Special/Signature Issues » The Arts 25

Recording in His Underwear

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If you've partied down with our local funky New Orleans brass band, No BS, then you've heard the drumming of Lance Koehler. But did you know that he also runs one of the most affordable recording studios in town?

A California native, Koehler, 35, and his girlfriend moved from New Orleans to Richmond in 2001. He brought his love for recording music of all genres, but particularly punk, jazz and folk. Now for about $250 a day (for 10 hours), or roughly a quarter of what it might cost at other studios, you can record at his Oregon Hill home/recording studio, Minimum Wage Recording, near Hollywood Cemetery.

"It's not like I moved here and thought that bands were getting raped," Koehler says. "Now that I've done it for a while, I can understand why it costs so much."

When he first moved to Richmond, Koehler operated his studio out of an old house in Oregon Hill that was the rehearsal spot of Hotel X and Oregon Hill Funk All-Stars, so he quickly made connections in the music scene.

Nowadays, Koehler works around six days a week. His studio home has a warm, cozy vibe, and it's built primarily for live recording -- some have likened it to a friendly neighborhood bar. He likes to use mostly analog equipment and calls his setup "super old school."

"Almost all the stuff that goes down here is live," he says. "It's cheaper because you don't spend all that time overdubbing. But this is a studio that sounds like people playing music together — not a bunch of cookie-cutting."

Koehler just finished recording Josh Small, and has worked with other well-known local names such as Tim Barry (Avail), Bio Ritmo, Brian Jones, DJ Williams, and Special Ed and the Shortbus. He doesn't do commercial work and deals exclusively with bands, — the rawer-sounding, the better, Koehler says. And although he doesn't advertise, his phone keeps ringing.

"I get away with what I'm doing because I live in my workplace, it's affordable — I just happened to get in Oregon Hill before it went through the roof," he says. "I just love what I do … twisting knobs all week."

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