This year marks a very special moment in the 32-year history of SPARS. The SPARS Board of Directors has selected recording legend Joe Tarsia as the first annual SPARS Legacy Award recipient. Joe was one of the original founders of SPARS in 1979 and the group’s first President. From Cameo/Parkway Records to founder and owner of the legendary Sigma Sound Studios, Joe Tarsia’s career has spanned more than 50-years of extraordinary music recording.
One of Joe’s highest professional achievements was his hand in creating the “Philadelphia Sound.” From the mid ’60s to the early ’80s, the unique sound that came to life in Sigma’s studios dominated the world’s airways. The success of Sigma regulars Gamble & Huff, Tom Bell, Tom Moulton, Bobby Martin and Baker, Harris & Young attracted a stream of top artists and producers from around the world, all coming to capture the “Sigma Magic.” Some of those many hits were songs like “You’ll Never Find” by Lou Rawls, “Betcha by Golly, Wow” by The Stylistics and “For the Love of Money” and “Back Stabbers” by the O’Jays.
We had a chance to ask Joe a few questions to seek advice for those running studios today.
What concepts, ideas and customs would you like to see passed down to future practitioners of the recording craft?
The appreciation of what a good acoustical space can contribute to recording. Lost in much of today’s electronic, highly processed music is the natural organic sound of a rock band in a live room or the lush sound of strings as they reverberate off the walls of a good room. I was never one for too many booths, blankets and baffles, and it seems to me that today’s electronic productions personify the ultimate isolation booth.
What can studios do to help facilitate successful recording sessions?
The mission of a good studio and its staff is first and foremost to faithfully capture what is taking place in the studio, and to do it with the least distractions to the producer and to the creative process.
What do you think are business success factors for today’s studios?
The reason the independent studios came to be—and replaced the big label corporate-owned facilities—was because of the independents’ caring service and non-corporate creative atmosphere. Even more important than its gear, a successful studio must be friendly, clean and comfortable, and most of all, provide an unpressured creative environment.
Based on many years of your experience and the changes you have observed in today’s music industry, what advice do you have for studio owners?
Recognize that the only constant anyone can count on is change. The days of commercial studios with ceiling tile-covered walls and speakers hanging on chains are gone. So too are the young producers, artist and bargain hunters who sought their low-end rates and now record in their friends’ garages. While today the number of commercial studios is fewer, there will always be a need for the excellence that only a truly professional recording environment can provide.