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The sound behind the vision

Former Hansa Studios recording engineer Eduard Meyer recalls his time with Bowie and Iggy.

Bowie, producer Tony Visconti and Meyer during the
Photos: Eduard Meyer’s Private Collection

Former Hansa Studios recording engineer Eduard Meyer recalls his time with Bowie and Iggy.

When a journalist came to interview me at the time of Bowie’s 60th birthday, his first question was “So, did David Bowie sleep with Romy Haag?”

“Ask him yourself,” was my answer. “I was not in the room.”

That was not at all the kind of relationship that I had with David Bowie. I began my career at Hansa Studios on February 15, 1976. David made his first appearance at the studio that very winter and let me be clear, when he arrived I had no idea who he was. My background lies in classical music. I had some knowledge of krautrock, but
 in general I had no interest in pop music. He was not coming from the stars, we did not roll out a red carpet for him… he was simply a client of our studio.

Nevertheless, we became friendly. I had a good deal of experience with musicians and producers who simply had no idea about how music should sound and how it should be recorded. This was completely different with David Bowie and Tony Visconti. It was clear from day one that they knew exactly how to make the music they wanted. They had it in their veins.

I began work on Low as a translator, simply because I was the best English-speaking engineer at the studio. I worked as an intermediary, translating for David during the sessions and for Tony Visconti during the mixing. Naturally, we spent some time together. Hansa looked out onto the Wall; the border guard could see right into the studio and even hear the music. Once, I made a little joke – I took one of the studio lamps and shone it directly at the guard tower. David and Tony jumped under the table [laughs] but they would never have shot at us.

It was on one of those evenings that that 
photo was taken with the three of us sitting in the control room, David on the left, Tony in the middle and me on the right. We were just sharing a joke at the end of the day when Coco [Schwab, Bowie’s assistant] snapped that photo.

I was also invited to a Christmas meal at David and Iggy’s apartment on Hauptstraße – Coco roasted a bird, it was very nice. Of course I heard that David and Iggy and the others went for some big nights out around Berlin, but in general I didn’t meet them outside of the studio. I had my own private life at home with my family.

When David started “Heroes”, I was less involved because the crew were more or less able to deal with it themselves. But I would still come by the studio once a day and see what was going on. The next time I worked with David was on Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life album, which David produced, then on the Bertolt Brecht EP Baal [1982].

was a great atmosphere. David and Iggy were always very well behaved, I never saw any drugs
 or anything like that, but they would always have a case of beer to quench their thirst. They had 
fun though. One time at Feierabend, three very beautiful young women came to the control room. David greeted them and told them to wait before saying to Iggy, “Pick the one you want. I’ll take the other two.” [Laughs]

Hansa Studios, 1977.
Photo: Eduard Meyer’s private collection

David returned to Berlin to play a concert in front of the Reichstag in 1987, but during that week he also booked a day-long session at Hansa. We had security at all the doors; we took it very seriously and worked our asses off to get everything ready. Suddenly the band started playing “Time Will Crawl”. We couldn’t understand what was going on – the song had already been released! I went to David and told him that we had to prepare a microphone for him, but he just laughed saying, “No, not for this session.”

It was right at that moment that that photograph was taken, with David smiling with his cigarette and me in
 a state of confusion. It turned out that David’s crew had a trade union contract that required that they must be employed at least once a week. He had just booked the studio to keep them busy. It ended up being a lot of fun and I still have the 24-track to this day.

Since David Bowie, many famous international bands and musicians have used Hansa and many people have asked me about the times I spent with David. But back in 1977 I had absolutely no idea. It was simply part of my job. Perhaps I should have kept a diary!

As told to Dominic Mealy.

Eduard Meyer

Born ‘Edu’ in 1943, Meyer studied recording engineering and music at the Robert Schumann Konservatorium in Düsseldorf. After a stint recording “mainly Schlager” at Cornet Studios in Cologne, he worked at Berlin’s iconic Hansa Studios from 1976-2003, working with such musical luminaries as Can, Tangerine Dream and, of course, David Bowie. Also an accomplished cellist, Meyer played on the Low track “Art Decade”. He’s currently enjoying his retirement in rural North Rhine-Westphalia.

Originally published in issue #127, May 2014.