The first time I ever walked into a "real" studio

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The first time I ever walked into a "real" studio

Post by joelpatterson » Thu Dec 16, 2004 10:01 pm

...end of the '70's in San Francisco. The Broadcast Arts program at San Francisco State set up the tour. Not sure where it was, but we were treated royally. Someone came out and told us about the magnificent new automated tape machine that had worked wonders on a Neil Young album... Time Fades Away? But then it had chewed up the tapes for Tonight's The Night. We were ushered in for the tracking of the horn section on a new tune--maybe a novelty sort of really--called "Vader's Back"--kind of trading on the latest Star Wars release. I never heard it after that but it was very catchy. "Vader's back, he's returned, he's ready to burn... Vader's back!" Pumping, thumping, robot-walk beat. The horn player's milled around until it was time, and then they blared their hearts out. The "guy whose song it was" was a black guy, who was flying on the spirituality of the moment and his achievement, which was pretty awesome there under the dim lights. An old white guy engineered. On playback, the white guy touched a knob, moved it ever so slightly, and this was done with an appreciation for the black guy's eager concern, and they both compromised on the teeniest adjustment, alive to the delicacy of it all.

I had no idea what the adjustment was, and it was one of those moments when the comedy of the whole situation, the straining, pointed attention to an invisible detail was absolutely absurd.

But to say I was a sarcastic and disrespectful teenager is to tone it down quite a bit.
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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by Rob Christensen » Thu Dec 16, 2004 11:01 pm

Great topic idea!

The first time I ever walked into a "real" studio was to spend a couple hours to watch a friend of a friend make a record. My friend was the bass player and his friend was the main guy / songwriter / singer in the band. At one point main guy wanted to double-track his vocal on the choruses of the song they were working on. The engineer, who apparently was also wearing a producer hat, told main guy that it wasn't a good idea, and that "no one does that anymore." Main guy just went along with it. I, of course, didn't agree with that, but kept my mouth shut as I was only a guest. That was just one thing that happened that day that rubbed me wrong about that engineer & studio.

Thankfully, the second time I ever walked into a "real" studio was to meet Larry Crane for the first time, at Jackpot back in '97. If I remember correctly, Sean Croghan was laying down guitar overdubs for the Junior High record. That second studio visit left a much better taste in my mouth.

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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by brianroth » Fri Dec 17, 2004 2:13 am

hmm! <g>

Circa 1970...

I was 16 in 1970, and Benson Sound was the local/hip 8-track room. I see that my friend Steve was wearing the "rad" pants from that era.

I also see plenty of fiberglass on the gobos....



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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by Dot » Fri Dec 17, 2004 10:58 am

My "first time" when in 1978. I was 15 or 16 years old. Big MCI console, 2" 16-track machine, Urei monitors the size of refrigerators. Lexicon Prime Time and Eventide. I was hooked! I ended up taking a 6-week recording course at that studio, and after the course - I just kept finding reasons to be there. I'd a set up mics, roll cables, roll joints, go out for food. I ended up becoming an engineer and client there.
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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by Rick Hunter » Fri Dec 17, 2004 11:05 am

maybe 1998 or so. I was going to record a few songs with some band I was in. The dude had a Ampex and a trident board. It was way too expensive and I wasnt that good, so we went home and begged our parents for a four track.

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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by andyg666 » Fri Dec 17, 2004 11:23 am

My first "real" studio experience (what, a 424 in the bedroom doesn't count??) was back in 1994 while at UMass Amherst. My band at the time, the Colonel Mustard Trio, went into Slaughterhouse Studios (props to cowtrax) to record a demo. We had heard Mark Miller was the best guy around--we had heard the Jaya the Cat recordings and were sold. Unfortunately, Mark didn't engineer our session, but we had a good time anyway! At that time I think they had a mackie 32?8 bus and a 1" 16 track tascam.

The engineer for the session was John Lebhar. He was totally cool and competant. but somehow, he managed to record the guitar in such a fashion that all of the main rhythm tracks were only able to be heard in the right speaker. thinking back to it now, there is really no way for this to happen in the recording process--there must have been a glitch in the channel on the board that he didn't feel like working around... he said there was no way to fix it, i think he blamed it on a bad cable or something. Now back at this point, i really had no idea about the technical side of recording, so i was like, "bummer..." i should have been like "well, then i'm going to re-record all of my guitar tracks on your dime." but... well... i didn't say that.

anyway, i mean this in no way to dis slaughterhouse. i definitely think it is the best studio in western mass, hands down. i recorded there again in 2001 and it was fucking amazing. best sounding recording of any of my music ever. the difference was mark was engineering that time... well that and the entire setup of the studio was different too. ADATs, awesome digital console, tons of new outboard gear... unfortunately the producer rushed the hell out of everything (he told mark we were doing 3 or 4 songs and we ended up doing eight) so it never got properly mixed... someday i hope to save up enough cake to bring the stuff back to mark and give him ample time to mix it...

ok, i'm rambling and off topic... a bit slow at work today, can you tell??


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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by HuskerDude » Fri Dec 17, 2004 12:05 pm

The first real "major" studio I ever saw was Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. Quite the intro to the world of serious studios. The studios were great, the gear was mind boggling, and the Foley room was incredible (esp. since we had Mr. Foleys granddaughter with us on the tour). But the most amazing part was the storage room upstairs. Multitrack and stereo masters of thousands of records done there, and at least a good portion of the Stax catalogue, as well as a bunch of classic jazz records. Wandering the aisles and seeing everything from Parliment, to Otis Redding (unreleased Otis, even), to Coltrane and Monk was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I feel privleged to this day to have done it.

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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by ledogboy » Fri Dec 17, 2004 12:18 pm

Yikes- speaking of Fantasy...
My first time in a recording studio was when I was about 10- this is 1985 or so. I was in a Boys Chorus here in SF and we were asked to go to Fantasy to do a recording session with Neil Young. I didn't know who the hell he was at the time, but I remember cursing the people who made us sing the same boring four fucking lines of the chorus about 500 times. To this day, I really don't know what the hell they were doing in that control room. It's not like we weren't singing in pitch- we were really, really good. I don't remember mics being moved around. I think Neil was going through a phase where he wanted copious amounts of dubbing on everything. Even though it wasn't that much fun, I thought the studio was really cool. I'm a Neil Young fan, and I still think I've only heard one of the two songs we did once since that day- on the radio... while I was on tour with my band. We all laughed at how bad it was. Not one of his stronger moments. Still a hell of an introduction to recording, and a fun drunken tour story.

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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by bunny » Fri Dec 17, 2004 12:33 pm

maybe some minor studios... but real enough:

first: i was a small kid in memphis and my dad was tracking the voice spots in a fancy studio for a radio program that ran in the south. he did most of the narrative, but made my mom do some too. "Elvis, King of Rock". i still have some 1/4" copies of those programs somewhere.

second: sergay's recording emporium, berkeley, california. tons of punk bands recorded there (grimple, spitboy, filth, screeching weasel, etc.). i was probably 15, we recorded a million songs, overdubbed vocals, and mixed the damn thing in one day. very cheap gear, but the studio ran fine.

third: house of faith, palo alto, california. bart thurber's palo alto studio, since demolished (he's in oakland now?)... he was the shit for a while, cheap, good sound, awesome guy. i think he was recording on 1/2" 16 track at the time.

fourth: razor's edge, san francisco, california. ok here's a major one. majorly god damn ridiculous. the rock n roll engineer was more interested in telling us over and over where kurt cobain sat than getting any sort of good sound...
"and kurt just did his guitar parts and then passed out back there."
"yeah, cool. can we lose the ten thousand pounds of reverb on the drums?"
"dudes, i know what i'm doing. see the snakeskin vest? see the lack of a shirt under it? i'm PRODUCING you guys. reverb sells, BROS."
3 songs, one long day, $800. worthless.

so now i wear the snakeskin vest. i might put tassles on it!

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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by nipsy » Fri Dec 17, 2004 12:37 pm

couple of years out of high school (early eighties) my friend bryce got me schlepp gig at baby monster in nyc (old locale).i was clueless. got high w/ steve burgh.

got fired several months later, right around christmas as i remember.

im still clueless.

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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by trodden » Fri Dec 17, 2004 12:41 pm

bunny wrote:maybe some minor studios... but real enough:

second: sergay's recording emporium, berkeley, california. tons of punk bands recorded there (grimple, spitboy, filth, screeching weasel, etc.). i was probably 15, we recorded a million songs, overdubbed vocals, and mixed the damn thing in one day. very cheap gear, but the studio ran fine.

Nice!! what band were you in at the time? I grew up on all the bay area punk, mixed with the anarcho stuff from the UK.. living in Kansas, the bay area seemed like punk rock heaven.

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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by thirdworldlover » Fri Dec 17, 2004 1:09 pm

Recorded almost exactly four years ago at Inner Ear with Don Zientera. Great big tape machine, stuffed animals strewn about the live room, the closet wall signed by nearly everyone who had tracked at that location, the walls covered with Dischord releases. That night was the first snow of the year in DC, and the first time my drummer had ever been in real SNOW, good enough for snowball fights. There's a picture on the wall to the left of the control room, just tuning up, but it came out very well so Don put it up.

Was amazing just to be in the space that had birthed so many albums I look up to, let alone put stuff to tape there.

Great thread....


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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by JGriffin » Fri Dec 17, 2004 2:32 pm

I think the first time I thought I was going into a "real" studio was Campo Studio in Detroit. It was owned by Choker Campbell, who was a Motown horn player and leader of the Motown touring band for awhile. Our drummer's dad was his lawyer and did a deal where we'd get studio time in lieu of Choker paying him for legal services...or something. I was never quite sure what the arrangement was. And I was never sure at what point the barter stopped and the charging for studio time began. All I know is we called up one day to schedule more studio time and heard "now waitaminit, you guys owe us a lot of money..." Whoops. Um, we'll call you back...

The studio was a trip, though. The walls and floors were covered in this burnt-orange carpet with an 8-foot Anheuser-Busch logo every ten feet. There was no central heat so the place was heated with kerosene lamps. So many cigarettes were smoked there that if you put your hand down on any flat surface it came up sticky. Between those last two facts our keyboard player wound up in the Emergency Room after the first day of tracking with a severe asthma attack. All they recorded until our rock band came along was R&B stuff, so when we walked in they said, "put your drum machine on the counter here, and we'll plug your guitars direct into the board over here..." Um, no. How's about miking a drum kit and a couple of amps, dude? Of course they had no gobos, so we ended up setting the amps on either side of a big bass bin they had lying around to get some separation (something we vaguely knew about from reading books about bands and stuff, and convinced the engineer to try). Dunno what the board was, but the tape machine was a 2" 16-track that they did not tech themselves. They'd pay a guy to come in and do it, and most times they could only afford for him to do a few channels at a time (I don't think I could make this up). We showed up for our third session and were told "you have to re-record all your bass guitar because we got the bass track re-aligned and it turns out all that stuff is in the mud."

Of course, I was eighteen and all our songs were shit, now that I listen back to the only surviving cassette of rough mixes. We used to talk about ransoming the tapes and mixing all that stuff, but I'm sure the tapes are loooong since gone (and the studio as well, since Campbell died years ago).

My fondest memory was Campbell telling all of us impressionable young men that after the session he was going to go out, hire a prostitute and "lighten my ball load." Charming.
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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by djimbe » Fri Dec 17, 2004 2:36 pm

1990, I'm thinking. Idful Studio here in Chicago, with Brad Wood doing the work. I didn't really know from shinola about what I was looking at, but I was only there for a short evening doing percussion overdubs for a band that I then joined. I recall a pair of 1"16 track Fostex's. Idful's long gone, but I have the quadratic diffuser from the live room on the back wall of my control room now...
I thought this club was for musicians. Who let the drummer in here??

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Re: The first time I ever walked into a "real" stu

Post by jajjguy » Sat Dec 18, 2004 2:22 pm

in 1995 or so, i played a session (on cello) at Sound Techniques in Boston. very nice, spacious, well-equipped place, i think the artist (a friend of a friend of mine) was in there because some other friend of his was interning... we were there after hours, with a bunch of amateurs running the show.

i had had a couple bad smalltime recording experiences before that and thought that what i needed to do was make sure that they used a large diaphragm condensor (instead of small). well, he brought out a big old neumann tube mic, don't know which one. i was very impressed and was sure it would sound awesome.

problem was, no one had any idea how to properly mic a cello (including me, back then), and we didn't have any time to experiment. he placed it poorly (aimed at the neck-body joint, where you might mic an acoustic gtr), and we got a very thin wispy sound, totally the opposite of the warm hugeness i was expecting.

once again, ignorance and haste trump awesome gear.


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