Toronto Mike

Adapting to Recording COVID-19 Style

My last conventional recording of Toronto Mike'd was episode 596 and my guest was The Toronto Star's David Rider on a rather eerie Friday the 13th in March. Later that day I'd pick up the kids from school and we haven't been back since. That was almost 2.5 months ago.

David visited my home studio, but we didn't shake hands. I had implemented a no-contact rule that week. He received his beer, lasagna and sticker, and posed for the traditional photo. As you could guess, it's the most recent such photo on my phone.

David Rider and me

Through 596 episodes, I had a strong preference for recording in-person. I liked being with the person I was conversing with, reading their body language and looking into their eyes. Throughout the years I had made a few exceptions, first for Down Goes Brown who was in Ottawa, and later with Jesse and Gene who lived on the west coast, but they weren't nearly as fun. So I implemented a "no phoners" rule. The in-person recording was the Toronto Mike'd convention.

Then, on or about March 13th, everything changed. Guests were banned from my home studio and any future recordings would have to be recorded remotely. If I were going to keep Toronto Mike'd going, I'd have to smash my rule to smithereens.

The first week or so was a time of experimentation. Getting the audio right, finding the right platform, adapting to the new normal. I called my buddy Elvis for an ep, I spoke to my buddy Joe whose family was stuck in Asia, I called my buddy Soakley, and I closed that first week with a jam kicking with Stu Stone and Cam Gordon. We've been doing that every Friday since.


With that first week of trial and error under my belt, it was time to try and duplicate the standard #realtalk with a remote guest. I phoned Lorne Honickman, Skyped with Marc Weisblott, then Zoomed with Jim Van Horne. That episode with Jim was the first time I felt confident we could right the ship and pick up where we left off. But since my guests weren't visiting me, I could take advantage of the situation by talking to some people who don't live in the GTA.

The first person I thought of was Kish. Kish lives in California, and I had always wanted to have him on. Then I thought of Jody Vance, another highly sought after guest who lived far away, and Steven Page, who lives in upstate New York. Last week I spoke with Craig Northey and Brother Jake Edwards who both live in Vancouver, and today I record with Brother Bill, who lives in White Rock. A silver lining in a dark cloud.

When I record via Zoom, I can see my guest and can read their body language and eyes, and it's great fun! This was the case with Mike and Norm Wilner, Steve Paikin, Dan-e-o, Shad, Don Landry, Gene Valaitis, Donnovan Bennett, Ron Hawkins and Steve Smith. Next week I'll speak with Shirley McQueen and Dave Ransdorf.

With today's episode 650, I'll have recorded 54 episodes since the COVID-19 social distancing order came into effect. That's 8.31% of all Toronto Mike'd episodes. And believe it or not, there was a moment that weekend of March 14 that I considered shutting it down. I'm very glad I didn't.

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About Toronto Mike
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