Professional Sound - April 2023 | Page 18


Ian Robertson

By Manus Hopkins

Growing up in the rural Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St . Lawrence , Ian Robertson was interested in anything that had wires .

“ I was always tinkering with things electrical in nature , and I had a multi-band radio that I connected a long antenna to ,” the Manager of Technical Services and Industry Training Specialist for GerrAudio tells Professional Sound .“ When the conditions were right , I could tune in far-flung European or Southern radio stations .”
Robertson ’ s family moved to Halifax when he was 14 , and that ’ s where he calls home to this day , though he ’ s now based in Ontario and has been for around two decades .
“[ Halifax ] is where I dove a little deeper and found myself spinning records for dances at the local youth club , and by the time I was in high school , two friends and myself had a rather successful mobile DJ business running ,” he says .
In the early ‘ 80s , when disco was dying , and punk and alternative were on the rise , Robertson found himself hanging around with a few local bands , and he started working in clubs fixing and updating the sound systems , which led to a desire to mix live sound .
“ At that time on the East coast , if you wanted to have a band and go play the club circuit , the only place you could get equipment was your local music store ,” Robertson says . “ While the gear was satisfactory , the packaging was pretty sketchy and cumbersome . When I think back to those formative years , I ’ m reminded of people who influenced and guided me along my path . These people were doing things a better way , and I also saw how some of the touring acts were doing things .”
Eventually , Robertson and two business partners decided to start a production company of their own , and ABI Systems was born . A couple of years in , they added a sales side to the business as well . Around two decades ago , Robertson took a job with GerrAudio and moved out to Ontario .
These days , Robertson ’ s routine varies quite a bit , which is something he likes about his job . Some weeks he ’ s in the office working on some tech support issues or system designs , while other weeks he ’ s travelling , either doing training , tuning an installed sound system , or supporting GerrAudio ’ s sales team with equipment demos .
In terms of career highlights , Robertson says from his time as a mix engineer , working in the ‘ 90s with a touring musical comedy show , The Cape Breton Summertime Revue , is one that stands out .
“ This was a very professional and polished act , that was so consistent show to show , that it was practically like mixing a record every night ,” he explains . “ This was nine years of constant challenge and growth as we took that show from touring regionally , to performing across the country in the largest soft seaters .”
Jumping to ahead to more recent times , the development and deployment of the new sound system for the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary is also something Robertson remembers fondly .
“ It represents for me what can be achieved when everyone involved works together towards a common goal ,” he says . “ There were some significant challenges that required thinking out of the box .”
As far as why these stand out , a few things ring true for Robertson : the results were the very best that could be achieved , the clients were very happy with the results , and Robertson learned a great deal in the process of each project .
For most of Robertson ’ s life , he has worked behind the scenes , working to make a show happen , or a design and install achieve its intended purpose .
“ As of late I ’ ve taken on more of an educational role , so being comfortable standing up in front of a group and teaching has been a new challenge ,” he says . “ But again , I learn something new in every class . I just really enjoy talking with other audio people about our craft .”
One thing that keeps Robertson excited about his job is simply that it ’ s never boring .
As he says , there is always a new and different challenge , or a new approach to something .
“ I started at 16 and I ’ m 61 now , and I ’ m still learning stuff every day ,” says Robertson . “ You never stop learning and you have to be open to that .”
When asked about his life outside of work , Robertson goes back to our first topic , his upbringing and what he was into as a kid . Before ultimately deciding to pursue audio professionally , Robertson ’ s other potential fields were photography and cars .
“ I was into building and racing cars , and photography ,” he says . “ Same holds true today ; I have an old car that I like to wrench on in my spare time , and I get the camera out do some shooting when I can as well .”
Robertson doesn ’ t race his old car but enjoys working on it as a project . He used to do a lot of film photography , but mainly takes digital photos now . He ’ ll photograph race cars , nature , cityscapes , and anything else that might catch his eye .
In the near future in his professional life , Robertson is looking forward to getting back out and doing more onsite work with sound systems , as well as doing more in person training sessions on a variety of equipment and topics .
Manus Hopkins is the Assistant Editor of Professional Sound . He can be reached at mhopkins @ nwcworld . com .