A few weeks ago, I was gutted to hear the news that Nick Rotundo, a long time presence on the Newark, Delaware music scene, suffered a brain aneurysm, and was equally saddened to learn he passed away this past Friday. I had the pleasure of recording with Nick at Clay Creek Studios in the early 90s when I was in Obese Pharaohs of Funk / Nero. In total, we did three 7 inch singles, a full length album and a handful of tracks for various compilations together. Another good man gone much too soon.
The first time we worked together, we were both just starting out – O.P.F. was less than a year old and Nick was just beginning to record local bands with his mobile 8 track reel to reel tape machine (the first sessions were done in our bass player’s basement.) To be completely honest, even though we’re roughly the same age, I was a bit intimidated the first time I met him. Nick had a few years of band experience already under his belt and I was a huge fan of his band Walleye. I loved his stage presence and the way he would intensely rock back and forth in his corner of the stage. So I first approached the guy with the shy timid manner of a fan, but he, in turn, greeted me warmly as a friend. As time went on, I feel like our growth was somewhat simultaneous – every time we came back to record, the band was a little better but Nick was a lot better, growing his studio from the basement of his dad’s town home into the larger space off Wilbur Street. I took every opportunity I could to hang out behind the board with Nick, even inviting myself to sessions with schroeder and the Joy Poppers just to soak up some studio experience and to watch the magic happen.
Whenever I think of recording with Nick, I always come back to a memory of us dragging this 100+ foot mic cable out into the middle of a still August night so he could indulge my mild Buddy Holly obsession by recording the sounds of crickets for a track on the last Nero 7″. Salad days for sure.
I’ll miss the enthusiastic way he would draw out the word “Yeeesssss” when discussing some random piece of music or deciding on what to grab for lunch that day. He was the real deal – talented but humble, supportive and devoid of pretension. He had an absurd sense of humor and a great set of ears. And he was always up for experimenting in the studio.
As I slowly moved away from Delaware, we kept loosely in touch, usually running into each other randomly at some gas station or something and each time we did, it was like no time had passed. When he moved into my old spot at First World Recording Studio behind Finley’s Art Shoppe, I always made a point to drop in and catch up.
These little fragments of memories are such a heavy part of my early twenties and I am really glad I had the opportunity to work with Nick. Thank you for all you did to help me along in my creative journey. I’m glad our paths crossed. Safe travels my friend.
Rest in Peace Nick.