One thing the corona-virus hasn’t affected is the desire for musicians to create. We’ve seen online concerts, live streaming performances to demo new songs, and creative ways for collaboration to happen during these unique times. This insurgence of expression is promising and continues to keep us connected.
Recording studios have continued to be a resource during these times by recording in smaller groups and collaborating through the internet. The ability to keep music alive through creative measures are now new opportunities to support recording studios.
“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
Jake Carlson has been the house engineer and studio manager at Defhaus Studios for five years. He’s found his niche in helping with singer-songwriters to build and arrange songs. Everything starts simple, oftentimes by listening to the songs on acoustic guitars and allowing his passion to take hold. He says that making the foundation as great as it can be, before you start adding instruments and production tricks, is crucial to hearing the direction of the song.
Jake is a textbook example of using the studio as a musical instrument as well. He loves working with distortion in subtle ways. He focuses on adding harmonics and compression in the studio instead of doing that after the source has been recorded. The performance studio features “clouds” that hang above the room. Each have the ability to move up and down over the space, naturally adding a compressed sound. There are also huge wheeled gobos that can be rolled around to affect the room sound.
“That’s really important to me to not have people walk in here and be intimidated by anything. I just want it to be a comfy space to hang out and make records,” he says.
Defhaus is like a lot of great studios in town. They have a great selection of equipment, a superb sounding live room, a smaller isolation vocal booth, and plenty of cozy couches. But the depth of what makes Defhaus great comes from the instruments and amps lining the walls. With two drum kits, an unique 1908 Steinway piano, and a lower level tracking space, the studio is multifaceted with so many uses. The control room features a prestigious analog Trident mixing console.
Defhaus Studio revels in its acoustically designed room, an advantage which Jake says is the reason any artist should want to use a professional recording studio over recording at home. He often uses room microphones set up in the hallway, downstairs, and even in the bathroom to blend the overall sound of the instrument. He also believes there’s something magical with tracking a full band together. The musicians will play off of each other more, and adding in the room microphones gives you a wider image for mixing and conveying the soul of the song.
Jake’s rate is $75 an hour, but at a $400 rate per day, there’s a clear budget advantage of working in blocks. This gives the musicians time to flesh out ideas and sounds, all at an affordable rate.
Danny O’Brien’s list of work reads like a who’s who of Minneapolis artists. Meg Kirsch, Al Church, Kari Arnett, M French, and Now, Now are just a few of the people that have trusted Hot Dad Labs for their craft. Danny shares that one of the main things that sets his studio apart from others is that it’s inside a home. From his experience this setting has helped immensely with an artist’s comfort level, which translates to better takes and recordings.
Danny doesn’t discriminate against any genres. Hip-hop, pop, Americana, and experimental are only some of the types of sounds he’s worked with, showing his ability to adapt. If he and an artist agree that he’s the right producer for the project, then he’s committed and invested in the music.
“Mutual trust and respect are an irreplaceable aspect of any recording session,” he says.
Hot Dad Labs is filled with a ton of studio tools to build and polish a song. There is one tool that stands above others, the custom built ToneTron tube pre-amps. The warm and vibrant character works on every sound they’ve thrown at them. Running an artist’s vocal through this always results in hearing them exclaim, “What’s that? How does my voice sound so good?” Danny also uses lots of little tape machines to give things a little something special when necessary as well.
The discussion of why to use a professional studio versus home recording is always conflicted. But Danny discloses the biggest advantage for an artist or band to using a studio lies with having an unbiased pair of ears. Objectivity can easily be lost during the recording process. Working in a studio also frees up everyone in the band to simply focus on their instrument and not worry about gain stages, signal chains, or having to press record.