I guess it was The Beatles on Ed Sullivan,” says Stuart Covingtonwhen asked how he got started in the music business. “I always lovedmusic as a kid, and seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan was bigger thanlife.” By the time Covington reached high school, he had saved enoughmoney to buy a drum set, and he played in a band called The Epicsthrough the mid- to late ’60s.
Growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., Covington went to high school withfuture members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and later played with Skynyrd bassistLeon Wilkerson in the King James Version. After spending his collegeyears in Atlanta, he returned to Jacksonville and formed a band “withsome guys out of Indiana.” The group, Powerglide, stuck together for 12years.
“I always loved recording, so as Powerglide progressed, I keptbuying more recording gear,” recalls Covington. “I was always theperson, in all the bands I was in, who put the P.A. together. I was theaudio tech in the band, even though I didn’t run sound.”
By the time Powerglide broke up, Covington owned a major portion ofthe band’s recording gear, and in 1991, having paid off the debt on theremainder of the equipment, he found himself with the components of a16-track, 1-inch studio setup. “I said, ‘Well, what the heck, I mightas well make some money out of the studio business,'” he recalls. “Ihaven’t quit spending money on it since!”
Occupying about 1,000 square feet in the basement of Covington’shouse in rural Ayer, Mass., Powerhouse Studios consists of five rooms:a 13×20-foot main room with an attached 12×14-foot amp room/iso booth;a 13×18-foot control room, also with an attached 5×7-foot iso booth;and a 12×20-foot lounge that can serve as an additional recordingspace.
An experienced carpenter, Covington designed the studio with thehelp of a friend “who sells audio gear” and built most of it himself,including a floating ceiling and double-thickness sheetrock insulationthroughout. “We didn’t use any technical equipment to tune the rooms,”says Covington of the acoustic design. “We basically just used our earsand experimented with sound treatments until we liked the way itsounded.”
Though Covington may sound casual about the studio’s design, theequipment list is serious. The console is a 48-channel Soundcraft Ghost(24-channel mainframe with 24-channel expander), and monitors includeGenelec 1030s, Tannoy 6.5s and JBL LSR32s in soffits. Recorders includean Otari MTR-90 MkII 24-track (15/30 ips) and 24 tracks of PanasonicADATs. Covington typically mixes to Panasonic 3700 and 4100 DATmachines and also cuts reference CDs.
Outboard racks are crammed with modern and vintage processors.Reverbs and multiprocessors include units from Lexicon, Yamaha,Eventide and SPL Electronics. A Korg 2000 and an ADA D4 round out thedelays. Compressors include two UREI LA-4s, a UREI 1178 (stereo), anAudio Arts 1200 and four channels of dbx. The studio also boasts a UREI546 stereo 4-band parametric EQ, gates from JBL, Ashly Audio andSymetrix, and a TC Electronic Finalizer for tweaking final mixes andmastering CDs.
The microphone selection is comprehensive. In addition to primerecording mics such as a Neumann U87, two AKG C414 EBs, and an AKGSolidTube, Powerhouse offers a range of Beyerdynamic ribbons andcondensers, plus such staples as Shure 57s and 58s, Sennheiser 421s andEV RE20s. Keyboards include a Hammond C-3, Yamaha CP-70, Fender Rhodesand Arp Odyssey. An IBM 166MHz computer with a 5GB hard disk runsCakewalk Pro Audio and Sound Forge 4.0, and the MIDI setup includes aKurzweil PC88 keyboard, Alesis and Kawai drum modules, an Akai samplerand a Roland Octapad. Covington also owns a vintage Linn drummachine.
Among the many vintage amplifiers on hand are Ampeg SVT and B-12bass amps and Mesa/Boogie, Fender, Marshall, Silvertone and Kustomguitar amps. Drum kits include both new and vintage Ludwig sets.
Covington records all types of music, including gospel, blues, jazzand singer/songwriters, but his most frequent bookings are withBoston-based rock bands. “Sometimes I engineer, sometimes I produce,sometimes I co-produce, and occasionally I play drums or keyboards forthe artists that come in,” says Covington. “In geAneral, though, I tryto help the band realize what it is they’re after and guide them intomaking things sound good.”
For more on Powerhouse Studio, check out the Web site atwww.powerhousestudio.com.