80s (and sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ George Rondina/Imagination Machine

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: One of the best things (and there are so many) about being introduced to David Marsden’s live radio show 14 years ago, and then more recently (2014) to his free-form stream NYTheSpirit.com, is getting to know some incredible music acts and artists that I never would have been exposed to otherwise.

George Rondina is part of this treasure trove of talent. Three of his songs recorded under the moniker Imagination Machine that David has played on his live weekend show have absolutely torn me up: A Northern Evening, Dancing on a Highwire, and True (May the Road Rise).  These hauntingly lovely songs are the perfect blend of an internal, aural, emotional journey highlighted by Rondina’s expressive and unique voice. Personally, music is an escape that makes the real world tolerable by pushing it aside and providing a safe haven in which to curl up and fantasize about what life should be. George Rondina’s music is that and so much more—it envelopes the listener within a protective bubble that promises salvation rather than mere isolation.

It’s my pleasure to share this interview with you and to hopefully pull more listeners into the ethereal world of Imagination Machine. Given the reality that we are forced to deal with every day, I believe this is an alternative that many will willingly embrace once its magic has touched the soul.

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MissParker: I’ve done some research about you online and am amazed at your accomplishments, most notably the Toronto recording studio known as Number 9 Audio Group.  Before I ask you to expand on that a bit, I also read that you were part of several bands back in the late 70s. What can you share about that experience?

George Rondina: I’d like to say, thank you for having me and for the very kind and generous introduction. I started out as a musician and was in a couple of different bands in high school. Once graduated, the musical journey really kicked in and the 3 bands I was in toured Ontario and Quebec.

It was fun for the first few years, but living out of a suitcase in some not-so-swank hotels took its toll after about 5 years and I started to think of something I could do that would garner a bit more of a normal life. After much thought, Number 9 Sound Studios ( Number 9 Audio Group ) was born.

MissParker: So, getting back to Number 9 Audio Group—the name is intriguing, by the way—where did the name come from (I have a guess) and what prompted you to switch from performing to producing?

George Rondina: Ah, so the name Number 9 of course was a culmination of things—John Lennon’s infatuation with the number 9 and numerology, as he was born on the 9th day of the month, and so was I. In 1981, for lack of a better name, Number 9 it was.

We ran the studio in tandem, with playing live on weekends, at first. When my first born came along, the rest of the band approached me about touring full time. I was happy playing weekends and running the studio through the week. It was a very hard decision, but I chose to keep the studio going, as I had no interest in going back on the road at the time and I knew it would have been very hard on my family. So that’s when the switch happened.

MissParker:  The “who’s who” list of artists you’ve worked with at the studio is impressive, to say the least. Of the people you’ve worked with, who left the biggest impression and why? 

George Rondina: Wow, that’s a tough one, as many of the bands like “The Barenaked Ladies” weren’t famous when we first recorded them. There are a few that I enjoyed meeting a lot, like David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears. David recorded 4 albums at Number 9 and we became quite good friends. Jim McCarty from the Yardbirds and Renaissance would be another. A real gentleman. The work we did with the Stones, Van Morrison, and Will Smith was either rental work or location recording—mostly arm’s length—never got to meet them directly. After almost 40 years there’ve been a lot of great experiences, that’s for sure.

MissParker: Who haven’t you worked with that would be high up on your wish list?

George Rondina: We could be here all night (laugh) . Of the living: Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Pete Townshend and The Who (whom I have met but haven’t worked with), Pink Floyd, particularly David Gilmour, Genesis…The list is endless.  

MissParker: I’m curious about your connection with David Marsden. How did you first meet up with him and how long have you known him?

George Rondina: I’ve known David from his radio shows since the 70s, but he’s only known me since about 2017-18, when I released A Northern Evening and he was kind enough to add it to his playlist.

MissParker: I fantasize about having been a part of the music world, but life seems to have had other plans for me. So I’m always curious—what got you interested in music and which instruments were the first you learned to play? 

George Rondina: Feb. 9th 1964 The Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show. That night, I decided that music is what I wanted to do. I was just a young kid. I tried guitar but just couldn’t get the hang of it, where piano came much more naturally for me. Then came the other keyboards and synthesizers, which I have a nice little collection of my favourites now. The only other thing for me was singing. I started in choirs at an early age.

MissParker: Who were your early musical influences?

George Rondina: Well of course, The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, and the whole late 60s-70s scene. Later: Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, ELP, David Bowie, Tom Petty—the list could go on almost forever.

MissParker: Even though you’re a musician first and foremost, what planted the Imagination Machine seed?

George Rondina: I’d been writing songs all my life but pushed aside recording them to focus on the studio, raising my kids, and making ends meet. Later in life, which started around 2016, I recorded a Christmas song for a charity to help kids with depression issues. The song was called Shine On. After I finished recording that song, I decided that it was time to start on an album.

MissParker: To me, you have the perfect blend of synths and instrumentation to enhance your vocals on the gorgeous  track “A Northern Evening.” The first time I heard David play it, I about fell out of my chair while grabbing my phone to Shazam this amazing song I was listening to. What inspired you to write that song?

George Rondina: It was a long time ago. I wrote the majority of A Northern Evening when I was in my 20s, and adding parts and lyrics in 2016-17 when I recorded it. By the way, I’m very encouraged and grateful by your kind words.

It was an experience I had while in Northern Ontario on a crisp, clear winter’s night while snowmobiling. We reached a peak and gazed into a sky full of stars with northern lights and shooting stars. It was an epiphany for me. I guess the belief that there is something more was confirmed that night and soon after came the lyrics and the song.

MissParker:  I absolutely adore “Dancing on a Highwire.” What’s the back story to that song?

George Rondina: That’s a little sad I guess. My father suddenly passed away at 56 when I was 21. Literally died in my arms. The only death I’d experienced before that of someone  that was close was my grandmother ( my Dad’s mother) the year before. I went into a bit of a dark place and was searching for something. Not to get too deep into the experience, Highwire is really just about the fragility of life and how we all have the courage to carry on even through the darkest of times.

MissParker:  Rooting around YouTube I’ve come across some other Imagination Machine gems that are both playful and lovely. Do you have any other songs in the works?

George Rondina: The other Imagination Machine Songs are Muskoka Trees, Blue Room, and I just recently finished a song called Still In The Silence. Going in the studio this week to start another new song.

MissParker:  Please share how we can purchase your music and also be informed of any future releases.

 George Rondina: It’s pretty well a one-man show right now. I don’t have a website or FaceBook page just yet for Imagination Machine. The other thing is since I started Imagination Machine there is a children’s group using the same name, so it may evolve into George Rondina and The Imagination Machine .

I think tuning into Dave Marsden’s NYtheSpirit.com is a good way to hear what is going on with Imagination Machine or my personal Facebook page. The songs are all available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp, YouTube, and more. You can download from iTunes and Bandcamp, which is always preferred by the artist.

Here are a few links:

Muskoka Trees ~ Single ~ available on Apple Music

True (May the Road Rise) ~ Single ~ available on Apple Music

Blue Room ~ Single ~ available on Apple Music

Dancing on a Highwire ~ Single ~ available on Apple Music

Still in the Silence ~ Single ~ available on Apple Music

A Northern Evening ~ Single ~ available on Apple Music

And, before we end, I think it’s very important I acknowledge the musicians, engineers and studios that played a huge part in making our songs presentable 🙂. They are: George Koller, Vito Rezza, Graham Walker, Larry Bodner, Chase Sanborn, Reg Schwager, Ciceal Levy and Amoy Levy, Caroline Akwe, John Madill, Aaron Fund Salem, Arron Davis, Bridget Hunt, Carolyn Blackwell, Winona Zelenka, John Switzer, Samuel Bisson, Alex Toskov and Veronica Lee, Loretto Reid, Eric St-Laurent, Anne Lindsay, Bernie Cisternas, Brian Mcloughlin, Alex Lang, Number 9 Audio Group, Alex Gordon, Abbey Road Studios Mastering, Lacquer Channel Mastering, and Noah Mintz.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. It’s been a pleasure.

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It was truly a pleasure to learn more about this inspiring music maker and producer. Follow the links below to sample some of his incredible work. And, if you like what you hear, be sure to support George Rondina and Imagination Machine using the links he gave us above.

True (May the Road Rise)


A Northern Evening


Dancing on a Highwire


Blue Room

80s (and sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Colony Three/Brian Dickson

(c) Brian Dickson

I’ve had the enormous pleasure of being introduced to the delightful electronic music of Brian Dickson, a.k.a. Colony Three. I was asked to review a collection of 10 tracks titled ErgosphereWikipedia defines the word ergosphere as “…a region located outside a rotating black hole’s outer event horizon. Its name was proposed by Remo Ruffini and John Archibald Wheeler during the Les Houches lectures in 1971 and is derived from the Greek word ergon, which means ‘work.’”

This listening experience allowed me to take a remarkable journey that I look forward to revisiting time and time again; I know that I will hear more and experience different sensations with each opportunity.

The first five tracks lull us as listeners into a sense of peace and well-being—a journey that is both pleasant and without a hint of danger. Suddenly, with the opening strains of “Bad Gram,” the mood changes and we are thrust into a metropolis of sights and sounds that are both confusing and terrifying. As the music gathers steam, we are subjected to the aural awakening of the “fight or flight” instinct.

“Random Sparks” brings us back to a safe haven, giving us hope that there will be no other dangerous interludes until we reach the conclusion of our travels. But, just as suddenly as we feel that sense of calm, we are reminded by the dire melodies in “Collider” that the dangers we face are still all too real.

In the end, the pace of the excursion slows down, the dangers melt away, and again we begin to feel that perhaps this odyssey will have a positive completion after all. “Winds of Elysium Planitia” puts me in mind of The Man Who Fell To Earth when we are given glimpses of Thomas Jerome Newton’s suffering family back on his native planet. The final track, similar in scope by looking back on the previous tracks, evoke feelings of  both relief and sadness—relief that the trip is over and we are still breathing, and sadness, because of a nagging feeling that the world will somehow be forever different.

I am so pleased to have had a chance to interview Brian Dickson to provide some first-hand insight into the origins of this lush collection’s creation. I hope you will enjoy reading what I learned about this man and what he has to say about his exquisite music.

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MissParker: I can sit here and list all of the influences that I hear in this brilliant music—from Brian Eno to Gary Numan to Underworld to Jean-Michel Jarre…but my opinions would be irrelevant. Let’s hear it from you–who are your influences and why?
BD: I’d say my biggest influencers are Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre. In the early 80s I lived in a very remote northern town so my exposure to music was mostly through the one local radio station that played top 40 pop and country music. One day, I was digging through my older brother’s stuff and came across a cassette of Force Majeure, and listening to it was a life-changing epiphany. I’d never had an emotional response to music until hearing this. It wasn’t the harsh “bleeps & bloops” synthesizers that I’d heard in so many b-movies and radio shows, but instead an incredible audio landscape that took me on a fantastical journey. I became obsessed with finding more music like this and pretty much anything that pushed boundaries.

Thanks to radio shows like CBC’s “Brave New Waves” with Brent Bambury and CFNY (under the tenure of David Marsden), a whole new world of musical influence was made possible. Listening to bootleg cassette copies of CFNY played a large part in me moving to Toronto.

MissParker: I’m terrified of flying, but I do it out of necessity. Listening to “Approach” made me smile because it actually reminds me of the airplane’s approach to the runway for a landing. What is the true meaning behind that song?
BD: First, I love hearing about how you interpreted this song as it was always a dream of mine to create something that sparks the listeners’ imagination.

Certain sounds or songs create a type of visualization for me.  When composing, I often start with a single sound and build on it, twisting and overlaying a few other sounds. At some point a scene forms in my mind and I often end up naming the track whatever was in this imaginary scene. In this case I had come up with the album name “Ergosphere” and thought it fitting that this song would be the approach into the Ergosphere and beyond.

MissParker: “Indifference Waves” has a lovely build-up to the brief spoken word segment. It puts me in mind of Gary Numan when he was

(c) Brian Dickson

experimenting with techno in the 90s and ended up keeping it as his signature sound. Then it takes off into a fabulous confluence of electronics and raw drumbeat. I love that combination. What inspired it?
BD: “Indifference Waves” was born of a sample from a 1964 episode of Danger Man in which John Drake (played by the outstanding Patrick McGoohan) finds himself in a surreal village called Colony Three. Many speculate that this episode was the precursor to the iconic science-fiction series The Prisoner which finds McGoohan imprisoned in a mysterious village where everyone is known only as a number.

“Indifference” describes my interpretation of The Prisoner, which is the importance of questioning the status quo. I’m finding that naming the songs is almost as much fun as making them!

MissParker: There seem to be very brief, if any, breaks between most of the tracks. Was this collection meant to flow like a single soundtrack, or are the songs meant to stand on their own?
BD: Some of Ergosphere was composed with no gaps between the tracks, but I’ve found that some streaming platforms or audio playback software inject small breaks between songs. Spotify seems to play the album “gapless” while others are hit and miss. I’ve noted that artists like Jean-Michel Jarre now release large single track “continuous play” version of their albums to avoid this issue. I personally love continuous play albums as they seem keep the listener’s imagination and mood flowing throughout.

MissParker: I played a lot of Jean-Michel Jarre in the late 90s early 00s when I was a corporate trainer. I used his music specifically to soothe my classes while they were testing on the stuff that I’d taught them. I hear some of his influence in “Flight to Tadoule.” What is your take on Jarre’s music? Did he inspire you to create your own version of electronica and how?
BD: Jean Michel-Jarre is influential on almost everything I produce. In my opinion, Jarre has found the precise balance of classical composure and technology. His bold approach to musical and performance experimentation is inspirational. I was fortunate enough to go to Jarre’s amazing 2017 performance in Toronto and it was better than I could’ve ever imagined.

Jarre inspired me to start simple and build on it. If I ever got the chance to speak with Jarre, I always imagine that his advice would be “There’s no wrong way to do it.” Sometimes when working on a track I will literally ask myself, “What would Jarre do at this point?” which always seems to get me past the block.

MissParker: “Clearwater” has a remarkable intro that flows seamlessly from the close of “Flight to Tadoule.” It reminds me of a DJ making the perfect segue between songs during a radio broadcast. Were the two songs created in tandem purposely?
BD: Unbeknownst to everyone (until now) “Clearwater” and “Flight to Tadoule” were composed in memory of my mother and father. My mother lived her final years in Clearwater, a scenic town in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. Her last years there were the happiest of her life and it was always a pleasure to see her so happy there. One of my fondest memories of my father was when he took me on a flight in a Cessna to a very remote northern community called Tadoule Lake. I felt it fitting to have these songs sound very different on their own but also be somewhat connected.

MissParker: Up until “Bad Gram,” the songs seem to have a laid back and dreamy quality to them. Then all of a sudden we’re thrown into a random foot chase with pursuers hot on our heels. The urgency carries over into “Influence,” although not as intense. What brings on this change of mood?
BD: I really enjoy your interpretation of “Bad Gram,” and I think I hit the mark on this one! As the song was being composed, I started imagining a scene from a Michael Mann movie, like some of the amazing instrumentals that Jan Hammer had done for Miami Vice. After the lulling jazz-bar sounds of “Daydream on Pacific Avenue” I wanted to create an unexpected spike of adrenaline for the listener to snap them back to the rest of the album.

MissParker: I mentioned in the introduction how some of this collection reminded me of David Bowie in “The Man Who Fell To Earth.” My only complaint about the film is that 45 years later, the soundtrack (which Bowie did NOT compose) presents as a bit “cheesy.” Your music on Ergosphere, however, is as timeless as space itself. That said, did you have a “movie” playing in your head when you created these tracks?
BD: That is another really big compliment on many levels! I didn’t set out with a movie in mind for the overall album, and I think the timeless aspect is a result of a personal preference I have for simplicity in both the composure and instruments being used. My good friend Rob Stuart (of SLAVE to the SQUAREwave) and I discuss this philosophy at length, that so many of the timeless classics were created using equipment that was greatly limited by today’s standards. I believe these limits are what ultimately demanded the most creativity and best performances from the artists at the time. I used to think that because I had a 16-track recorder, I needed to make use of them all. (Maybe to get my money’s worth?) Now, my studio has the ability to mix and record over 1,000 tracks, but I generally use 10 tracks for most songs, which encourages me to focus on melody and dynamics.

(c) Brian Dickson

MissParker: Is all of the writing and production solely yours, or do you have people that you collaborate with?
BD: For my first album, I made a conscious decision to go it alone as I ultimately wanted to own the outcome and find my own groove, so to speak. I did the writing and recording over the course of a few months. While the composing and recording was the fun and easy part, I was really struggling when it came time to master the album. Mastering is the final step in the process where the entire album is stitched-together and balanced for harmonics and volume levels. I’m thankful for being able to lean on Rob Stuart for advice during this journey as he has decades of experience in music composure and production. These great conversations turned have led to Rob and I collaborating on some new tracks.

It’s early days but we are both really excited about the outcomes and are looking forward to sharing them.

MissParker: Do you perform live? If so, where can people have the pleasure of being enveloped by your music in a live performance?
BD: I haven’t spent the time yet to research live performance in this genre…I’ve simply been having too much fun creating the music! I think my gateway into live performance would be through that previously mentioned collaboration. It would be the experience of a lifetime no matter what the venue.

Missparker: Where can people sample and ultimately purchase your music?
BD: For the latest information about Colony Three and to sample new music in the making, visit:

Instagram (@colony_three)
Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ColonyThree/ )

Colony Three music is available on all of the major streaming and download services including Amazon, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and YouTube:

Missparker: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your music and your thoughts with us.
BD: Thank you for your support and for such a thought-provoking and fun interview experience!

I love your site and what you’re doing for all artists both new and established!