- Q & A with Lloyd Balser
Q & A with Lloyd Balser
Meet our staff!
A series of Q&As that take a peek behind the curtain at the working lives (and working-from-home lives) of Chan Centre staff members.
Here, we learn more about Head Audio Technician Lloyd Balser.
"Music has been one of the few things in my life that has given me time and space to 'feel.' I’ve learned a lot of lessons by being part of the creation and presentation of so much great art in my career."Lloyd Balser
Name: Lloyd Balser
Chan Centre staff member since: 1998
What is your official job title?
Head Audio Technician
What does that mean, in a nutshell?
How big is the nut?! It means keeping the audio systems in all Chan Centre venues functioning, as well as upgrading all of these systems to maximize their flexibility and usefulness; Advocating for colleagues both in terms of their input of ideas, and recognition of their talents; Advocating for and implementing advancements in our ability to properly service the continuously evolving technical needs of our clients; Ensuring that we have (or acquire) the necessary technical assets to meet the needs of our clients on a daily basis. Most things related to audio in a performing arts centre of the Chan Centre’s size are expensive and it can be difficult to prioritize projects, knowing that they are all worthwhile goals. The most soul-satisfying part of the job is definitely operating sound during a live show.
Why a career in the arts? What is your background?
I’m the son of two music-loving parents. In my second year, my parents packed us up and moved east to Fredericton, New Brunswick, closer to their original stomping grounds. My mom the youngest of 11 children born in Debec, NB, to an immigrant orphan from England, and my dad was son the eldest of two sons born to a blacksmith in tiny Digby, Nova Scotia. Music has always been a big part of the fabric of their lives “back home.”
Growing up in Fredericton, I cannot recall a time from sunrise to sunset when dad didn’t have music pouring from the turntable or the 8-track (remember those? “Ch-chick” as they switched track, sometimes in the middle of a song). He’d often have mom’s family gather in the dining room to record some songs onto the ol’ 8-track deck. We called that “live off the floor.”
Mom had many siblings, and in such a large family with many cousins, there were also many instruments. I was always hearing someone sing or play a tune. Mom would take me to the Fredericton Playhouse to see her favourites (Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, the Carter Family, Anne Murray, etc). Mom really felt that I should learn to play guitar so she enrolled me in some lessons with her friend and co-worker, Kenny Hanson. He was a member of one of the well-known music families back home, the Hansons. Unfortunately, I was a rebellious young lad and avoided doing the things I was told. I never progressed beyond the basic lessons, but played alongside Kenny in the hospital and at a couple of nursing homes.
Upon graduating high school and running away from home, I set off for Winnipeg and found myself intrigued by buskers there, and the larger music community. I volunteered at all the festivals, and began tinkering in live sound at small stages and a few nightclub gigs in the days of “alternative” music. Being a runaway and all, I spent a good many years of my life as a bit of a loner and not really realizing that feelings are ok, normal, and good. Music has been one of the few things in my life that has given me time and space to “feel.” I’ve learned a lot of lessons by being part of the creation and presentation of so much great art in my career.
What is the coolest part of your job?
Definitely operating sound for a great show or event. Here’s one story from a recent show that explains it:
In March 2020, I came to the Chan Centre expecting an excellent concert, but not expecting to actually cry while working at the monitor console. Jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves announced that herself and her longtime friend, guitar player Romero Lubambo, would perform a duet. Well, the sound…the amazing sound of her voice and Romero’s guitar—I couldn’t hold back the tears of and longing, and sadness, and joy. My music-loving dad passed in 2010. Ironically, he was never supportive of my career choice. Standing there at the console, in that moment, hearing those sounds reminded me how far I have come and how much I have loved getting here. Every emotion, both happy and sad, all at once. Amazing.
As we were packing up, I was hoping to be able to share this with Romero. I am always very cognizant of the fact that artists all have their own sensibilities as far as communication, and I never want to be someone who wrecked a moment or derailed an experience for an artist on my stage. I sheepishly asked Romero, “Would you be okay with me telling you how your performance made me feel?” He said, “I’d love that Lloyd.” So I did and we shared a tear, a story, and a moment I will never forget.
Chan Centre staff are working from home these days. What’s helping you cope? Keeping you inspired?
Coping assistants (in no particular order except for 1,2,3 and 4):
My wife, Crissy
My mistress, Martin Jr. (my guitar)
Cats. Yes, all three, including the recently three-legged one
Funny Facebook memes
Friends streaming music AND taking requests
Inspirations (in no particular order because they are all powerful in their own way):
Returning to the concert hall to the sound of live music
Leaves popping on the tree outside our window
The crows defending their nest
The elusive dream that we can shift away from “extreme capitalism”
What part of your job could you do without?
Lists, spreadsheets, begging.
What is your most memorable Chan Centre moment?
Crying with and hugging a band member while discussing the encroachment of capitalism in a big way in Cuba.
What is your favourite part of the building?
Definitely at the sound console during a show.
Other than the Chan Centre, what is your favourite spot at UBC?
The UBC Botanical Garden.
What is your go-to UBC lunch grab?
If you could hire any living artist to appear on the Chan Centre stage, who would it be?
It would have to be a collaboration of Roger Waters, Sting, Mari Boine, Tanya Tagaq, Cristina Pato, Anouska Shankar, Jay Knutson, Chor Leoni, and Manual Cinema. (Sorry, I cannot answer this question in the singular context.)
The tables have turned, and it’s you headlining the concert hall stage tonight with unlimited artistic talent. What do you perform?
Hank Snow’s “My Nova Scotia Home.”