Ended up recording a session yesterday with the infamous producer, Steve Albini. Revered by some, reviled by others, the man and his studio are an interesting realization of a set of DIY ideals.
Interesting things about the Steve Albini recording experience:
1. The studio is fucking amazing. And in there it’s always 1975, technology-wise. There are dozens and dozens of those microphones that engineers like to hold up to people like me and say “Hey, this microphone is just like the one that John Lennon sang into at Abbey Road. And it costs more than your house.” All I know about that is that the mics that look old and expensive always are, and they do sound better. They have no digital gear onsite, except for a few workstations so that they can browse the web do email and bookkeeping. If a client wants to bring in a workstation and use Pro Tools, that’s doable, but then Albini’s staff doesn’t have to support it when it crashes. There are two studios, an A and a B room. The B room is nicer than 90% of the studios I have recorded in. (We were in too much of a hurry to get into the A room and look around, plus there was some other band in there.) The ceiling is an easy 30 ft, all the interior walls are adobe, because adobe sounds completely different than brick. (I had no idea, but when Albini took out a key and tapped one of each in different walls, the adobe was much warmer and flatter sounding. You learn something new every day.)
2. They have several dorm-style rooms there so that bands that are recording there can stay there while they record. I have been in that sort of situation before on the first five-eight record and I would say that can be good and bad, IMHO. If the session is going well, a band can increase its productive time by half again, I think, if they are all onsite. There won’t be any “Well, we were going to start at noon, but the guitar player isn’t here yet.” At Electrical (the name of the studio), it’s “Run upstairs and ROLL THAT WANKER OUT OF BED!” There is a rather large television, with just about every movie you could think of on VHS. There’s a full kitchen that the guys that work there seem to keep pretty stocked and it’s significantly more inviting than any studio kitchen I have ever seen. There is an electrical repair shop onsite and a guy named Rob (I think) that emanates the vibe that he can fix anything. In the short day that I was there, I saw him running electrical conduit, rewiring something, and I am pretty sure that we was making some sort of repair to a piece of tube-amp mayhem of some sort. He has that Mad Scientist vibe. Just give him a soldering iron and some space, y’know, and he’ll put it right, whatever it is. Also onsite are ‹geekspeak› ethernet jacks in every room with dynamically assigned IPs so that all you have to do is plug in your laptop and take an IP from the server and you are hooked into their wireless(!!) T1 connection(!!).‹/geekspeak› This courtesy of another staff mad scientist named Russ- a guy who is going to need an extra head soon because his brain is so damn big. (I am sure that he’ll work out something with firewire and a fan-cooled external enclosure.) Keeping things lively is the bookkeeper, planner, schedule master, and stand-up comedian (no, seriously…) named John. I thought he was kind of a hostile asshole at first, then as the day wore on, I found out that he is actually a quite friendly and personable asshole. There was another guy on staff that was wandering around-I am pretty sure that he is an engineer- cradling this tiny Italian greyhound. I am ashamed to admit that I have forgotten the guy’s name, but his dog was named Eupheetsis. (Spelling is approximate, but it was “Feet” for short.) Interestingly, this engineer and his dog kind of had the same build- they were both illustrations of what zero body fat looks like.