One of the recording industry’s more colourful characters, and one with a hugely impressive track record, has died, writes Jim Evans. Keith Grant (pictured, left, receiving his MPG Lifetime Achievement award from Malcolm Toft) was a seminal figure in the history of recording – not only as a consequence of his own work, but as a result of the positive influence he had, as chief engineer and manager of London's famous Olympic Studios, on other engineers and producers.
As a dyslexic 15-year-old, Keith was kicked out of school for under achievement. After a short spell at technical college, he embarked on what would turn out to be a glittering career in the recording business. “Luckily, I landed on my feet,“ he recalled with due modesty. “On my sixteenth birthday I started work at the old Regent Studios in the West End. It was a case of in at the deep end and learning on the job.”
After a short spell at IBC Studios, he then moved to Olympic just before the studio relocated to its Barnes site, which was designed by Keith’s architect father Robertson, while the acoustics were effected by Russel Pettinger along with Keith. “Olympic was very much a team job,” said Keith. “It was really a case of all the right people being in the right place at the right time.”
Keith recorded top artists across the musical spectrum including The Beatles, Dusty Springfield, Procol Harum, Barbra Streisand, Cream, Scott Walker, Troggs, Johnny Mathis, and George Martin to name but a few. Over the years he became involved in every facet of the recording business.
Studio One at Olympic also rapidly became a favourite venue for what would be considered a who’s who of the UK record business – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Jimi Hendrix, Queen and Led Zeppelin all recorded in there. If it hadn’t been for Keith’s vision and expertise, Studio One would not have attracted the artists and producers it did. In the latter years of his time at Olympic, Keith specialised in big orchestral albums and film scores. IMDB.com lists Grant's involvement in over 50 films, as score mixer, engineer or recordist, including Life of Brian, Howard's End and The English Patient. He won a BAFTA for his work on Jesus Christ Superstar.
As well as being a consummate recording engineer across many genres, Keith was also mentor to a great many house engineers, all of whom admit they owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for launching their careers.
Prolific production sound mixer Alan O’Duffy worked with Keith at Olympic and says, “I have hundreds of fond memories of Keith. The man should have had an OBE for his services to the industry. He gave me my first job as a tape op and I am forever grateful. He didn’t suffer fools and took no bullshit. He was a lovely character and a truly inspirational man, loved by many. We will miss him.”
Trident Audio founder and sound engineer Malcolm Toft told PSNEurope: “Keith was one of the main reasons I came into this business. Watching him work, I fell in love with studios. We all owe a great debt to him. He worked with so many people and in some ways was larger than life. I recall going for a beer with Keith and outlining to him the plans for my first mixing desk. 'I think it will be a bit noisy!' was his comment.”
Composer Chris Gunning adds, "We all owe Keith so much. He became a great friend, so much so that he was my best man. He was extraordinary in so many ways.”
On receiving the UK Sound Fellowship award in 2009, Keith had a chance to reflect on his long and colourful career. “I’ve enjoyed every single minute of [it]," he said. "Who wouldn’t if you’re getting paid to do a job you’d happily do for nothing?”
Details of funeral arrangements were expected in due course.