Remembering Bert

riprob

by Ryan Meehan

Monday morning brought sad news to the Quad Cities music community. Long time friend and local sound engineer Rob Cimmarusti (1959-2014) finally passed away from a long battle with pancreatic cancer. It was a battle that he fought as only Rob could, never giving up until the moment where his body simply could not match the fight his mind and soul had worked so hard to put forth. Rob was one of a kind, and touched the lives of all he came in contact with. I shared a story on Facebook Monday about how when I was in high school, Rob had attempted to fix what at the time was a very expensive digital tape machine of mine. I had an old Alesis ADAT that was having some issues and even though Rob wasn’t sure that he could fix it, he ended up doing a ton of research on the error code it was getting. Two months later, it was in perfect working condition and that moment always stuck with me because it showed that Rob was never one to back down from a challenge.

In the ten years that followed, I had the privilege of working on several recordings with Rob behind the board. During that time period, it reinforced my belief that Rob was indeed worthy of the many words you’ve likely heard used to describe him throughout his life and over the past twenty-four hours. Caring, generous, smart, funny, kind, helpful, knowledgeable, heartwarming, strong, disciplined, dedicated, loving, fun, thorough…It seems like I could go on for days using adjectives to convey how much we valued Rob’s spirit, all the while reiterating the fact that we know it will live on in all of us.

When it came time to put material to tape, Rob was all business when it counted the most. Yet he simultaneously used his incredibly quick sense of humor to put everybody at ease. There was a moment when From The Wreckage was recording the album “That’s What I’m Talking About” where for whatever reason I was spacing out during a warm-up session and staring into the control room. Rob noticed that I wasn’t paying total attention to the rest of the band, and stopped everybody and said “If you’re not focused on what’s going on out there, I’m going to be riding your ass all night long and I’m never going to let you hear the end of it”. I realized he was right, and as we started to lay tracks down within minutes he was cracking jokes again like nothing had ever happened. It was that type of dedication Rob brought to his work which sadly a lot of other people in America today never fully come to realize. His ability to maximize potential was contagious, inspiring the artists he worked for to dig deep and bring out the very best in themselves at all times. Even when he was working on a project that consisted of music that was not to his own personal preferences, he still made sure that when it was done it sounded amazing. The energy that he brought to every single track showed that he was genuinely concerned with being the best that he could be every time he tweaked the knobs.

There was a benefit show for Rob at RIBCO where Tripmaster Monkey reunited, and at that time if I remember correctly he was given just a few short months to live. This would have put his passing at April of 2013, a full year and a half before the sad circumstance that finds me writing this column. In true Rob form, he continued to work and share his knowledge of music production with bands of all ages and genres. That was another thing we loved about Rob – No matter what type of art they created and regardless of how young they were, he always treated everyone equally and with respect.

No matter what the afterlife has in store for us, we can only hope that somewhere Rob is on a journey through space taking in all of the sights and sounds around him. We know if that’s the case, there might be a spaceship full of a glowing Bert enjoying the ride but at the same time wondering if the trip would sound better would sound better if it had a little bit of reverb on it. But perhaps in this instance, maybe he’s taking a break from all that just for once. Maybe he’s trying to find that peace in which we all wish him to rest…Laying back in his chair with his headphones on, cranking Del Amitri, and truly experiencing the enlightenment he sought during his time here on earth.

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