The music makes the music

Oct 232002
Authors: Paul Franco

So, you got an acoustic guitar for Christmas. You spend all of your time downloading Dave Matthews Band tabs from the Internet and trying to learn the beginning to “Ants Marching.”

After a few months your skills are starting to improve, you now know the whole catalog of Dave Matthews and are even creating original material. Now all you need is to find other musicians to fill out your idea for a band. And what do you know – there’s a kid who plays the drums above you, a girl who can sing down the hall and a bass player lives next door.

The band is beginning to gel. There is a kind of magic in the air when you get together and play. Everyone in the band feels the vibe and is thinking big things. A record deal may be yours if you can just record a demo. So, where do you go from here?

Bill Stevenson of The Descendents is a partial owner and an engineer at the Blasting Room, a Fort Collins based recording studio. The Blasting Room has been home to recordings by such artists as Less than Jake, MxPx, Good Riddance as well as local bands such as Wretch Like Me and Drag the River. It was built by members of punk fixtures All, The Descendents and Black Flag in 1994, for the original purpose of allowing these bands to have a place to record. It soon grew into a full-fledged business through no actions of their own and they now offer their services to anyone who can foot the bill, which is usually $650 a day.

Stevenson speaking from his own experience has this to say concerning getting a start in the music business, “There are many different paths (to take) and it depends on the kind of music (when deciding which one to take.)”

But, Stevenson makes clear that these paths don’t involve jumping straight to a professional recording studio such as the Blasting Room. A band would be “better served for their first few recordings to do it in someone’s basement until they kind of learn what they’re doing…and get their skill levels up…rather than spending their hard earned money or money borrowed from their parents,” said Stevenson.

Obviously recording an album or demo is not for every band, especially the ones who are not all that serious. For those bands that are serious Stevenson suggests they “get into the habit of recording [themselves] and listening to it honestly in order to make decisions regarding the [music], then [they] can better be prepared to be listened to by others.”

New bands, however, should not get their hopes up too high as to finding or stumbling across their big break. “It’s a pretty conservative climate now in the music business,” said Stevenson, “Unless you’ve got the corporate money it’s very, very difficult to break a new group.”

Those wanting to form a foundation in the business, though, have no need to fret. It ultimately isn’t about the money or even recording a great sounding, professionally produced album or demo. Jason Livermore, another engineer at The Blasting Room, had this to say, “I’ve heard a lot of poor sounding records with great songs on it and that’s what really matters: how good the music is. The music makes the music.”

The role Stevenson and Livermore play at the Blasting Room, then, is not trying to make a band good musically, but to help facilitate the music. Stevenson describes his job in this way, “Our place is to listen to what’s going on and improve upon that.”

What you pay for at the Blasting Room is not only the use of very good and pricey equipment, but also the skill and musical experience of Stevenson and Livermore. The equipment is really secondary according to Stevenson: “The knowledge of the operator is much more important than the gear.”

So, now your band wants to record a high quality demo or album. You have the musical skills and the money to spend, but none of the musical expertise it takes to produce and engineer an album. The only logical step to take next is to place the recording process in the hands of professionals.

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