

** Daiquiri Factory 1992 “Eggnog” Campaign – Airlift Productions **

Yes, from radio spots to television voice-overs, industrial training narrations to comedy albums, music projects to website audio, educational software to documentary films … life around the old Airlift Productions campus is never boring!

Ever.

And gee, I didn’t get a chance to tell the stories about recording Anders Osborne & Theresa Andersson right after they landed in America & NOLA, or capturing two entire audio books with James Carville (and the wife), or tracking VoiceOver with Chef John Besh for TLC!

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“Katrina-versary Get-Together” on Saturday August 29th, 2015 (L-R) Rich Lenz, Brian Landry, Norman Robinson, Dan Milham, Heath Allen, Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants

But, hey, that’s what January is all about, right? Looking back – and forward. 

Stories for another day, another blog, another time.

In the meantime, look us up at the Airlift Productions Studios. We’ll leave the mics hot and warmed-up for you.

As our old buddy James Taylor once reminded us – “The secret to Life is enjoying the passage of Time”.

So, let’s do that.

And allow me to be one of the last to say Happy New Year to you!

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Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants shoulder-to-shoulder with JAMES CARVILLE at the Airlift Studios

“I have been in studios from the Bayou to the Beltway, and I can say after recording my last two audio books with Mike, that there is no better place than Airlift Productions.  The quality of the production, the studio, and frankly, the comfort, make it the only place I want to record now or in the future.”

JAMES CARVILLE, Political Commentator, Tulane Professor, and Campaign Strategist behind the most dramatic political victories of our generation

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AirliftProductionsNewOrleansColorLogoAirlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984! And … what’s next?

 

 

 

 

Morgus & Me + Marriage Insurance? WTH?

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Morgus the Magnificent – aka Sidney Noel Rideau – Records VoiceOvers at Airlift Productions … for over a Quarter of a Century! Really.

I guess it would be safe to say that in operating a recording studio in America’s most colorful city –  New Orleans – for what is now THIRTY years, that I’ve worked with some pretty colorful characters.

From setting microphone levels for Dr. John and Archie Manning to recording projects with all of the city’s mayors ( Morial-2X to Landrieu-2X), verbally jousting with Mary Matalin & James Carville, even coaching ‘Annie’ Quvenzhane Wallis through tough V/O copy for Chrysler … my most unforgettable – and beloved – character would have to be Morgus the Magnificent!

Sidney Noel Rideau & I go back over 25 years together now; he has the distinction (?) of being the only person who has recorded at every recording studio I’ve ever built, every incarnation of Airlift Productions; He is the eccentric uncle I never had! I love this man.

We first met in 1986 while I was producing radio ads for and operating as the Voice of WGNO-TV/Channel 26 here in New Orleans, and he was reviving his ‘Morgus Presents” TV show. Our first gig together was in my closet-studio Airlift iteration where we recorded all the E.R.I.C. (the talking skull) heavily-reverbed V/O tracks for use in the shows.

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E.R.I.C. the talking skull records VoiceOver at Airlift Productions

Our relationship continues to this day. I almost feel as though I’ve become his real-life Chopsley, in that I’ve operated as his behind-the-scenes henchman all these years.

Together we’ve produced everything from radio ads for Cajun seasonings products to public service announcement campaigns for his Internet Story Club teacher-family outreach … but among my favorite sessions with my fave ‘Uncle Sid’ would have to be the one that is the subject of this post – ‘Marriage Insurance’.

As fate would have it, Sid’s Morgus character is also one of nationally-broadcast Coast-to-Coast late night radio host George Noory’s favorites too! And Sid stopped by the Airlift Studios in February 2006 to record a few ‘pilots’ for segments to possibly be used in Noory’s nightly broadcasts. I kid you not.

The proposed segments never did materialize (radio marketing in the 21st century is a very tricky thing), but this never-before-heard audio is just way too-funny and priceless.

It’s for the “Morgusian Marriage Insurance Company of America”, protecting your marriage from divorce, and includes not only Sid’s outrageous take on the state of marriage in America today – but I’ve also left in all the out-takes! I particularly love the way he slides in/out of character, and oh, that laugh …..

**** Sidney Rideau – aka Morgus the Magnificent – takes on the perplexing problem of marriage & divorce for the Airlift Productions microphones in February 2006 ****

Today, Uncle Sid is enjoying retirement on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in a tiny hamlet known as Covington, LA  with his bride of all these years Dainya. They met in the late 1950s in NYC where Sid was being considered as a side-kick to Johnny Carson, and she was an interpreter at the United Nations.

For true!  No, I could not make up a story as unique as theirs. 

What a character, and truly fine & gifted, spirited human being this man is. Lucky to have had him in our lives we all are, and to have been able to bask in his light and genius.

Because, at the end of the day (as the white man is often wont to say), in the mythology of the American Tribe – Superman will always have his Clark Kent, the Batman his Bruce Wayne … and Morgus the Magnificent will always be remembered as the man who gave him Life – Sidney Noel Rideau.

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Sidney Noel Rideau Records VoiceOvers and More at Airlift Productions New Orleans

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984

Cosimo Matassa Remembered ~ Part II

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Epic & Legendary New Orleans Recording Engineer & Producer Cosimo Matassa Service Prayer Cards ~ September 16th, 2014 ~ and this card pretty accurately summed-up the way Cos lived his life

 

I’ve only just now returned from the service at Lake Lawn for our old friend & mentor Cosimo Matassa, and came here to just unpack a few things.

The crowd was really something!  A veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of New Orleans and New Orleans music — I had the chance to talk & reminisce with Dr. John (who flew in special from NYC), Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Deacon John Moore, Benny Grunch, Bobby Cure … 

And fellow recording engineers – Jay Gallagher & Dave Farrell of Ultrasonic Studios (which opened it’s doors in 1974) & Gary Edwards of New Orleans Sound.

Even N.O. Jazz Fest impressario Quint Davis and Councilwoman & mother of actress Patti Clarkson – Jackie Clarkson were there to pay their respects.

And Karen V’s stories of visiting Cosimo in his final hospice days at Notre Dame ~ wherein she played CDs of Italian music…from opera to Prima, in his final days to elicit smiles ~ were especially poignant.

‘Do not stand at my grave and weep; I am not there, I do not sleep.  I am the thousand winds that blow; I am the diamond glints of winter snow; I am the sunlight that ripens grain; I am the gentle autumn rain… Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die.’ ~ Ziants

 

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Airlift Productions ‘Airlift Mike’ Twitter Page Screenshot featuring my re-tweet of Dr. John’s Cosimo Sentiment & Testament ~ “Cosimo was the one real guy in a world of make believe.  We will always miss his spirit.”

R&B Grandpa Cosimo Matassa Exits the Stage

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Legendary, Seminal New Orleans Recording Engineer & Producer COSIMO MATASSA Exits the Stage at 88 {1926-2014}

I was deeply saddened last night watching the ’10:00 Blues’ to hear of the extinguishing of one of New Orleans brightest and enduring lights – Cosimo Matassa.

Is it even possible for one blog to begin to capture this gentleman’s contributions to not only New Orleans history, but the collective musical soul of America? Too bold a statement? Run with me….

In 1945, at age 18, young Cosimo opened J&M Recording Studio at the back of his family’s shop on Rampart Street in our French Quarter. And went to work.

As engineer & producer, Mr. Matassa quickly became the seminal driving force behind the Rock ‘n Roll and Soul sounds of America in the ’50s & ’60s!  Really.

Together with Fats Domino, he took us to ‘Blueberry Hill’ and then mixed fruit salad with Little Richard in ‘Tutti Frutti’!  The Cos steered and engineered the biggest chart-topping hits of the day – from Sam Cooke to Jerry Lee Lewis …  from Dr. John to Ray Charles.

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New Orleans R&B/Soul Grandpa COSIMO MATASSA putting in ‘another day at the office’ ~ What a talent. What a guy!

Think about it – every time you hear ‘Mother-In-Law’ by Ernie K. Doe, ‘Barefootin” by Robert Parker, or ‘Working in a Coal Mine’ by Lee Dorsey – take your hat off to Cosimo Matassa!

Together with Dave Bartholomew & Allen Toussaint, he created ‘The New Orleans Sound’, recording the Neville Brothers, The Meters, and Irma Thomas.   And ‘the Cos’ was performing at this level long before Berry Gordy even dreamed of the Motown Sound. 

A member & inductee of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame AND the Blues Hall of Fame, Cosimo’s contributions to both the history of music and the collective Soul of America are both wide and deep.

I’ll never forget the night we first met. It was the Big Easy Entertainment Awards Show at the Fairmont Hotel.  I was honored to be performing as Live Announcer for the show, and that night in 1998 we paid homage to Cosimo and his talented ears, fingers … passion and spirit!

What a guy.  Quiet, reserved and humble, with a ready smile, contagious laugh, and a most gregarious spirit.  We shared a table that night – and along with Harry Shearer, more than a laugh or two.

But let us not weep over his passing – let’s celebrate his life and uniquely creative accomplishments.  And the fact that we even ever had a chance to bask in his talents in the first place.

So the next time you’re toolin’ down the highway with the oldies station cranked-up on the radio, tapping the steering wheel or thumping the dashboard to Frankie Ford’s ‘Sea Cruise’ or Aaron Neville’s classic ‘Tell It Like It Is’ … smile, tip your hat – and thank ‘the Cos’!

GodSpeed brother Cosimo … and Thank You for your service!

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Cosimo Matassa sharing a table with Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants at the Big Easy Entertainment Awards Show, Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans, 1998

 

Airlift PROductions & Airlift Mike – making NEW memories from NEW Orleans every day … since 1984!