This year seems to have more professionally recorded albums being pumped out than any before, and much of that success is due in part to local studios. --- Whether the DIY recording phase has finally blown out, or if people are just looking for quality they don't have the time to replicate, it doesn't make much difference when the end goal is to get a great sounding album that people don't regret putting $10 into.
Today, we look at one of the studios in town, Rocket Skates Recording, located in near 600 West and 600 South in downtown Salt Lake City. We chat with musicians and founders Nate Brown and Brian Crabtree about their careers and starting up the studio, plus their thoughts on the local music scene. (All pictures courtesy of Rocket Skates Recording.)
Nate Brown & Brian Crabtree
Gavin: Hey guys, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Nate: I grew up in a tiny town called Corinne (about 10-15 miles east of Brigham City). It’s a very conservative farm town. I was one of the few kids who wasn’t constantly working on a farm, and I think all that time on my hands was what sparked my interest in music. It was my whole world! After a few unsuccessful attempts at starting various bands, I realized I enjoyed the technical aspect of creating music. There was never any politics involved, you just made everyone else sound killer! I decided to attend the Conservatory Of Recording Arts & Sciences, just like Brian did. From there I went out to L.A. and worked at a couple of different recording studios: The Pass, which is no longer in operation, and EastWest.
Brian: I grew up in Vernal and started playing guitar when I was 11. I was in and out of bands until I was 17 and dropped out of school to go on tour. My band broke up after our second show on tour at starry nights in Provo. A month later after being unhappy with how my bands demo turned out. I got my GED and got accepted at the The Conservatory too. From there I moved to Nashville and got a job at Lakehouse Recording which is no longer around. Then I moved to Portland and worked at Ripcord Studios with Patrick Tetreault.
Gavin: What first got you interested in music and what were your favorite acts growing up?
Brian: I used to buy cassette tapes when I was little and record stuff off the radio. I think Nirvana is what really got me into music.
Nate: I was always obsessed over my dad’s record collection, I thought it was so rad. He was super into Styx, so of course, so was I. In fact, I don’t think I even knew music existed after the '70s for quite awhile. My parents noticed my affinity towards music really early on. They got me my first drum set when I was five or six and that did it for me.
Gavin: What was it like for each of you first breaking into music and playing music?
Brian: It was always fun. I had the most fun trying to perfect arrangements. I was never in a successful band and growing up in vernal, there wasn’t much of a scene, but after I started getting into recording I didn’t really want to be in a band anymore.
Nate: Making music was always about having an outlet for me. Once I ran out of angst and realized that there was an even deeper element to music is when I got hooked on recording and helping others get their message out.
Gavin: What got you interested in becoming producers and working behind the scenes?
Nate: I blew out my knee in high school and had a lot of time to watch behind the scenes documentaries. I loved watching the producer dial in on the cool stuff that the artist was creating and help them refine it into musical gold. After trying to record my own record, I realized that making that gold sound good was the most addicting high ever, and started focusing on engineering music.
Brian: I was in a band when I was 17 and we hired some friends that had a small rehearsal space in vernal to record our demo. They had Cubase and a Presonus interface. We saved up our money to afford this and it sucked. I bought Cubase and tried to mix our demo over and over, but the tracks were so terrible that it wasn’t fixable. This is when I knew this is what I wanted to do.
Gavin: What was it like for each of you learning the ropes and figuring out how to create a great recording?
Brian: It was a lot of work and a lot of keeping my mouth shut learning from other producers and engineers. I learned how to use Pro Tools and use a Console at The Conservatory Of Recording Arts & Sciences, but I didn’t learn how to record an album. Its all about trial and error.
Nate: I had to really learn to trust my ear and recognize a good tone from bad. It sounds easier than it actually is. My education taught me the theories behind mic placement and running a console, but it was repeating that over and over again in the real world that really made me understand it. It definitely took more patience with myself than I thought I had to get to where I am now.
Gavin: When did you both first meet and how did you become friends?
Brian: We both moved back to Utah for different personal reasons and needed jobs. We both wound up working at a local "big box" music store as audio guys (every engineer’s nightmare) and became friends.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up your own studio, and where did the name come from?
Nate: I had been working freelance out of a studio in the valley but didn’t really love the vibe of the place. Vibe is so important when making music, and the studio was tiny and made out of a converted garage. In fact, someone still lived in the house portion, so it was just always kind of awkward. Combine that with working a not-so-awesome retail job, and opening my own studio seemed like the only thing that really made sense. Once I met Brian and realized we had a lot of the same philosophies, it just made sense to make the move.
Brian: I had been looking for a studio to work out of already and since CounterPoint was closed at the time I seriously started considering building another studio. Which is a pretty desperate move. Studios are definitely not a great investment. It’s a labor of love, you don’t build a studio to make money. So me and Nate we’re having lunch at the Garage on Beck (I had quite a few Gin and Tonics) and we decided to build a studio.
Gavin: What made you decide to setup show in downtown SLC how did you come across the studio space?
Brian: One thing I didn’t like about some of the studios out here is that they were in the middle of nowhere. I don’t want to drive to 40 minutes to go record. We started looking for something downtown but also the furthest from a store front.
Nate: Salt Lake City has such a cool vibe to it, too. We wanted somewhere that was close to restaurants, etc. so that dinnertime didn’t have to be such an ordeal. We found an awesome building and decided that this was as good a place as any. I think Brian actually found the place listed on KSL.
Gavin: What was it like setting up the studio and optimizing it for what you needed?
Nate: I feel like there is a nine-month span of my life that is buried under a sleep-deprived daze. We were both working over 40 hours a week at our day jobs, and then easily doing an additional 40-50 hours a week building the studio ourselves. Once the construction was done, and we started tuning the rooms, it was really exciting. Not only seeing but hearing all of our hard work come together was a really rewarding experience. Our live room has such a cool ambient sound to it.
Brian: It was very draining we built the entire studio by ourselves (with the help of some awesome friends of course). As far as having everything we need we don’t. We will never be done buying new gear.
Gavin: For those curious, what kind of equipment and instruments do you have?
Nate: Our room is centered around a Yamaha PM1000 board. It’s from the late '70s and sounds so lush and gorgeous. We modded a few channels to give us different tones so it’s almost like having three consoles in one. We pipe that into Pro Tools HD. If anybody is interested in our full gear list, it can be found on our website.
Gavin: You started up back in 2012, what was your first year operating like?
Nate: 2012 was when I started the Facebook page for the business. I started doing my own mobile recording/consulting thing. We started construction on the studio in 2013. We haven’t completely made it through the first year of actually being in operation (that will be in October), but we are so lucky to already be as busy as we are. We have some amazing friends who are more than stoked to tell the whole world about us.
Brian: We Actually started in October 2013, but our first few months have been great. I’ve been able to feed myself its been awesome.
Gavin: Who are some of your favorite bands you've had a chance to work with since opening the studio?
Nate: Merlins Beard, Westward and Michelle Moonshine.
Gavin: Are there any plans to expand the studio beyond what you have now, or are you comfortable with the way you have everything set up?
Nate: I don’t think any studio owner ever feels like they are done buying gear, however, their bank account certainly does! Professional-grade audio equipment and instruments are expensive, so our setup will always be a work in progress...
Brian: There is always room for improvement right now we are focused on buying more instruments.
Gavin: What are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?
Brian: I was really surprised at how awesome the music scene is in Salt Lake. There is a lot more going on than you would think. Although I don’t think there is enough advertisement for live shows.
Nate: Live shows could definitely use more exposure. I love how diverse the music scene is here!
Gavin: What do you think about local labels and the role they play with helping musicians?
Nate: One cool thing about being a record label in an up and coming music scene is that they all still have something to prove and find innovative ways to make their mark. We have a working relationship with Helix music, which is run by a guy named Harris Heller. They are doing what he feels the music industry should have done 15 years, and putting all their emphasis on giving artists an online presence through sites like YouTube.
Gavin: Do you wish there were more areas available for bands to practice and record in, or are we pretty well set for what we have?
Brian: There is never enough. However I think we have quite a bit.
Gavin: What's your take on other studios in the area? Do you view them as competition or simply comrades working to the same goals?
Brian: I haven’t really met much of them. Our neighbor from Redlight Recording is a pretty rad dude. Our buddies from Folk Hogan really like Brad McCarley from Salt Lake Recording Service and he made their record sound awesome.
Nate: I don’t really view them as competition at all. It’s a shame that some studios have taken that stance regarding other studios. I feel like we are all part of the local music scene, and cooperating with each other will only benefit everybody involved. There is such a deep pool of local talent it seems like nobody should ever have to go without work.
Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio and how its affects local musicians?
Brian: Does anyone listen to the radio?
Nate: Haha, I actually listen to the radio from time to time just to hear new music I might not otherwise expose myself to. I would love to see local stations mix local bands into their regular rotation before they sign to a major label. The local hour every Sunday night or whatever is cool and all, but our artists deserve more than that.
Gavin: What can we expect from both yourselves and Rocket Skates Recording over the rest of the year?
Nate: Rocket Skates is only gonna get busier and busier! I’m personally hoping to get out there with a new band and start playing some shows myself!
Brian: We will be busy making records with bad ass drum sounds and lush guitar tones.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Brian: Yes! There are a lot of bands that come to me and can’t afford recording time. I want everyone to know that we will work with you. I have been helping bands with their Kickstarters for years now. In fact, I just helped Michelle Moonshine with hers and it will be launching in a few days. Making a Kickstarter will cost you $300 for our video guys to come film a days worth of recording... that's editing and all! You don’t have to be intimidated by how much it costs when you can sell your CD’s and t-shirts ahead of time and pay for your record.
Nate: Also, we have little shin-digs here from time to time just to remind people who we are. If you want to know what’s going on at the studio, then like us on Facebook and check out our website.
|Follow Gavin's Underground:|