Recording studios operate unlike almost any other business. Their reputation and sustainability are directly based on the music they touch. You won’t see any advertisements in newspapers for recording studios. Word of mouth is key and musicians sharing their experiences. Referring other artists is crucial. This week we take a look at two studios that are outside the Twin Cities. Both serve important roles in supporting Minnesota musicians.
“If you had a sign above every studio door saying ‘This Studio is a Musical Instrument’ it would make such a different approach to recording.” Brian Eno
Studio 65 – Ham Lake
Christopher Furst opened Studio 65 in 2016 after spending years as a professional guitar player. The 1,600 square foot studio started as a place to store his instruments. After collaborating on writing with other songwriters, he transformed the space by knocking down walls and installing wiring for the studio. His decision not to move to Nashville influenced the construction of the studio by adding three isolation rooms. The Nashville style is catered to recording live bands all together in the same room, while keeping the loud instruments like amps and organs in separate rooms.
Christopher mainly works with singer-songwriters that don’t necessarily have a band. They’ll come to him looking for musicians to collaborate with and help them with their songs. Christopher excels in this “connecting of the dots” role by helping find people that believe in the artists’ music.
Studio 65 is also setup with everything already microphoned up and ready to go, making it easy to walk in, ready to roll. The idea is to give the artist an assortment of tools that they can just start writing with without having to think about the equipment.
There are some large benefits to Studio 65 being located in Ham Lake. There’s something about going somewhere to do your work. It forces you away from distractions, puts you in a more driven mindset, and becomes that island away from the world where you can create music.
Although Christopher started out in a home studio with laptop recording, he grew to favor the studio. He notes that the major importance of a studio is collaboration. It’s hard to understand that you can’t put 20 people in your basement until you need to do that. Getting people together in a space to write songs inspires collaboration and puts you in an interpersonal headspace. It’s the reason businesses put people together in offices. Studio 65 is a comfortable destination studio that encourages putting people behind the music.
Carpet Booth Studios – Rochester
Although only three years old, you could say that Carpet Booth Studios started years ago with Zach Zurn’s desire to record music. In high school, his friends loved writing songs and trying their best to record in the basement, scrounging for carpet scraps to deaden the sound. Soon after this phase, he recorded some groups out of a makeshift space in downtown Rochester.
Word of mouth quickly spread to Winona, LaCrosse, Northern Iowa, and the surrounding areas that there was a space that people could go for quality recordings at an affordable price without having to venture up to the Twin Cities. With almost 3,000 square feet to record in, an exposed brick wall, and three isolation booths, Zach has turned his dream into reality.
Zach has a very unique production style. His sounds are modern, polished, and have character. It’s become a marketable trademark to audiences. He says that it starts with a lot of pre-production conversations with artists to understand how he can achieve their vision.
Beyond Zach lies some quirky benefits of using Carpet Booth Studios. Built in a former church building, they kept a baptismal tub in place. By throwing some room microphones up during sessions they can achieve a super trashy, fun little echo-chamber. This super pingy, darker spring reverb sound is something you just can’t duplicate in software.
The studio also features a huge lounge, full kitchen, and the ability to house people, as some of the classrooms have been renovated. This residential studio experience allows bands to save money by just buying groceries and living onsite, becoming immersed in the music with less distractions and traveling.
Zach champions that the most effective reason why you should pay a studio is the professional opinions that come with it. Most studios have nice gear, nice preamps, nice instruments, and nice engineers, but having a professional producer/engineer that can assist with production decisions is the most important thing. It allows the artist to trust in a direction, let go, and focus on writing and the performance.
Zach is definitely a producer who has learned how to engineer over the years, rather than the other way around. This gives him the important ability to offer musicians arrangement, instrumentation, and melodic ideas on how to strengthen the song. His intuitive knowledge of Carpet Booth Studios, how sound reacts, and creatively using reverb is what makes this Rochester location a destination.