Jim Roberts was one of the lucky dot-commers: His Internet company was bought out before the big Web crash in the late 1990s. However, like thousands of other Web entrepreneurs, he still took a financial bath when the bottom dropped out, but he didn’t lose everything. So in 2000, he took his leftover earnings and built a house — including a basement for music production — in Somers, N.Y., about 40 minutes from Manhattan.
Roberts played keys in various bands during high school and college, and later played in one group that was briefly signed to Atlantic Records. But with a family to support, the budding musician turned to the security of steady (i.e., nonmusical) income. Yet, “music was still my passion throughout my career in the business world,” Roberts explains. After investing some $125,000 in studio equipment, the Institute of Audio Research grad’s basement project became Brandon Productions (www.brandonpost.tv), and he has since built up a private list of well-known clients.
“My partner and I set up a business for Kansas drummer/manager Phil Ehart with a 1-900 [contest/promotions] number for the band’s fans to call, and it went really well. We had a great relationship with the band, and before long, I was doing mastering work for them. [Kansas lead singer] Steve Walsh also asked me to play keyboards on a track for their new album, which was pretty amazing. This was a band I’d looked up to as a little kid, and now I am playing with them.”
Soon after the studio was up and running, Roberts found himself working on late Who bassist John Entwistle’s last live album, Left for Live Deluxe.
“The Entwistle project came at almost the exact same time as his death in 2002,” Roberts says. “I’d met Steve Luongo, a studio musician and Entwistle’s drummer. Steve liked my rig at Brandon Post, and we agreed to work together in the future. Nothing happened for a year. Then Steve called and asked if I’d like a crack at mixing the album. We went through 60 24-track performances, but we got it done.” Later, Roberts worked with Mountain guitarist Leslie West on Koch Records’ George Harrison tribute, Songs From the Material World.
Brandon Productions’ equipment list encompasses both state-of-the-art and vintage gear. “I like the blend of old and new school,” Roberts says. The main system is Pro Tools|HD4, paired with a 32-channel Digidesign ProControl unit and three 96k interfaces. “We record all-digitally, yet I have a nice big room to record drums, a separate vocal booth and a collection of analog gear.” The studio includes API 512C preamps and 550 and 560 EQs, Focusrite ISA 110s, a Vintech 1272, Universal Audio LA-2A and 1176 compressors, Manley Enhanced Pultec EQP-1A EQ and dozens of TDM plug-ins. Among the instrument holdings are a 1949 Hammond BV and Hammond B3 vintage organs, as well as a couple of Kurzweil synthesizers, a Clavia Nord Lead II and a Yamaha Recording custom studio drum kit.
However passionate he is about classic rock and vintage gear, Roberts has his eyes and ears set firmly on the future. During the past three years, Brandon Productions has recorded the theme to ABC World News Now, as well as spots for Good Morning America, World News This Morning, Dateline and others, due to a lucrative partnership with JoEd Tracks, a music house in nearby Ossining, N.Y.
“I don’t want to run a fully commercial studio,” Roberts says. “The studio is in my house, after all. I’m looking for a blend of corporate and private clients. Things in the music business are shifting to independents. I have a great band I’m working with called Torque, and I’m handling the project as a record company might: full packaging, duplication, the works.” Roberts is also negotiating development deals with new artists, working with some on spec and others with firm commitments.
Though his background is one of traditional 2-inch-format recording, he’s adapted to the ever-changing world of modern techniques. “I’m not willing to look back,” he says. “You have to look forward to keep current and competitive.”
Josh Max is a Manhattan-based writer and performing songwriter and musician whose work appears in the New York Times, Newsweek, the New York Daily News and assorted magazines and newspapers. Visitwww.JoshMaxsOutfit.com.