He was for many years the head of the world-famous Polar Studios, he has recorded and mixed albums for ABBA and on top of that he has a background as a race car driver. Meet Pole associate, and CEO, Bernard Löhr.
Bernard, you’ve been a part of Pole since the very beginning. What’s is your role today?
I still have one foot left in the music business so my time is somewhat limited. I do take part in all production meetings and do participate in as many recordings as possible. I also have quite a lot of experience of recording equipment and techniques that I like to share with the guys. The growth of Pole is very satisfying to take part of.
You started working in music quite some time ago. How did it all start?
It started while I was doing my master education in Acoustics at Chalmers University of Technology. During the same time, I worked with music record engineering in a newly built studio as much as time let me. One day I got a phone call from the studio owner who asked if I was willing to take the role as full time Studio Manager/Engineer. This was really something I wanted, so since then, which was in 1982, I have been working with music and sound recording/mixing.
You’ve mixed six UK chart-toppers through the years. How do you become a successful music producer/mixer?
I think that experience is one very important part. In that I mean to actually work with the writing/playing/producing. One very important part is also to listen to as much as possible of what is out there. When I sometimes give lectures, I often understand that many “wannabees” have not listened to different kinds of music or sound designs, in films etc. and therefore can’t relate to, or produce, a good result.
When did you first meet the other founders and how did Pole come to life?
Being a petrolhead/car nerd I bought my second Porsche in 1991 and became a member of the Swedish Porsche Club. The president of the club was Max’s father and I met Max as being a musician and really interested in the recording business. I was then Studio Manager at Polar Studios and he was hired as an assistant. After a couple of years, we decided to start Pole as a music production company together.
Since Pole started out a lot has happened in terms of both equipment and recording techniques. Where do you think we’ll be in, let’s say, five or ten years?
We always try to be updated on the latest stuff so we test new equipment and techniques all the time, but we always also use the things we know will do the work. That means testing recorders, new microphones and different mic placings. In the future I think there will be a large competition for sound libraries of simpler quality because good equipment is becoming cheaper. I think that is one reason that Pole should work with high quality and difficult recordings where experience is extremely valuable.
In your opinion, what kind of sounds are the most difficult to record?
There are so many things that are difficult to record so you always have to be prepared, but amongst the most difficult are planes and helicopters. That is because you can never hear the result on location and you never know what mics are going to sound good because of all the wind and air.
Do you have any favorite sounds when it comes to recording?
A really well played musical piece of course or a straight piped well-tuned racecar engine. Both give me goosebumps.
You also have a background as race car driver, right?
As I mentioned before I am a car nerd so I started early. In the late seventies I drove some drag racing. Later, in the mid-nineties, me and my wife Ulli started a racing section within Swedish Porsche Club and started racing. To begin with, it was club racing but later we became more serious and drove Swedish GT Championships. In themid-nineties we focused a lot on GT Endurance races both in Sweden and Europe. Almost all races were in different Porsche racing cars and I still own an historic Porsche 911ST racecar.
Your type of complicated knowledge of cars and engines, would you say that’s an advantage when you’re out on the field recording?
Absolutely, the knowledge around vehicles and engines is crucial while recording these complicated beasts.
On the field, what is key to making a great recording?
There are many things that has to be done, both in advance and on location. Everything like planning, packing the right equipment, keeping the time schedule and lots more. Being a good team is very important and to be able to get some energy during the work in terms of food, water etc. And of course, be lucky with the weather.
And afterwards, back at the studio, what is of utmost importance then?
Backup of recordings and putting it all together in a sound workstation. Labelling is very important because otherwise nothing makes sense.
Roughly you’ve done hundreds of recordings at Pole. Some of them must have been pretty memorable?
There are so many interesting cars I have driven during the years and someday I’ll try to make a list to remember them all. My first recording of tanks was really a claustrophobic happening, but I have gotten used to it.
Given your interest in cars, is there a certain car model that you’d very much like to record?
Recordings of old racecars like F1 cars or Lemans sportscars like Porsche 917, is something to look forward to.
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