Oral History: Mike Montgomery

Why Sudsy Malone’s mattered, and still does

The musician and sound engineer who owns Candyland Recording Studio plays in Ampline and the duo R.Ring with Kelley Deal of The Breeders. He started sneaking into Sudsy Malone’s with a fake ID and later played there with the bands Thistle and El Gigante and ran sound for shows.

Mike Montgomery and Kelley Deal of R.Ring

Photograph courtesy R.Ring

Part of what was cool about Sudsy’s was that the stage was at the front in front of a large glass window, but that also made things challenging from a sound standpoint. You had a lot of loud bands in a small room and a PA that couldn’t always keep up with it. It got a lot of abuse, and the monitors were right there in people’s heads. A lot of times a band’s frontman would wave a microphone around and point it right at the monitor wedge, and it would make piercing feedback and blow a horn or whatever. So a lot of times you were dealing with a sound system where some of the speakers weren’t really working. That’s why, when Sudsy’s had big shows where there was like a guarantee for the band, Dan McCabe would hire Sean Norton, who’d literally just bring in a whole separate sound system to meet the band’s rider requirements.

But it was still an awesome experience. Sudsy’s was a great place to learn how to make a show happen no matter the situation of the room or the gear. It was a great trial by fire. But it was definitely a challenge to get a good mix. You had to have the right number of people to soak up sound reflections off of the glass. If the PA was working and the room was full, you could get a cool mix. But if the room was empty, it was a real challenge. With that hard floor, the bar, all the washing machines with that tile, it was a tough room acoustically. It really needed bodies to sound warm.

+ Cincinnati Magazine remembers the legacy of Sudsy Malone’s. Read the full story and other oral histories here.

How important do you think Sudsy’s was?

Crucial. It cannot, cannot be overstated. It was pivotal for my own development as an artist and as an engineer. It put Cincinnati on the map for a lot of bands of a certain genre or of a certain size. I would travel all over the country and people would be like, Cincinnati? Uh, the laundromat club! We’ve been there!

You also can’t really stress enough what a gift McCabe gave the city by booking the acts he did. And taking these chances and bringing bands that had high guarantees where it’s like, man, this could make or break a small club. He brought Hum there. He brought Swervedriver. Bands would show up in tour busses to play Sudsy’s. I got to open for Superchunk and Swervedriver. Dan was really good about booking these big acts but also throwing a bone to the local bands and putting a local band in front of what he knew would be a good crowd.

Have music and the music business changed since the days of Sudsy’s?

That was literally a place where you could go to discover music. It didn’t matter to me and my friends who was playing, you could just go to Sudsy’s and know that somebody was playing and it would probably be cool, you know? It was a physical location that was a hub for a community.

That’s not to say we didn’t get skunked at gigs at Sudsy’s where nobody was there, but you could find new bands. I found Babe the Blue Ox just by turning up. Oh, well, that’s a neat name … and, whoa, this band rips! There wasn’t an Internet to speak of then. It was kind of a place where you got all your info and where you saw your friends.

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