Ghost in the machine

Ghost in the machine

Jinxy's Spanish wife, Ana, was diagnosed with cancer only two months after discovering she was pregnant with their first child

Peter Edgerton

Friday, 14 April 2023, 10:57

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'Check one-two." Jimmy Stephenson - 'Jinxy' to his friends - stepped back from the microphone and returned to the control room for some final technical tweaks. He was nervous. After such a long break from the studio, he felt quite rusty and detailed preparation would be everything. After all, it wasn't every day a star of the calibre of Javier Fernández came to record.

Strawberry Bear studios had been set up by Jinxy's father, Jeff, in Madrid in the 1980s and had caught the zeitgeist of the 'movida'. All the big names had recorded there and when Jeff died quite suddenly, his son had had to take the reins and guide the business through some tough times, including the financial crisis of 2008. Strawberry Bear offered a quality of sound and production that was unmatched in the capital and Jinxy liked to think his father would have been proud.

By 2015, business had been really booming and the future was looking bright. The following year, however, things took a tragic turn. Jinxy's Spanish wife, Ana, was diagnosed with cancer only two months after discovering she was pregnant with their first child. They closed the studio immediately and set about taking the greatest possible care of Ana, the doctors adapting their treatments to her vulnerable condition.

Thanks to Ana's indomitable spirit, the sterling work of medical staff and Jinxy's total devotion, her progress was quite remarkable and tests taken over the next few months showed a steady improvement until, in May, little Juan was born amid an unbridled flurry of fuss and joy on the part of both family members and hospital staff.

By the time things returned to anything like normal and Ana's latest tests had confirmed her ever-improving health, nearly eighteen months had passed and Jinxy finally felt it was time to re-open the studio. Word travelled fast and Javier Fernández, an old friend of his dad's, had insisted he be the first back to record at Strawberry Bear. He wanted to put some vocals over already prepared band tracks.

The hulking figure of the singer lumbered in through the studio door.

"So happy about your wife, brother," he growled. Jinxy just nodded and smiled.

"Let's go, brother. Let's get right to it."

Jinxy showed the singer through to the microphone before returning to his desk.

Javier leaned into the mic. "As your old man used to say, brother, 'Check one-two'."

Jinxy fired up the tracks Javier's band had pre-recorded, and the big man from Galicia put in a performance which left the sound engineer quite stunned by its emotional range.

"We can try all night but we won't get a better one than that. Next!"

Javier was on fire. Track after track fell at the first or second take until they'd wrapped up six songs in a little over three hours. It was time for a break. As Javier came through to the control room, the men exchanged perplexed glances. They'd both heard the same thing - "Check one-two."

It was a semi-whispered male voice, crackling with static, the words barely distinguishable.

"Check one-two."

It was even fainter this time.

"Don't worry - ghosts in the machine. It happens sometimes." Jinxy himself didn't sound too convinced, Javier certainly wasn't.

Break over, they snapped straight back to work and rattled off another three songs in under an hour.

Only Sueño Con Tu Voz was left now.

"Sueño - take o -"

"Check one-two."

This time the voice was a little stronger in the speakers, more urgent somehow.

"Check one-two."

Javier shook his head.

"That's not normal, brother. Sounds like some old recording of your dad's voice or something."

Jinxy wasn't listening. He'd heard it much more clearly this time. It wasn't "Check one-two" at all, rather "Check Juan, too."

The next few days were a blur of taxis and hospital appointments. Extensive tests on Juan revealed a small growth, almost certainly related to his mother's illness during her pregnancy.

Doctors were confident he'd make a full recovery.

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