Garden Room Recording Studios
Garden Room studio is an 8-track analog recording facility setup in my basement.
Steven Sidley and I recorded a cover of the Police's Invisible Sun in his basement using 1 mic, a keyboard, and a pool cue that we beat on a big vinyl pillow (for that Copeland drum sound). We recorded one track, and using 2 stereos, played back what we've recorded on one stereo while we playing along and recording on another stereo. One of the stereos used is the infamous Panasonic Turbo Thruster combo-unit that At Wits End eventually will record their first demo on (albeit with a few more mics and a sub-mixer).
I hooked up with school-mate Richard Smith and we began our "experimental music" phase. We began recording with the group Synthetic Men using the same double-stereo technique pioneered by Steven Sidley and myself years earlier.
I got my first taste of a "real" recording studio while Point of Departure recorded our first demo at Red Brick Studio in Wheaton (the studio was where Nils Lofghren recorded his early works). I tried to remember all the details of what a recording studio looks like - the foam pads and eggcrate all over the place, the separate control room with neat-o window, and most importantly, the little flashing light that replaces the telephone ringer! From this day forward, I vowed to build my recording studio empire.
During my first year at college, I experimented with live to 2-track recordings. Playing guitar live on 1 track while simultaneously singing onto the other track, I wrote and recorded songs at a feverish pace. By this time Garden Room Studios had grown to 2 mics, the Suave-A digital delay, and the Panasonic Turbo Thruster stereo combo.
That summer, At Wits End record our first demo in the studio, now enhanced with an array of microphones (among them a prized Sennheiser 421) and a mixing console, all of which on loan from Steven Sidley. I learned a lot of new techniques during those sessions - most notably that you can get that "We've got a Fuzzbox" sound from a guitar amp by plugging it directly into the mixer!
1988 and 1989 were mostly spent running live sound for concerts and working for Ted Team Studios. The year 1990 however, marked a totally new era for Garden Room Studios - this was the year we entered the true multi-tracking arena! Yes, 4 years after leaving Point of Departure, I finally saw my financial investment in the band returned. This gave me enough money to purchase the studio workhorse for the next 2 years, a Yamaha MT100-II 4-track cassette "studio in a box" recorder. With a growing list of microphones to choose from (mostly Shure SM57s and SM58s) I was beginning to record more and more for hire! My first paying customers were Wonder Bred out of Baltimore, MD. They were a 3-piece that played mostly instrumentals. This afforded me the option to have stereo drums! I think they were pleased by their first demo because they came back and recorded 2 more tapes over the next 6 months - my fee of $10 per song (not per hour) probably helped too...
Throughout those years I was actively recording demos, live shows and practices for both my own and others' bands. Finally in the fall of 1991 my talents were recognized and I moved from my job as a live sound engineer to a job as Head Studio Engineer at the Saint Mary's College Media Facility. This facility served as both an audio and video recording studio, as well as the college television station. The recording studio was really in its' infancy, and I was able to encorporate my background as a Physics minor and my experiences from the past to help design a working facility. While this was not technically Garden Room Studios, I do consider my work there as responsible for my future direction.
After my failed attempt at entering the career field as a studio engineer, I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands waiting for my next job interview. Garden Room Studios was once again revived in its' purest sense - just me, the 4-track and a bunch of mics. I recorded a bunch of masturbatory works during this time, one of which actually made it on to a CD. Sizing up the quality of the works on the rest of the CD, it became apparent to me that my lowly 4-track would not cut it in the music business. This frustrated me and I went on hiatus for a little over a year while I contemplated wether or not to continue what I had planned to be my carreer, now demoted to my hobby.
In the summer of 1994, as in 1990, I was once again rewarded with a sum of money, this time a settlement from an incident with a drunk driver that nearly took my life in 1989. I knew exactly what to do with the money - something that would reward me with a lifetime of joy - I invested in a nice, used Tascam 38 1/2" 8-track recorder and matching Tascam M308 mixer, along with an outboard Dbx stereo compressor and Digitech DSP signal processor. Now I had enough tracks to actually record a full stereo recording, and with the tape speed and track width of the recorder, produce a much higher quality product. The only problem I had now was that living in an apartment left recording conditions less than ideal. Very little work was done during this period outside learning the ins and outs of the equipment.
Finally in the spring of 1996 I joined a band that had an actual practice/recording space. Garden Room Studios moved out of my apartment and into a row house in downtown Washington, DC. The good side of this deal was that since we were in a business district we could record and play at virtually any hour. The bad side of this deal was that there was a community center next door for the Eritrean community, and subsequently a lot of cabs with their 2-way radios would park out front and wreak all sorts of RF interference on the equipment.
In December 1996 after recording a couple demos, the band, studio, and related equipment relocated to the quiet community of Falls Church, VA. The new house had virtually perfect conditions for the studio so the noisy Tascam M308 mixer was replaced with the much cleaner and fancier Tascam M312B console, an identical board to the one I had used extensively at the Saint Mary's College Media Facility. Some of the best recordings to date were made here in the basement with this setup. This was Garden Room Studios as it was meant to be.
After going through a major life change in 1997, I boxed up the entire studio and moved to the rural Virginia countryside. My wife and I have since bought a house with a nice unfinished basement room and I plan on creating a permanent home for Garden Room Studios in the future. Hopefully, as with the "field of dreams", after I build up the studio the musicians will come.
I have been doing live sound since the 1980s and have worked with bands like The Ramones, Fishbone, Maggie's Dream, 3rd Bass, Images, Outcrowd (now H2O) and a host of regional and local talent. I have engineered/produced demos and CDs for dozens of bands throughout the years. When the studio is back up and running I will hopefully be looking for new bands to work with.
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