The receptionist at the studio in Seattle called into the control room - "I've got Ric Ocasek on line 2 for Chris". I almost didn't take the call. Twenty minutes earlier I had been gushing about my love of the Cars with the band I was working with. Being the practical jokers they were I thought one of them was pranking me but they were all sitting there on the couch in front of me. A week or so later I was sitting in the living room of Ric's Townhouse in Gramercy Park. What looked like a grey carpet was actually white with a fine leopard skin print. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed what I thought were two framed Warhol posters that upon closer inspection were actually two original Warhol paintings of Ric. Moments later I'm in his kitchen drinking coffee with him and Paulina and he's playing me the rough mixes for his next solo record Negative Theater. The album had two distinct sides: The pop side (which was mixed by Mike Shipley known for mixing Heartbeat City and the Def Leppard records) and he was asking me if I'd be interested in mixing the experimental side. There were 5 songs he wanted to use but wasn't sure which one of the two extra songs he wanted to use for the sixth track and asked me to pick one. Uhhhhhh… me? You want me to pick the song? Ric smiled and said "sure, why not?". Everyone who's met Ric knows that smile - it instantly puts you at ease.
A few months later he invited me back to the house to play me the demos for what became Weezer's Blue album. What I remember most about making that record was how generous Ric was in every way. We spent a few days at his home studio recording vocals and he let us rummage around his guitar collection. I picked up his bright pink Jazzmaster and while I tinkering around with it he got up, plugged it straight in to the console and said "play the intro for My Best Friend's Girl". I did, and there it was: THAT guitar sound. Rivers asked him about writing Just What I Needed. Ric showed us how there was no melody for the lyrics at first by picking up a guitar, playing the chords, reciting the lyrics while Rivers and I were just glancing back and forth at each other with stupid grins on our faces. He'd spend hours talking to Rivers about songwriting, publishing, the music business. There was nothing off limits. I'd grill him about working with Mutt Lange on Heartbeat City. "Mutt took weeks to mix one song so I took the tapes from him and Mike Shipley and I mixed the entire record in a week in Studio B while it was still under construction". I had a bad habit of working without a break so every day he’d tap me on the shoulder "come on, let's get out of here for a bit" and we'd walk across the street to Grays Papaya and grab a cheap hot dog.
I was lucky enough to work with hm on a few records: Weezer, Bran Van 3000, and Motion City Soundtrack. We did a Bad Brains record as well. There were some surreal moments on that project. We flew out to LA the day before Thanksgiving and the next day he and Paulina invited us over for dinner. HR sat to my left and was telling me how it wasn't good to be eating meat while Ric was on my right ginning as he served me a plate piled high with turkey. HR was mercurial to say the least (there was one week where he insisted that we call him by a different name every day) but he was always calm around Ric. As always he knew how to put everyone at ease. His enthusiasm for the songs never wavered even on the most trying days.
Ric is a towering figure in my life as music fan, a musician, and as a mentor, but most importantly as a friend. The last time I saw him was at Radio City Music hall for the premier of the Dylan documentary No Direction Home. He saw me, walked all the way across the theater, smiled and gave me a big hug saying "Where have you been? I've missed you." I guess now it's my turn.