Jeffrey Pierce (pictured) owns and operates Fredericksburg,Va.-based Blind Banana Productions (www.blind-banana.com ), a full-service recordingstudio and live sound business with a full roster of corporate clientsand bands seeking an alternative to the pace (and prices) of nearbyWashington, D.C. During the past year, Blind Banana has completed workfor The Kennedy Center, HBO, Georgetown University, The National Zooand The White House Commission, and has also worked with Spike Lee,Goldie Hawn, James Brown and Jerry Lewis. Pierce and veteran recordingengineer Shannon Walton are joined by current interns Jerimie Thomas,Carlos Diaz and Zak Obenchain.
When the studio upgraded to include digital recording technology,Pierce purchased a Yamaha 02R96 and had the distinction of receivingthe first production model sold in the U.S.
“I was not a previous 02R user,” he explains.“What convinced me was the combination of price, features, valueand wanting to ‘step it up a notch.’ Some people advisedagainst getting a new product right out of the gate, but in retrospect,it was the smartest decision we ever made. I did have some helplearning to use it—the people at Sweetwater Sound and Yamaha TechSupport were extremely helpful—but overall, the 02R96 was one ofthe most intuitive pieces of gear I’ve ever worked on.”
Starting off with a Tascam1/2-inch reel-to-reel setup, Piercerecorded demos for artists including blues singer Bobby Parker, LesLoki and the band Firefall before landing a gig as technical directorfor the French Embassy in Washington. “I was responsible for theon-site cultural center, which hosted meetings, visiting presidents andmusicians—everything from jazzers to French pop stars,” heexplains. “We recorded a 17-show jazz series for WDUQ Radio(Pittsburgh, Pa.) from there, which was then picked up by NationalPublic Radio. Those visiting artists were very, very particular. It wasa real challenge, but a great learning experience. It took my skilllevel to a new level, and put it on par with nationalengineers.”
Pierce returned to full-time studio work three years later, andcontinued to build a steady client base. “Someone told me that itwas the studio’s vibe that helped us attract all thistalent,” he says. “Since the studio is in my house, we canprovide an environment where people can really relax. When people comehere, they have the run of the bottom floor of the house, the gardenand a room with pinball machines. Everyone can just hangout.”
The decision to upgrade Blind Banana’s current location in2002 was a move to stay competitive. “As the technology changed,we weren’t really keeping up, and clients were jumping,”Pierce notes. “I had met engineer Dave Ruffo on the jazz serieswhen I was at the Embassy and we hit it off immediately—plus, hegave me some great microphone tips. Dave was at Birdland [Jazz Club] inNew York City, and was also making the jump from analog to digital, soI gave him a call. He was a big fan of the original 02R. Anotherrecommendation on the [02R]96came from engineer Donnie Thompson, whohad been using the ‘classic’ 02R for years."
Additional gear includes an Alesis 24XR and Pro Tools hard diskrecording system. “Being able to run Pro Tools from the surfaceof the 02R96 really helped our business,” says Pierce. “Itgot the MIDI people and computer people onboard. We’re usingWavelab to master, Vegas 4.0 for video and have a DigiDesign 002 rack.We kept a Lexicon MPX1000 and a Yamaha SPX1000, and everything runsthrough the Apache Frontier. Originally, we started with one of theMackie HD systems and then went to the Alesis 96 for the clock. We alsohave Bellari preamps for bass input, two RP583 and twoRP520s.”
Although the studio continues to attract corporate accounts, Pierceand company are getting back to their roots by recording an increasingnumber of demos for bands, and are currently working on releases forEnough Said, 7th Wish, The Shooters, Kyle Pierce, De Realiz and rappersBlade and Sheem. “Bands are a lot of fun,” he says.“Like our Website says: 'It’s not enough to know your gearinside and out. Music is a passion, you either feel it or you do not.'We feel it!”
For more information, visit www.yamaha.com/proaudio.