Special/Signature Issues » 2013 Music Issue

Laying It Down

Producers weigh in on what to know before working with a local recording studio.


  • Ash Daniel

Adrian Olsen
Montrose Recording

Claims to fame: Uses recording console that once belonged to the late Sparklehorse leader Mark Linkous and the Ohio Players. Has recorded Marc Ribot, Beex and DJ Williams Projekt. Co-owns the studio with his father, Bruce, who formerly owned the now-defunct Shockoe Bottom club Flood Zone.

Clocking in: Put time on your side. Practice with a metronome and record yourself before the studio to see what you sound like. Figure out your arrangements ahead of time. "A lot of time that could have been spent experimenting ... is used doing take after take to get a vocal harmony right."

Be visionary: Before you head to the studio, discuss with your band how you want your recording to sound. Clearly communicate with your engineer or producer what you want. Listen to your favorite records, and talk about why you like their sound. And don't say that you don't sound like anyone else: "That's kind of BS."

Be patient: While mixing and editing won't be as hands-on for the band, it's essential in good recording. "Understand that the process really takes time. Some people want to make a whole record in a day. It's just not possible."

Back it up: Keep a backup of all recordings stored on an external hard drive. Make sure it's saved in multiple places — retrieving files from a dead hard drive could set you back a grand or two.


Lance Koehler
Minimum Wage Recording

Claims to fame: Drummer for No BS Brass Band. He has recorded Tim Barry, Tiger Shark, Fight the Big Bull.

Keep drinking and smoking: "Don't change any of your routines right before the studio. Don't stop smoking and drinking a week or two before the session thinking it's going to help you." Musicians often think that taking a break from their vices will lead to better performances, but Koehler says it takes a month or two before your body will recover. "Anything that's going to alter your attitude or mental state or the physicality of your body right before a recording is a stress that doesn't need to be put on before sessions."

Stay in tune: "Multiple-guitar bands ... should have their guitars intonated by the same person right before the session. It will solve a lot of intonation problems between all the different instruments."

The art of the matter: "A lot of bands will wait until after the recording is done before they start getting their artwork together for a record. It can take another year to get that done. A lot of times, by the time they get the artwork done, they don't think that their recording is relevant anymore."


Dan-O Deckelman
Snake Oil Records & Recording

Claims to fame: Horsehead, Andy Vaughan and the Driveline, Paul Ivey and the Rubes, Jay Smack's Studio B live from Snake Oil Recording series on XL-102 (podcasts available at studiobrva.podomatic.com).

Do the work: "Write. Write like crazy. Rehearse. Rehearse like crazy. Play. Play like crazy."

Road tested: There is no substitute for getting on the road. "That's where the magic starts to happen, or not, on all levels. That includes the construction of the all-important fan base and your marketing strategy."

Have fun: "It translates to the performances and puts everyone at ease. Partying does not make good records. Sorry, it rarely does."

Know the material inside and out: "The last thing you want is to be surprised that someone is playing something you never heard before and it's not working. Instruments and gear in good working order. Know your goals and be realistic."


Pedro Aida
Detached Sound

Claims to fame: Lead guitarist for Fun Size. Has recorded Carbon Leaf, Goldrush (formerly Prabir/Goldrush) and the Riot Before.

Check your ego at the door: "The worst thing you can get in the studio is a big ego. Be prepared to listen to an outside ear or opinion. Keep an open mind, and don't be too married to anything."

Be open to suggestions: "Have the willingness to try something once. If you don't like it, that's fine, but try it."

Record before you record: In this digital age, recording at home is easier than ever. Use a program such as GarageBand to get a better feel for your sound. "Listen to it over and over again and figure out what you like about it. [Recording will] go a lot faster, and it's going to save you money."

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