Music isn’t the first thing I associate with Kent Rigby, longtime director of several art galleries in the area and recognized in his own right as a sculptor and ceramicist. But, it’s somehow fitting that, being an architect in his “day job,” he’s recently opened a recording studio and become an architect of sound.
For years Rigby served as the director of Leftbank Gallery (now the site of Poplar Street Pub), then New Visions Gallery. After those galleries closed he started working with Derek Dyer’s nonprofit Utah Arts Alliance in 2007, as the director of the Alliance’s gallery in the Contemporary Design and Art Gallery on Main Street. And a year and a half ago, in the back room of that space, Midnight Records was born, as a nonprofit studio space to provide local musicians affordable recording equipment.
Rigby had been playing and recording music since 1985, but he hadn’t been serious about a recording studio until the studio opportunity came about. He’d amassed a large amount of musical instruments over the years, from guitars and basses to tube amps that make a certain kind of gear-head drool, and that all went into the studio, in addition to his architectural skill, which has resulted in a room that’s stylish, hip as well as acoustically outstanding, with fine wood floors, upscale decorating and sound baffles that would amuse a Cubist. He purchased a grand piano, Gretsch mahogany drum kit and digital recorder just for the studio. Although looking to offer full digital, right now it’s what sound purist Rigby calls “the best of both worlds” with an analog mixing board that is dumped into a computer for digital mixing.
The first acts to use the studio included jazz combo Cerulean Blue and indie-rock group Stalin’s Dossier. Rigby’s own projects include Puny Humans and TAOS—The Architects Of Sound. Recent projects on the slate are singer/songwriter Nicole Christiansen and the Stucco Dogs. The most notable release to come out of the studio was Oh! Wild Birds’ So Long, Cowboy earlier this year, with its subtle blend of folky, eclectic instruments and shimmering harmonies; it helped net highly attended local performances.
Midnight Records is a part-time gig for Rigby, but it’s been steadily busy since opening. He subsidizes the costs out of his own pocket, since the space hasn’t made enough to pay for the overhead. With a flat rate per song, the place is an affordable alternative to some other, more-pricey recording studios in town. And, they also offer production services from English hip-hop producer Mark Smith, who lives here now, and who has worked extensively with the U.K. label Dome Records.
Rigby’s meager advertising budget shortly ran out, and he’s been keeping busy there through sheer word-of-mouth. Still, he wants to expand, to offer ceramics, filmmaking and music performance classes for after-school children, at some point. It reflects his desire to give back to the community. “There was no one to help me, and I thought, these kids deserve some help.”