Moving from Waking Studio to stay Uncomfortable in 2014

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Cheerful New Year, Everybody!

I’m happy to say I shut the doors and turned in my keys to Waking Studio at the end of 2013.

I’ve always intended to move studios every few years to keep me fresh & uncomfortable. I don’t want to get stuck making the same sounds again and again.

For this coming year I’ll be working out of 4 setups: Kawari Sound, Dr. Dog’s studio called B-Room, my home studio for a lot of mixing, and I’ve built a portable setup of mics and tube preamps to take out to cabins and beach houses for fun remote recording.

So far my 7 studios have been:

  1. Indre Studios (interned 1 year)
  2. Soundgun (I found this space on Craigslist was there 1 year. Through a surprise coincidence it later became Meth Beach/American Diamond)
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  3. My apartment at 22nd and Fitzwater. I did a lot of theater sound design here.
  4. My apartment at 2nd and Arch (sooooo wonderful. Among many other albums I made Man Man’s first album there & mixed Easy Beat there)
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  5. Larry Gold’s Studio – I assisted there for 1-2 years.
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  6. Meth Beach/American Diamond – Dr. Dog and I moved into this 1 room studio and spent a few years making We All BelongTakers & LeaversFate, &  Shame, Shame. I got to make so many albums there including The Sheepdogs, Drink Up Buttercup, Floating Action, Man Man, Lotus… Luckily, both Dr. Dog & I got so busy that we needed our own studios. A studio became available to rent near my house so I moved into it and named it Waking Studio. Dr. Dog move out about a year later. It became quite beautiful towards the end. The studio was taken over by Toy Soldiers and some other bands. It lives on as a place to make music.
    American Diamond / Meth Beach
  7. Waking Studio: I moved into this studio at 1 Old Bridge Road near the river with a 3 year lease, rearranged it slightly, painted, added some Christmas lights and started working.
    Moses Atwood

I’ve no interest in building up a studio that exists for years and years and becomes reliable for a particular sound. And I do love the idea of finding a space, giving it a name, making some records there then taking it apart. This way I don’t get stuck using the same techniques over & over and the artists who worked there were part of something temporary and unique.

If there’s any legacy growing that should be for the quality of my work, not for where I work.

Before I moved out I went and met with the guys who run Kawari and I think it’s outstanding. The instruments, mics, and environment are abundant & beautiful. They treat their work & their artists the way I do. They’re building a beautiful place for out of town artists to stay. Then I was talking to my guid friend Scott McMicken and suggested we try having me also work out of Dr. Dog’s studio. Brian Mctear has also welcomed me to Miner Street.

Kawari control
(above is Kawari’s control room)
Kawari amps
(above are Kawari’s amps)
(above is Dr. Dog’s new studio)

Waking Studio was a really good experience. When I moved in I was nervous no one would come! I’d been living with Dr. Dog for years and I wasn’t fooling myself; I knew their rising star was bringing a lot of work to the studio for me. So this was also a moment to see if I could build something that would work on my own. My wife & I were about to have a baby and I wondered how would that affect recording? Would I have to tell bands I can’t record at night? Would bands be willing to wake up in the morning? My manager Chris worked his *tail* off here and it went pretty well, kinda rough, really well, ok, & great. At the old American Diamond studio there was a prolific carpenter below us so his saws and things would be going at all hours. Thus, I could never use a room mic. Everything had to be close mic’d out of necessity. At Waking that was not the case. I could use room mics and it was such fun to play with how the instruments bleed into the different mics. The Moses Atwood record is all built off bleed. It was all cut live so the drum room sound is the bleed into Moses’ vocal and dobro mics. On the Corporal Spirits album we crammed 12 people into the studio to record live… so everything on that record is controlled bleed. The drum room sound is from the shaker & tambourine mics. The piano is in the acoustic guitar mic. The electric guitars are in the vibraphone mic.

The setting for Waking Studio was beautiful. We were right on the Schuylkill River and we bought a canoe to take out on warm days. I was able to walk to work and my daughter’s daycare was next door to the studio. You could play drums 24/7 and there was a great restaurant next door.

I was very fortunate to meet and start to work with Ron Gallo. We started making a Toy Soldiers album together and it took many months of recording a few days here and there. He & I just got along very well and he brought several other albums to me. Because of Ron I got to work with The Lawsuits, Up The Chain, Ali Wadsworth, and maybe Kalob Griffin band. Toward the end of 2012 I was working on so many albums simultaneously that I had to find help. I found Joe Bisirri through Jon Low’s recommendation and I was able to bring in Joe for most of the following year. I brought him on to engineer but it turned out he’s a wonderful guitarist, arranger, producer and mixer. I hired him to co-produce Ali Wadsworth’s album, as well as record & mix The Devil Whale and Holy Ghost Tent Revival while I produced them. I learned so much about recording guitars from Joe and ways to record & treat drums that hadn’t occurred to me. I was always adding echoes and such to drums to make the recording feel expansive. Joe taught me to get the expansiveness from the melodic instruments like guitars and to leave the drums dry and close. When I listen to Radiohead I can hear that same approach. Joe pretty much wrote and recorded all of the guitar parts on Ali Wadsworth’s album then became her live guitarist & musical director. He later joined The Lawsuits as live guitarist. His guitar recordings are so pure. They would sound just right and it would just be the guitar, one pedal, a tiny amp with one mic, and no plugins. My guitars are inevitably doubled, panned, and have a few plugins going.

 

I had a lot of help putting Waking Studio together. My close friend Matt Zumbo helped me actually move in and talked through ideas of how it should be. My partner Carol listened to me talk about the studio every day. Every day. My father came and rebuilt the bathroom and built a wall or two.

It didn’t look good when we moved in…
Ouch
But it cleaned up well…
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Having my daughter definitely changed work and what it means. There’s no more time for messing around. She wakes me up at 6am no matter what day it is. So I can still go out to shows but I have to be strategic about it. I don’t hang out in the studio messing around anymore. I go in and get the work done then go home.
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So why move? At the end of 3 years I decided I’d had a lot of success at Waking Studio and wanted to move on. I’m particularly proud of three albums I made there: The Maybe Boys, Cool Cool Cool, and Corporal Spirits. I think those came out exactly as I & the artists hoped even while they were challenging & complicated to execute. The other part of my work that I love doing is mixing for artists that are all around the world. Artists will record at a local studio or at home then send it to me to mix, arrange, and inject some character. I love doing this and I’ve found ways to do it and have that high level of communication. That doesn’t require a big studio so I can mix these at my new home studio. I really looking forward to completing The Districts album in 2014, traveling more to work, and working on some more unusual projects. If you’d like to make something together this year please get in touch.

The albums I made at Waking Studio:

Toy Soldiers – The Maybe Boys
The Lawsuits – Cool Cool Cool
Tall Tall Trees – Moment
Up The Chain – Seeds and Thorns
Bigtree Bonsai
Ali Wadsworth – Ali Wadsworth
Moses Atwood – Big Bright Boat
Grandchildren – Golden Age
The Districts – forthcoming LP
Joshua James – From The Top Of Willamette Mountain
Lotus – Lotus
Spaceship Aloha – Universal Mahalo 1
The Devil Whale – forthcoming LP
Holy Ghost Tent Revival – forthcoming LP
Hello Echo – forthcoming LP
Don McCloskey – Corporal Spirits

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