May 2, 2012
Todd Simko 1966–2012
The world lost a great man, father, musician and sound engineer when we lost Todd Simko on Sunday, April 22th, 2012. I had the honour and pleasure of spending many hours, days, weeks and months with Todd as he recorded my first demos as a solo act, which led to he and I making my first full-length album. To be quite honest, the album took an unprecedented length of time to make and surely we could have finished quicker if we weren’t so busy having such a great time hanging out. Todd was a generous, thoughtful, imaginative spirit who I am proud to call a friend. The memories I have flood through: Todd testing the sounds of various pieces of wood so we could get the “perfect” sound of me sweeping a broom; being nearly crushed in the back of a borrowed pickup by a piano that Todd bought from a local 2nd hand store – why I was in the back with the piano and why Todd decided to drive up the steepest hill in New Westminster are both beyond me; listening to the sounds that came out of “Karate Todd” when we recorded a proposed theme song for a kids’ cartoon involving crime-fighting, kung fu chickens – we didn’t make the cut; the reaction of Todd’s wife, Minna, when Todd came in from his backyard studio and ransacked the kitchen looking for the ideal sounding pots and pans to record that would add a certain clank to one of my songs, “What the hell are you recording out there? Stomp?!”; inventing a dance called “The Frog Boogie” with Todd’s then-3 year old daughter Emily; having a pint at the Thirsty Duck Pub and listening to Todd’s wild desire to win a local meat draw; and I remember laughing. A lot.
I met Todd at the Media Club in Vancouver in 2005. He had come highly recommended as a sound engineer by friends who had recorded with him and he was all ears when I told him I wanted to put a few songs to tape. In a flurry of Simko-styled energy it seemed like the next day that Todd was patching together a remote, guerilla-style recording studio in our rehearsal space. I’ll never know how he got those sounds out of that oddly-shaped, moldy-carpeted, concrete-walled room. Todd was always excited by a challenge and loved to try new things. If someone said they wanted to record in an igloo Todd would have not only figured out how to build an igloo but he would have been thrilled to know what the outcome would be. Todd didn’t use a textbook to figure things out. He experienced life. He made mistakes. He learned. He wasn’t a classically trained musician but he knew what sounded good to him. He wasn’t out to make music that sounded perfect. In fact, Todd loved what he called “happy accidents”.
Todd loved it when I made mistakes recording. Flubbing a note. A cough. A squeaky chair. He felt those were the magic moments that make recordings unique. Todd had no interest in making “gridrock” as he labeled it: music that is edited with recording technologies so much that it ends up sounding sterile. It’s music that may fit on Top 40 radio but doesn’t fit in the heart. Todd wanted rough purity. I recall my voice cracking while recording a song and instead of hearing “Okay, let’s try it again” through my headphones when I finished I heard, “Happy accident!” as Todd shouted gleefully, “That’s the take!” I resisted at first but ultimately Todd convinced me to keep the take. Life isn’t perfect. Mistakes are what make us human. There is an implication of truth, of the human element, in moments when our guard is down. To Todd’s credit, I now love those happy accidents that ended up on my album. Things that may seem technically wrong at first are actually just unique – and as an artist that’s all I could strive for. I’m glad Todd fought to keep those moments on record and that he was able to see what was special from a long way away. And now as I look from a long way away, I realize Todd was a happy accident. He was a quirky, creative, curious and unique individual who I came to love.
Today would have been Todd’s birthday. He left us far too early. I could go on and on with how much he taught me and how much we would laugh as we sat in his studio listening to all of the strange sonic roads we would travel before getting to our destination, but for now it is time to let go of what is gone and cherish what is in my heart.
Todd, I love you brother and I will always miss you.