Monday, May 9, 2016

build-out blog #1

About 18 years ago, I started getting asked to record an awful lot again.  This was about 3 years after leaving California for Seattle, and I hadn't really anticipated building another studio in my house (neither had my wife.....ahem......) but it seemed it was inevitable.

After much cajoling, I decided to add on to the back of our garage in our home- not a ton, but enough to have a single performance room and a very small "control room" to sit a mixing board and some Tascam DA-88's in, and that would be enough.  Over a very short amount of time, I outgrew that and needed more room, so my performance room became the control room and I built out my now-famous drum room, much to the chagrin of my wife and neighbors......actually, my neighbors have never complained.

It was a pretty simple plan, but I designed the drum room to have no square walls (alleviates standing waves) and a cantilevered ceiling (more squashing of standing waves).  I added a 5' x 3' window, ran 16 channels of XLR to it along with 8 channels of foldback (to a small Mackie mixer for a headphone box) and voila!  We're in business!  To date, I've produced somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 albums using that room, and have received rave reviews from drummers around town- their kits sound amazing- and, I've even recorded 3 top-10 singles and won an award for Best Produced Independent Christian Record in 2005 for Todd Koeppen's "No Ladder" album.  Very cool- the room has worked like a charm - so well, in fact, that I didn't even put treatment up in that room for almost 10 years because I really liked the way it sounded.  (It sounds even better now that it's treated.)

But- there's a problem.  Because of my studio layout, it's nearly impossible for me to record a live group here.  I'd have to remotely record bands at other, larger studios in town- but that got really expensive and added quite a bit of hassle for me, since there would have to be audio conversion.  I kind of got used to it, but then a really unfortunate thing happened- one of the main studios that I used frequently for live tracking had to move and scale down, and became more of a "post-production" studio.  No big drum room and a really strange layout.......darn it.

Since I really don't advertise my studio all that much, it wasn't really a problem for me.  I could just do what I always did and track a drummer and maybe myself on bass and a keyboard player for basic tracks and overdub like a mad man.  That works, but it makes scheduling a PITA since I have to do multiple sessions for each instrument/vocal.

But, in mid-2014, the word got out that the stuff that was coming out of my studio sounded really good, and I got busier.  Juggling the logistics of a small room and a large amount of work meant that a breaking point was soon to happen.  It was just a matter of when.  When my good friend, Mark Bittler (he and I played in the funk band, "Bump Kitchen" for a few years together)  recorded his first album, "My Name Is Mark" here, we encountered a lot of space issues- which I worked around, but the hassle factor was pretty high.  Mark's album marked a milestone for me, personally, as I think it's probably the best sounding record I've done to date, and it turns out that others have really latched onto it.  So much so, that Mark scored a label deal with a small, boutique local label here in Seattle, and the album is already doing very well, in spite of the fact that it was just released a few weeks ago.

And, here comes the breaking point: people have noticed that record.  I've been getting absolutely hammered by people asking me to produce them- which is great!!!  But, I'm out of space.

So- I'm going to have to expand.  I posted on Facebook the other day that I am expanding and had a bunch of friends start deluging me with questions, so I posted something today to show what I'm going to be doing and got asked to write a blog about the expansion- so, here we go on that.

I'm posting pictures here to show you just how crowded it's become in here- remember, that I work out of this studio all day, every day- for both music and my day-job as a developer for a "somewhat large software company in Redmond that you may have heard of before" so making this space work for double-duty is pretty taxing.  There's SO much stuff- it's stupid.  Maybe if I can spread out a little, I can get even more work done!

Enjoy the pictures, folks- these are the "before" sets.  I'll try and post the "during" when we start the construction in about 2 weeks.

Here's the control room as of today.  Note the headphone distro box sitting on top of the near-field.  Not optimal.

Another view of the control room.  It's a disaster in here.

My "vocal booth" which right now serves as storage for amps, mikes, tools- everything but vocals.

This is outside the drum room- and where the new room will be built.

The other side of where the new room will be- hopefully a better place for my Hammond M3.

The drum room- acting as storage for my kit- because I had to track a vocal in there the other day and there's nowhere else to put the kit!

More of the drum room with crap everywhere.

New floor plan.  The new room is the 12' x 12' on the upper right.

Rendition of looking from the new room into the drum room.

Rendition of looking from the control room through the drum room into the new room.

Looking from the drum room into the new room.  Control room is on the right.

Leaving the control room into the new room.  Drum room is behind the sliding glass door.

Wider angle from inside the new room.  Door on the left is into the control room, with the drum room to the right behind the sliding glass door.