JPJ Audio chief Eric Robinson died on November 11 from complications with cancer. He had just turned 67 and had retired to Port Douglas.
Eric was the best known pioneer of Australian live production, having taken control of Jands in 1970 from its founders. Eric and the Mulholland brothers Paul and David drove Jands hard, quickly taking the lead as the premium supplier of live audio and lighting for concerts and events.
Jands were there at the start of many technologies; the advent of horn loaded two, three and four way PA systems; and the first multicores allowing a mix position in the audience instead of side of stage. They manufactured dimmer racks for Strand Electric.
Eric forged alliances with international firms like Clair Brothers, and networked touring acts to fast establish a reputation for professional delivery of audio and lighting systems.
The 1970’s were difficult times with massive import tariffs forcing the cost of imported equipment sky high. Bands played in venues with hostile staff in a climate of confrontation. Rock and pop music was regarded as ‘anti authority’, a real generation gap existed. This environment made building a business like Jands hard work.
Eric stared down competition with ruthless determination. Cashmore Sound, Artist Concert Tours, Sound on Stage, Concert Lighting Systems, Troy Balance Corporation, WRM and Arena Technical Services all competed against Eric but only Eric prevailed in the concert arena. Jands reached market dominance quickly, and expanded year on year into the 1980’s.
Because of the high tariffs and sales tax it was necessary to build as much as possible locally. Jands designed and built their own mixing consoles, crossovers, amplifiers, dimmer racks, speaker cabinets, road cases, par cans and lighting hardware. They designed their own composite speaker system, the Concord. This equipment was used by the top bands in the world.
Eric won the Vari*Lite agency which gave Jands an unassailable position through the 1980’s as a one stop supplier. He would negotiate hard, play hard, and sometimes take chances. But he always managed to deliver on time, and maintained professional production standards.
Jands acquired the JBL agency, and grew into two separate firms – Jands Electronics handling the manufacturing and wholesale distribution, Jands Concert Productions handling hire and concert work.
Eric married Patti Mostyn, who was the eminent rock and pop publicist of the 70’s and 80’s. They moved in the ‘rock royalty’ circle and knew everyone worth knowing. They have one daughter, Tara.
In the late 1980’s Eric sold Jands Concert Productions to Samuelsons PLC in the UK, and took up a position as head of production there. After 18 months the frustrations of trying to get a public company to understand the philosophy of running a personalized service company became too much and Eric returned to Australia to run the Australian operation for Samuelsons.
In 1990 Eric and his partners at Jands repurchased the concert production company from Samuelsons – for just half what they had been paid. The equipment was repainted and the firm rebranded as Jands Production Services. Eric saw off several more competitors, and resumed doing what he did best – making deals and running a production firm.
Eric saw the potential of theatre, and Jands made solid inroads into that market which today forms a respectable part of their audio rental business. He sold the lighting side of the company to Bytecraft, and became the first rental firm in the region to adopt line array technology in 2000.
This year Eric was honored with the Sue Nattrass Award at the 2015 Helpmann Awards for his long standing commitment to the live performance industry.
He considered the company’s in-house training scheme to be one of his greatest achievements. The scheme has been running for over 25 years and his staff are recognised globally for their technical prowess and professionalism.
He had a reputation for technical excellence, reliability, safety, business acumen, and his endeavor for perfection. Eric was endearingly successful, and had an extremely close business partnership with Paul Mulholland where they played to their strengths, often with a ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine that was devastatingly effective.
Eric is survived by wife Patti, daughter Tara and younger brothers Edward and Peter.
• The family will hold a private funeral
MICHAEL CHUGG, ERIC and GLENN SHORROCK (Photos above by Bob King)
Photo below courtesy of Jim Blackfoot