Most of us have rigged up a studio in a spare bedroom or even a garage. What’s the oddest place you’ve built a studio?
I have a studio in an old slaughter house that was used by a plastics company for 15 years. Lots of weird smells and noises! Lots of space though…Mooo
At one point, my band was looking for a quiet room to record in that would not be a bother to other people as we had multiple tracks to record. To find an acoustically flat room and one that had some sort of silencing effect was what we wanted as we did not want to overstate or welcome to the rest of the people in the building from all of the noise we were making—oops, I mean music. What we found was a 6-person sauna built entirely from pine and insulated with four inches of foam. It was incredibly silent on the outside, and the recordings were almost perfectly flat. Just what we wanted. The dressing room on the outside became the control room and it was actually a very nice setup. The only hard part was when we needed to put a 7-piece drum kit in the sauna and have room for mic stands. But on a good note, there was plenty of heat if you wanted it.
—Derek Harkins, Valley Video Productions
Barefoot Recording Studio, www.myspace.com/barefootrecording is my entire home, but the control room is the would-be master bedroom. It is the place where my musical ideas are conceived. Oddly, it is the very place where, 50 years ago, I was conceived. I bought the house from my parents.
—Steve Telson, Barefoot Recording Studio (since 1990)
I’m a DJproducer currently in “transition” and I’m staying with my girlfriend temporarily. I need my setup wherever I go and she has limited space, soooooo, the “dining room” is the studio. You can see the fridge and dishwasher in the background!
In a limo at a car dealership, with a control room in the back office.
I’ve had studios in many weird places, but the weirdest was probably my daughter’s nursery. My wife and I had moved to a new apartment about two months before giving birth to our first child. It was very small and had no room for a separate studio for me. So I borrowed the nursery as a temporary location until I could find somewhere else to put it. That somewhere else didn’t happen for a long while, and I ended up sharing the nursery with my daughter. Needless to say, she took priority over any music projects I was working on at the time. Although I wore headphones most of the time, I made sure she got to hear everything I was working on—at a safe volume, of course. I’d like to think that all that music helped to make her the artist that she is today.
This isn’t a story about the studio itself, but of the infrastructure in all its improvised glory. My wife and I recently moved into a new house. I have a great space in the basement that’s big enough for all my recording gear, my drums, Rhodes and all the other little goodies that have accumulated over time. The trouble is that the only room I have to record in is up on the second floor. For the longest time, I struggled to figure out the best way of running cables down to the basement when it dawned on me that there was an unused central vacuum line right in the room! It’s basically a 2-inch conduit running in a straight line through the wall to the basement! Drop a snake down, slap on a face plate and press go. Ah, happy accidents.
—Art Mullin, Riverwalk Audio owner/engineer
I have built a small recording studio two miles down a dirt road in Little Chico Creek Canyon. The road is so steep that when I ordered concrete for a foundation, the truck driver took one look at the road, turned around, went back to the plant and dumped the concrete. The control room is off of a 30×30 room with an open-beam ceiling where the previous owner raised 500 pair of parakeets. The building was originally built as an agricultural building and we have completely remodeled it into a beautiful house. The studio has a rare combination of both vintage and state of the art gear.
—David Eldridge, Birdhouse Accoustic Concerts
I once set up a studio in my parents Class-B motorhome. I was running a PC laptop into my soundcard and using a Peavey KB100 for my monitoring.
By a long shot, the oddest place where I set up a studio was in an onion warehouse in Walla Walla, Washington. The town is famous for its “Walla Walla Sweets.” This occurred in the late 1970s, and at that time part of my income was realized by trekking around the Pacific Northwest with portable gear recording anyone who would pay me.
Based in Seattle, I had a Tascam 80-8 and a rack full of outboard gear that was stuffed into my land yacht, a 1969 Oldsmobile 98. The band, a country-rock outfit called Tukanon, had heard about me from a group in Idaho I had previously recorded. I don’t recall what I was paid for the gig, but it was enough to cover gas, meals, a cheap motel and have a few bucks leftover as profit. Tukanon wanted to record six original songs in their rehearsal space, which was the retired office area connected to the warehouse, which was still in operation. It was actually a nice space to work in. I set up in a room that had a door and windows so there was a bit of isolation while they played in a large adjacent room with high ceilings.
I hadn’t produced a full-length album for anyone at that time, but my producer hat was firmly planted on my head so I worked over the band and got some great-sounding tracks. They were so pleased with how it turned that they brought me back to the warehouse to produce an album a year later.
One interesting sidebar is when I set up a stereo pair on the loading dock and recorded a tractor trailer pulling away. One of the songs had a trucking theme and they asked to add this as a sound effect on the intro. Their trucker buddy parked his rig, and on my cue started up the engine and pulled away. I said, “Great, got it!” But then trucker buddy came back and pleaded for another take. Turns out he grounded the gears going into second and would be terribly embarrassed if his trucker buddies heard it. Okay, take two on the semi…
The oddest place I ever built a studio was in the back of a refrigerated milk truck. The walls, ceiling and floor were already insulated. I built the unit in Atlanta, and its first job was a recording job in Harlem, New York. The album was nominated for a Dove Award for Best Traditional Black Gospel Album. The truck had a 32-track Tascam board, modified and gassed up for greater signal-to-noise ratio, a 16-track 1-inch Tascam recorder, miscellaneous bits and pieces of outboard effects and processing, Roland keyboard, JBL monitors and a kerosene heater that stunk like the dickens.