Professional Sound - June 2022 - Page 33

starting to outgrow the place we were in with the amount of gear we had and we needed to find something with a more finished live room .
But yeah , we started doing that after I moved and the pandemic hit , and we were kind of just like , “ Alright , well , we ’ re not really working , so let ’ s do this thing ” and just started putting pretty much every piece of free time , capital , and emotional availability into it . It ’ s worked out pretty well so far .
Aki McCullough : I guess I kind of had a similar start to James where I was feeling like I was in a dead-end job with programming – which also helped , it paid well – but I ’ m actually doing this full-time now . And basically , for like five or six years before that , we ’ d kind of been learning to mix our own personal music . James and I have done a lot of albums together ; we ’ ve had many bands but never had been able to afford to have [ projects ] mixed by someone else .
I did also do a music engineering program for college so it was kind of like , “ Yeah , we should be doing this ourselves .” So , we got a lot of experience that way and kind of built up a portfolio of like , “ Hey , look at all this music we recorded !” but it was actually just our music [ laughs ]. But it was a good way to start . Then a couple things just started falling into place . When James moved out here we knew we wanted to have a studio , at least for our personal music , I don ’ t know if we fully envisioned it becoming this .
One thing for me was actually a couple of months into the COVID quarantine ; finally making the decision to [ gender ] transition ended up having a big impact on what the studio has become , because it ’ s become a space for trans musicians . I feel like that ’ s one way we kind of formed a community around it , too , because they knew us and felt more comfortable working with another trans person .
So , I feel like this personally gave me the confidence to be like , “ Oh yeah , I deserve to do this .” But also , this is our mission statement ; this is why we ’ re doing this , this is what sets us apart . That also propelled it to be something that ended up being bigger than just us recording our own music .
Goldmann : Speaking of the community , too , we can definitely thank Twitter for that , and Aki ’ s freshly-founded 20K followers —
McCullough : [ laughs ] That too .
Goldmann : And just meeting so many cool musicians , especially trans musicians , not only within New England , but all over the country and all over the world . That ’ s bolstered our business because not only is this the community we want to work with – and having that network has helped that – but the whole mission is to try help them as well .
It ’ s just formed a community that is so mutually beneficial . I mean , we ’ ve got to make money , we ’ ve got to grow , but we also want to be able to complete our mission statement , which is to help create a safe space for queer and trans musicians to come record sick , fat , heavy riffs . And yeah , having that community on Twitter is awesome . We get to interact with all these crazy good musicians from all over the world , and they help us out , we help them out – you know , growth begets growth . That ’ s what we ’ re trying to do .
PS : That ’ s pretty cool , using social media as a catalyst for growing a personalized client base . Do you do a lot of remote work ?
McCullough : Yeah , a lot of it is remote . People from everywhere will send us mixes or things to master and that ’ s probably like 60 or 70 percent of what we do , but we also do recordings with people we ’ ve met , either from the local music scene or the trans community online . And we kind of started doing this during the peak of COVID , so remote work was the plan we had in place to deal with that .
I think things picking up with the studio was also a product of the COVID times in that , basically overnight , everyone ’ s bands in the local scene no longer existed ; a bunch of people were trying to do side projects , and they ’ re all guitarists because no one in Massachusetts plays drums [ laughs ], so everyone needed drum work .
Goldmann : Except me ! Yeah , I did a lot of drum session work for the first three or four months of COVID ; like Aki said , lots of side projects , lots of people just being like , “ Alright , I ’ m taking my hardcore band , putting it on the side , and starting a dreampop project ,” so I say “ Cool , I can do those drums – no problem , hit me up .”
PS : Speaking of drums and production at large , do you generally prefer a rawer style of production or do you incorporate things like sample replacement and grid editing ?
McCullough : I think one thing I do is I try to approach every project with a clean slate and there ’ s no set process that I ’ m going to necessarily stick to ; there ’ s a lot of tools in my kit , but there ’ s nothing that has to be done every time . It ’ s interesting , because when the studio ’ s thing is kind of based around being a space for trans musicians – that ’ s kind of the central thing and there ’ s no central music style .
I thought , at first , we ’ d be a heavy music studio , but we ’ ve brought in all different sorts of music and that kind of makes it so that we can ’ t approach any two projects the same way . So , we get heavy stuff , I ’ ve just been working on some drone projects as well as some indie ; both of our comfort zones is more of the heavy music , so we ’ re both learning a lot and kind of picking up new production techniques and studying different reference material as we go . But ultimately , there ’ s no one approach … Now , one of my toxic mixing traits – for drums , at least – is that I almost always use the Waves JJP Drums plug-in to do like 80 percent of the stuff I need to do on kick and snare . It ’ s doing some mix of compression and EQ and gating , and it ’ s giving you some high-level controls that don ’ t mean much of anything , like Attitude , and I ’ m like “ Give me more of that !” It sounds great , so I ’ ll keep doing it .
One other big thing for me has been that I come from an electrical engineering background , and my job before this was a lot of working in cars and doing digital signal processing in them . So , making sure the sound was arriving at the same time from all these sources and studying these graphs and looking at phase and stuff ; and I feel like I ’ ve carried a little bit of that with me into my recording and mixing where I put a big emphasis on making sure the source audio is really clean and everything has good phase alignment , because it makes a huge difference .
So that ’ s kind of how I approach things . It ’ s interesting because I have a lot of the technical math background that I ’ m actually bringing to it .