RIP: Legendary Canadian Producer & Engineer Nick Blagona

Nick Blagona, one of the most successful Canadian record producers and engineers over the last 50 years, has passed away at the age of 74. He died on Jan. 4 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, ON due to complications from kidney, heart and lung diseases.

Throughout his remarkable career, Nick worked with countless legendary artists as an engineer, producer, or mastering engineer, including with Cat Stevens, Chaka Kahn & Rufus, The Police, The Bee Gees, Nazareth, Chicago, Deep Purple, as well as many Canadian acts on the rise, like April Wine, Kim Mitchell, The Tea Party, and Alexisonfire.

Born Nicolai Nicolaiavich Blagonadegny in Bavaria, he immigrated as a child with his family to Montreal following World War II.

“I grew up in Montreal. I arrived in 1950 on a Red Cross boat from war-ravaged Europe. We moved to the Montreal area. I was mesmerized by what I heard on the radio here in 1953, but 1954 was a revolution. There was rock ‘n’ roll and R&B,” Blagona recalled in a 2017 interview with “That’s what enthralled me when I was a kid, thinking, “How do they get their sound?” I kept building speaker cabinets to make my stereo sound better. I would save up money to buy turntables. I bought a lot of Heathkit [stereo equipment], where you would buy the kit and the manual and put it together. When I built a tape recorder, that was it for me.”

After first going to England to kickstart his career in music recording in 1964, it was while back in Montreal to visit his parents that he meant his soon-to-be studio partner André Perry and they discussed building a new studio. That would become the iconic Le Studio near Morin Heights in the Laurentians in Quebec, which hosted infamous recording sessions by Rush and many others.

In a lovely tribute on his blog following Nick’s death, his close friend Michael Lee Jackson recalled visiting Nick in the hospital in his final days. “When I arrived at the hospital a few days ago when Nick was still semi-lucid I asked him how he was doing. ‘Dying,’” Jackson recalls him responding. “I said, ‘On the way here today I was thinking about the immortality of your life's work. Records you’ve made have been threads in the lives of millions of people you haven’t even met. Those records will always be played. Your work will be in the time capsule, I’m sure of it.’ Nick smiled and said ‘that’s pretty cool.’ ‘Damn right,’ I said.”

In recent years, Nick reopened Psychotropic Studios in Caledonia, ON and worked as a mastering engineer out of Metalworks Studios in Mississauga, ON. Throughout his entire life, according to his many close friends, Nick maintained an undying love of music and the artists who make it, and a passion for living life to the fullest.

He will be dearly missed but the music he’s touched will live on forever.

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Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician and Canadian Music Trade magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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