Early last fall, the founders of the newly formed Fort Collins Music Association gathered at a local coffee shop.
Armed with coffee, laptops and MySpace, they searched for a definitive number of Fort Collins bands and after hours of searching they discovered too many bands to count.
Greta Cornet, FCMA co-founder, said that they found between 2,000 and 3,000 bands or solo musicians in Fort Collins alone.
They found that about 1,500 of those MySpace pages had posted songs for fans to hear, proving that the art of home recording has become a definite trend.
What’s more; many bands are doing a pretty damn good job.
Cornet, who has played in the band 12 Cents for Marvin for the last 11 years, is familiar with the evolution of the continually changing Fort Collins music scene.
“When MySpace started booming, it seemed like people were able to go back to more do-it-yourself type stuff,” Cornet said.
“Because you can post your own music on there, because Pro-tools is so user friendly. You can start promoting your band or if you’re not even quite a band yet you can promote yourself and start recruiting a band. It’s a virtual online press kit.”
ANYONE CAN DO IT
As to whether the popularity of MySpace or the technological advances in recording came first, Cornet said it’s akin to “the chicken and the egg.”
“All that kind of technology came out at the same time,” she said.
“It used to be analog and reel-to-reel. It was complicated to get it going, splicing your tapes doing all those types of things. And now you know with the digital age it’s really user friendly. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
While a number of professional-grade studios exist in Fort Collins, it costs a good deal of money for bands to cut a record. Rates usually range from $40 to $50 an hour.
“In the studio if you’re paying by the hour and you crack a note or you miss a note or something it’s like, ‘crap I just cost us $40.'” Cornet said.
Home recording equipment can be costly but in the long run it’s cheaper.
Cornet’s band, 12 Cents for Marvin, recorded their last three albums at their own home-studio when they discovered it would save money.
Options for recording vary, but for a band to get a song on MySpace, it doesn’t take much money or experience.
Free recording software downloads are available online and with digital software as the industry standard, four-track and eight-track recorders are more affordable than ever.
B.J. Buttice, a 24-year-old home-studio owner and CSU art grad, has been recording his bands since his freshman year in college.
His band Smile and Shoeshine – now on an extended hiatus – also recorded at the nationally renowned Blasting Room Studios here in Fort Collins.
But Buttice prefers his own recordings.
“Unless you got a lot of money or a lot of clout, you’re not gonna get a good recording out of a professional studio.” Buttice said,
Recording yourself, he said, is easier than it may seem.
“It’s important for people to be encouraged to try it,” Buttice said.
“You can’t spend your whole life waiting, and it’s not as hard as it seems. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. Buy a 4-track. Buy a hand-held tape recorder.”
DEAD PIGEON STUDIOS
In early 2004, Buttice, with the grace of “good luck and good friends”, moved his home-recording gear from the basement of his house into an abandoned nightclub, once known as The Matrixx.
The Matrixx, known for its DJ’s and raves, was abandoned in 2000 after complications from losing its liquor license.
“When we first came in, there were a ton of dead pigeons everywhere,” Buttice said. “It was gross and amazing.”
Thus the name Dead Pigeon Studios was coined.
These days, the pigeons have been replaced with drums, guitars, amps strewn amid boom stands and microphone cords.
An old piano sits in the corner. The high-rise ceiling drips cobwebs.
Dust and cigarette ashes paint a thin coat on the floor.
Spread out from the collection of various musical equipment, closer to the walls, is a basketball hoop, skate board ramps and rails.
But the space, so ample, doesn’t come close to being filled.
Buttice’s first recording experience was with a reel-to-reel four-track back in high school, but he has since taken to digitally recording with Cubase recording software, a multi-track platform.
He has slowly bought and inherited from friends his cache of recording equipment.
His recording work station forms a sort of circle with the array of musical equipment.
Next to his computer desk sits a banquet table holding two mixing boards with a total of 20 working inputs.
Around the same time Buttice moved into The Matrixx, he formed his band, Sour Boy, Bitter Girl and started recording prolifically.
Not long after the folk-rock group released its first album, “Dead Pigeon Warehouse.” More albums are in the works as he has three albums worth of music on his hard drive.
He has also taken to recording a handful of friends, most recently Signor Farini and the Marmadook Weatheralls and The Black Apples.
“Thus far I’ve been paid in beer and sandwiches, which is nice,” Buttice said.
“But I’d like to make some money in the future.”
However, that future of Dead Pigeon Studios will be held elsewhere as developers plan to bulldoze the dance club to make room for a parking lot.”The idea is,” Buttice said, “that wherever it is I record, it will be called Dead Pigeon Studios.”
Recording doesn’t necessarily mean recording bands.
Six years ago Toby Hendricks, now 25, started throwing synth lines and drum loops on to a Tascam four-track. When he started rapping over his beats Hendricks became known as the act Otem Rellik.
Otem Rellik’s electro-symphonic hip-hop never would have come to fruition without Hendricks’ tireless studio experimentation.
Hendricks’ only musical background came from playing the trumpet in junior high.
He said that recording his music is how he creates his music.
“I don’t know anything about music, I don’t know theory; I don’t know notes. I don’t know anything,” Hendricks said. “Most of my music is made up of really simple notes. I learned how to play music as I learned how to record.”
Inspired by his favorite hip-hop artists, Hendricks started recording in his bedroom on a digital four-track recorder.
He experimented with the program Cakewalk SONAR and for the last two years he has used Cubase software.
Hendricks has released 10 albums over the last five years and he has over 30 unreleased songs on his hard drive.
His studio is now in a small room in the basement of his house, filled with dozens of electronic kid’s toys, over 20 keyboards, and hundreds of vinyl records.
Hendricks said, “A lot of what I buy for my music is pretty cheap – little Casios – things that make sounds from thrift shops.”
ALL YOU NEED IS A ROOM
On Matt Sage’s 18th birthday his parents bought him a digital Tascam eight-track recorder.
The high school drummer started learning guitar lines note by note in his parents’ basement and slowly started building a collection of rhythmic-based rock songs.
Those early recordings set the foundation of what would become Castles, one of Fort Collins’ most innovative rock acts.Sage, a CSU sophomore English major, uses the same digital eight-track today.
While his peers use computer software to record, Sage’s music retains an earthy-type quality for his band’s eclectic song writing.
“It started as ‘I got to get four songs so I can get a MySpace,'” Sage said.
But it has grown much bigger since his early recording. Castles has released one album named “Keepers” and is currently working on their second, “New West America.”
With Sage’s eight-track, all he said he needs is a room.
Sage said, “Every time I move into a new place before I set up anything else I set up my recording room.”
His studio has moved from his parents’ basement to the kitchen in his first “tiny” apartment to his bedroom in Oregon, where he spent six months last year.
It’s now in the upstairs living room of his house near campus.
The walls of the room are lined with “rolls and rolls of padding that we got out of a dumpster.” The drums sit in the corner, synthesizer and amps line the walls and his Tascam eight-track monitors it all.
With over 2,000 musical acts in Fort Collins, there’s a myriad of recording set-ups each taking on the personality of the musician.
“It doesn’t matter how you record. It matters how you want to record,” Buttice said.
“It’s your guitar. It’s your art. Make it sound how you want it to sound.
“That’s how you get sounds that don’t sound like what you hear on the radio.”
Staff writer Tim Maddox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.