Tucker Martine in his Flora studio
It's common for musicians, producers and engineers to migrate to music centers: L.A., New York, London, Nashville. Less typical are music/audio pros like Tucker Martine, who left his home in Nashville to open his own facility, Flora, in the Pacific Northwest.
“My dad is a songwriter so I was exposed early to music, the craft of songwriting and the studio environment,” Martine says. “I started looking for ways to reconcile my interests: songs, playing drums and experimenting with weird noises. Ever since, I've been trying to record music that excites me with folks that are excited about the studio as an instrument.”
Martine had a setup in Seattle for 13 years before moving to Portland in 2006. His projects have included Bill Frisell's Grammy-nominated Floratone ensemble album, as well as recent releases from Laura Veirs, Erin McKeown, Mudhoney and more. His current studio, in the basement of his home, is primarily a mix room, but two attached spaces and tielines to his living room allow him to track overdubs, too, as he did when he produced The Decemberists' forthcoming Capitol release. Recording was done at Kung Fu Bakery in Portland; all mixing and overdubs were completed at Flora.
“This Decemberists record is a concept record,” Martine says. “Each song overlaps with another; there isn't a moment of silence on the whole album. We had 17 segues that had to be well-thought-out and executed. The lead voice of the songs was delivered by five different characters. Colin [Meloy], the lead singer, sang the parts of three of these characters. To differentiate [between them], we had to find three distinct vocal treatments.
“One character was more sinister and he got a little distortion and slapback. Another was cleaner with EMT 140 reverb and the third had a slapback pre-delay, which was feeding the EMT.”
Flora is equipped with an Ampex ATR half-inch deck, MCI 2-inch 16-track, Pro Tools HD and ProAc Studio 100 monitors. “If I don't need the computer for editing or additional tracks, I will stay on tape,” Martine says. “I typically mix to the Ampex deck, as well as Pro Tools. I have been liking the Crane Song Phoenix plug-in on digital mixes, though for The Decemberists this time it was all tape mixes through the API 2500.” Other go-to processing gear includes a UREI Silver 1176, Memory Man delay, Manley Massive Passive EQ and Chandler TG1 compressor.
“I often get better results at my place than I do at fancy studios,” says Martine, who at press time was mixing Death Cab for Cutie. “Getting good results has more to do with working in an environment that I'm comfortable in than it does with having the nicest console and the sweetest room acoustics.”