Saturday, June 28, 2014

Share with Me Saturdays - Ben Brodin Part 2

"Listening music come together is so gratifying."

Happy Saturday, everyone! As you may recall, we are featuring Ben Brodin this month, and you can read his survey post here.

Photo Credit: Tim Gillespie

We had the pleasure of touring ARC Studios in Omaha, where Ben is currently a sound engineer. For those who may not know, Omaha is this wonderful hub of Indie music in the Midwest and is home of Saddle Creek Records. You might be most familiar with Bright Eyes. Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis actually founded the studio. Anyway! I will try to do this beautifully-designed space justice:

ARC offers three separate spaces to do recording, Studio A, B, and C. We toured the whole mess of them. As we wandered, we talked about everything from recording equipment and sound design to just the cost of the space. 

ARC offers a flat daily rate for the studio, and it's competitive enough that they'll see bands from across the country make the trip to the Midwest. On the flip-side, I also learned that recording, while always a really good plan in theory, can sometimes take a lot longer than a band had scheduled/budgeted for, and the studio time isn't completed in the session they booked. 

Photo Credit: Tim Gillespie

Studio A: Largest studio offering. 

Ben pointed out that Studio A's Neve mixing console (see below) was George Martin's. It was a really big deal when ARC purchased it.

Photo Credit: Tim Gillespie

Studio B: A smaller studio offering, and where Ben spends most of his time. At the time we talked, the going rate for that space was $250/day.

Photo Credit: Tim Gillespie

Ben showed us a microphone they had acquired that formerly belonged to Neil Diamond.

Both A and B Studios offer a variety of isolation booths. These booths allow for cleaner sounds when multiple band members are playing at the same time, and allows the musician to receive their own mix of what they need to hear.

Photo Credit: Tim Gillespie

Studio C: The smallest studio offering. It's best for solo recording and/or electronic music recording sessions, it seems. There's an isolation booth that's about the same size as a porta-potty...but much fancier (and not a toilet) (blink).

Photo Credit: Tim Gillespie

On our tour, Ben showed us instruments that are also available for artists to use to add extra/fuller sounds to the mix. Ben also is a studio musician himself, so he will occasionally sit in on recording sessions, too. I most often associate him as the vibraphone player on a lot of tracks, though he can play anything in the rhythm section.

Photo Credit: Tim Gillespie

He also showed us extra walls that can get rolled around in the studio spaces to help make that cleaner sound, but still allows band mates to play in the same room together.

After our tour, we settled into the mixing room at Studio B. The summary of all the things we covered goes a little something like this:

Classy: So how did you get to be a sound engineer at ARC? What was your "in?"

Ben: [The "in" for ARC is] friendship with the owners, usually. I played music with Steve from Mal Madrigal. He was an engineer here before me.

Classy: Is this your full-time job now, or...?

Ben: I'm currently accepting as much studio work I can get. About a year ago, I was to the point where I was getting enough work as a house engineer that I no longer needed to give lessons. I'm proud to have gotten to that point without having to fight for it like other engineers.

Classy: Oh?
Ben: Some are just ladder-climbers, always want to meet the right people, I can smell it on them.

[Classy aside: I'm very much with Ben on this one; I feel like I've really had a lot of luck getting to do what I get to do in life right now. Sometimes a lot of education, schmoozing, and/or money get you where you need to go. Sometimes just knowing someone who invests in you gets you where you need to go, too.]

Ben: I don't sleep well before a session. I run scenarios through. In my early sessions, I'd come practice all night, and everything would still go wrong during the session!

Classy: So, I bet all the bands that record here are really awesome!
Ben: No. Some are just terrible.

Classy: What do you do then?
Ben: When the music isn't good, I try to hone in on some technical element to get excited about.

We started sketching together. I tend to focus on having the artists draw things that make them anxious/worried. This is all with the hope that seeing it out loud will make the anxiety...better?

While we were sketching, I continued to ask him about whether he's still working on his own projects (writing/recording/performing). He still enjoys working on music and creating and all those wonderful things, but he also said some stuff that surprised me.

Photo Credit: Tim Gillespie

Classy: What do you mean you don't like performing live?!
Ben: Performing doesn't feel...honest, playing in front of a roomful of strangers. Being onstage comes with all this other stuff, like making sure my hair is OK.

"Shh...No one knows that I have no idea what I'm doing here..."
Photo Credit: Tim Gillespie

To conclude our time together (before dinner, of course. We always have a meal together when we see Ben!), I had him (and Amelie) pick out a Classy hat. Like I do.

Photo Credit: Tim Gillespie

Ben has his personal website here, and I think it's well-worth the trip to Omaha to have ARC Studios help you with your next album. They even have a guest house your band can use for the longer sessions!

-C McG

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