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Dennis Weinreich

Dennis Weinreich gives us a rare interview into how he started in the audio business and how he took the step from music to film and back again. Having worked with legendary artists from Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Queen and Michael Jackson and films including Harry Potter and Slumdog Millionaire, Weinreich has built up a career as one of the worlds greatest producers and engineers.


Weinreich’s interest in audio stretches back to his early years. His home studio was a regular haunt for the mid 1960’s Southern Californian music scene. By 1970 he was working at Stephen Bosustow Film Productions where he shot, edited and created sound effects for the Oscar winning short ‘Is It always Right to be Right’ with Orson Welles. He was also working as part of the team at The Village Recorder, known for the likes of Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, Sly Stone, Miles Davis, The Stones, Fleetwood Mac. Weinreich arrived in London in September of 1971 to work on the animated series ‘The Jackson 5’ for what he thought would be six weeks. He is still here!


“My brother played in a band and being about 10, I wanted to be involved with the ‘big boys’ so I created a role for myself recording them on the family tape recorder and the 2 mics it had. They were terrible and I knew nothing! Eventually I had an Ampex 600 recorder, two AP35 valve mixers, a ton of mics and infrastructure and the old garage became a studio of sorts.”


“I found regular work with a production company that was based at Geordie Hormel’s studio The Village Recorder in West Los Angeles. All of a sudden I was in the middle of the highest end of the industry. My work included a lot of film related recording, not just music. Then one day a call to Geordies office changed everything and I found myself off to the UK.”


Weinreich quickly found himself working at Trident, IBC, Command and a new studio called Scorpio Sound. Whilst engineering and producing he found himself working with artists as diverse as Jeff Beck, The Walker Brothers, Queen, Supertramp, Wham, The Real Thing, Talk Talk, Jack Bruce, Jon Anderson, Mick Taylor, Hummingbird, and many more.


Weinreich also worked on the sound side of many film projects. “One of the projects I got to work on was a film called ‘Is It Always Right to be Right’ with Orson Wells. I photographed, recorded, edited, and put the sound track together and it won the Oscar for best short! I began getting more calls to do film than music. The film work gave me a skill set that would eventually become important.”


“In 1980 I was hired to be music and post supervisor for a performance video for Tina Turner. It was being shot on video, which at that time was still pretty new. I followed all of the well-worn rules of music and film but kept coming up against technical limitations of the medium. At the same time my wife, who is a film editor, was asked to edit a project on video. She found the same issues. “


This led to Weinreich wanting to make creative technology used in the music world available to the emerging independent television sector and so establishing Videosonics. By the mid 1990’s Videosonics had become one of the largest film and TV sound facilities outside the United States.


Videosonics was at the forefront of the 90s boom in low and medium budget British film. Films like ‘This is England’, ‘Billy Elliott’, ‘Sexy Beast’ and many more came through its doors. Eventually, these films gave way to bigger productions and the small films were becoming harder to finance. Weinreich needed to either expand significantly for the bigger films, or wind down. He chose the latter.


“My next step was to become Managing Director for film and TV postproduction at Pinewood Studios. This was period of huge expansion of big budget film production in the UK. While I was there I saw my team pick up the Oscar for mixing Slumdog Millionare as well as BAFTA wins for Harry Potter. I came to Pinewood at a time when they had invested heavily in new technology and needed to put this technology to creative work. My role had a lot to do with helping to create a supportive and creatively driven ethos. “


But by 2012 Weinreich was ready for a break. He put a note on his Facebook wall that his Pinewood adventure is drawing to a close and twenty minutes later his phone rang. It was his friend Pete Brown, song writing partner to many, including Jack Bruce with whom he was fortunate enough to make a number of records. Pete said he’d heard he was leaving Pinewood and would he be interested in mixing his album.


Life for Weinreich did not slow down. In 2013 he received a Doctorate of Technology from Leeds Beckett University in recognition to his involvement in driving technological innovation and workflows which have now become commonplace in the creative industries.


Dennis is also active with UK screen and J.A.M.E.S. Having been on the creative side as well as a facility owner, Weinreich is well positioned to raise issues, drive debate and lobby Government and industry bodies to improve business conditions, best practice and industry skills.


Having seen many industry changes over the years Weinreich believes that Audio will continue to develop with greater levels of quality available to more people at lower costs. “The current infatuation with classic gear will give way to the realisation that new stuff is just as good or better. The down side will be that more and more people will do it all themselves and the value of engineers will continue to erode.”


What troubles me is how the financial model has changed over time. It’s great to be respected for what you can bring to a project but quite another to be paid a decent fee for doing so. Clients say they want experience yet can only offer a fraction of what we used to command in the 80s for the same job today. I truly worry how the current generation of engineers can afford to live on the money that appears to be on the table.


Weinreich was also responsible for starting Sensible Music with Jeff Allen known for working with Bonnie Tyler, Mick Taylor and Van Morrison. “I left it in Jeff’s capable hands in the 80s to go build Videosonics. Sensible is a music service company with rehearsal rooms, hire, programming suites and a well kept secret Studio that was built at a time when people spent as much money as needed to make a room that fit their dreams. The studio has just enjoyed a major refit with the installation of a new SSL AWS948. It was always a great studio with it’s Euphonix 3000, but now with the SSL it is really very special. The outboard is incredible and the monitoring with the PMC BB5s may be the best of any control room I know. I am looking forward to tracking a couple of projects in there this summer.”


Weinreich remains busy. “I continue to work with Procol Harum and have a new project with them in the works. I am co producing an exciting new band The Severs who are playing all over south east England at the moment. I have just started mixing an album with the Welsh institution that is the band Man. And the man who dragged me back into the music business when I left Pinewood, Pete Brown, has another project on the go that I will look after.”