THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Up Close & Personal with the Review Music Awards Seven-Time Winner and Owner Of the ‘Best Recording Studio’ in the Great Lakes Bay Region
06th August, 2020 0
Andy Reed is a man of many talents. Reed’s musical origins date back to the late 1990s when his Power Pop trio, The Haskels, made an album under the guidance of Brendan Benson,best known for his work with The Raconteurs. The sessions not only resulted in the band being signed by Bullfrog Records, it officially gave Reed the recording bug.
It was during this period that Reed developed three traits that continue to underpin his work as a producer and engineer. First, he began to acquire equipment, upgrading as the tools of the trade started to become more accessible during this same period. Four tracks became eight, then sixteen and more. Cassettes were replaced by ADATs. Reel to reel entered the mix for awhile because … why not? It was good enough for The Beatles and it was an important part of learning how to make a record. Eventually, he adopted and set out to become an expert in Pro Tools.
The second trait was the ability and interest in melding both modern and vintage technologies into the recordings he was making. Driven through a combination of economics, opportunistic buying and an interest in trying to emulate the sounds on his favorite records, what was now called Reed Recording Company began to accumulate a vast array of gear that facilitates making world class recordings. The ability to employ a hybrid of digital and analog, vintage and state-of-the-art is core and axiomatic for the studio's ability to craft recordings across a variety of genres and production styles.
The third is that Reed made the conscious decision to develop a world class home studio to carry out his business. Aside from the obvious work / life benefits this provides for Reed and his family, it has created an atmosphere that has proven critical to the development of the studio's growing reputation. Reed places an emphasis on the human side of production and it starts with the comfort of “making records in Andy's basement.” When artists are stressed, it shows up in the recordings. When they are relaxed, the same thing happens. It's a key to the business model."
Though Reed's main focus for the last decade and a half has been as a producer / engineer, he has also continued his own career as a performer and recording artist. In addition to the 250 recording projects that Reed has completed with other artists in the studio, he has also toured and performed with many of Michigan’s finest acts, including serving as the bassist for the Verve Pipe from 2009 - 2013
Andy started Reed Recording Company back in 2006 and the studio has steadily evolved and grown over these past 14 years. Reed has managed to secure the honor of being selected ‘Best Recording Studio’ in the Great Lakes Bay Region at our annual Review Music Awards for seven of those 14 years, including this year’s win at our 34th RMA Ceremony.
Listening to Andy’s work one can readily identify a fullness, richness, and warmth to the sound - much like the signature artistry of such recording producers as Glyn Johns who produced landmark Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones recordings, Bill Szymczyk who recorded for Joe Walsh, The James Gang and The Eagles, and even George Martin of Beatle s& America fame.
Given Andy’s profound passion for music and the magic he creates behind the board, what does he feel distinguishes him the most from other recording studios in the region?
“That’s something I think about quite a bit,” reflects Reed. “In this day and age when technology allows more people to record by themselves, I think one important factor is that I’m a big fan of music and being able to genre jump is something I really like to do. Rather than make every band some similar, I try to get inside their head and find out what they want to sound like.”
“My big thing is vocals and I really want them to stand up front and center in the mix,” continues Andy. “We have a lot of strong vocalists in our area, so first I focus on getting their performances front and center. I also think it’s important to capture what the artist’s vision is - whether it’s something I hear or they hear, I want to customize their recording to reflect their sound. I want Barbarossa Brothers to sound like themselves; and Amy Petty to sound like Amy Petty.”
“I’m also not big on using a lot effects because I think the uniqueness of each artist is something we’ve lost in a lot of modern music. For me it’s about the performance, which I think is missing in a lot of modern mixes.”
Given that each instrument Andy records is also factored into the mix, the warmth and dynamics of each member’s performance is also critical to the finished product. As an example, recording live drums can be incredibly difficult, depending largely upon the room they are recorded within in and the resonance of that room. Consequently, Andy also approaches his instrumental recordings in a similar fashion.
“Microphone placement and recording techniques are things I tried to learn early on in the game,” he reflects. “I didn’t have all the plug-ins to fix instrumental performances after-the-fact back then, which nowadays you can more or less do; but for me the important factor is capturing the performance properly on the way in, which is something I focus on with everyone I record. I always tell my clients, ‘Let’s get it right and not think about fixing it later.’ Performances always sound better with less manipulation and processing after the fact.”
Another significant factor that helps define the sound of recordings that come out of Andy Reed’s studio is his fondness for the warmth of analog as opposed to digital recordings. “Everything is pretty much digital now, but I use a ton of analog processing, which makes a big difference in capturing dynamics and resonance. Over the past two years digital converters have caught up and finally the sound you can get out of them doesn’t sound so processed as it once did and come out really nice. So basically, I always try to take that analog approach when I’m recording and mixing, even though it’s done on a computer.”
“I still want the main tracks to be a band performance as opposed to copying and pasting tracks in order to put something together,” he continues. “So I put those same limitations in force with my digital recordings that old engineers had with tape. It’s best to get the performance right when you get it down - that’s what makes The Beatles and Rolling Stones records so special - those are human beings playing their instruments; not pasting them together.”
Over the expanse of his 14-year recording career, Andy estimates that he’s recorded over 250 actual groups and musicians over that span of time, which is a testament not only to the strength of our regional music scene, but proof of how much talent we have generating original work.
Are there any albums from this incredibly broad roster of artists that stand out for Andy as his favorites?
“Honestly, I’m proud of all of them,” he respond. “But over the last few years I’d say my favorites are the F.O.R. Collective recordings that I did with Rosco Selley, along with the work I’ve done with my band The Legal Matters. I’m also very proud of the album I did with Amy Petty last year. Honestly, there are so many of them I hate to leave anyone out. Another thing I’m really proud of is the Tom Petty Tribute album that we released this year with different Petty songs performed by our area’s more talented bands and musicians.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic pulling the plug on live music and decimating so much of the musical, cultural, and arts communities over the past five months, what are some of goals Andy has been eyeballing as we move into the unfamiliar terrain of this ‘new normal’?
“I’ve been playing it week-to-week, as have so many others,” he reflects. “The first few weeks I spent time cleaning the studio and making it a safe environment by picking up a thermometer to scan people so nobody has a fever when they record. But my longer terms goals involve house hunting. Right now I have the studio in my basement but now my wife and I are looking for houses with an outdoor pole barn or a separate structure. That way I can build my dream studio and also hopefully stage some live shows as well. I would like to see that happen within the next six or seven months.”
“But honestly, I’ve been busier than ever. My schedule has not loosened up in 10-years and I’m still booked 8 weeks out 6 days a week, with a lot of artists coming back for five or six hour sessions.”
Additionally, Andy has been writing and recording a lot of his own material during the quarantine. “I just released a new EP quietly that I recorded early on in the quarantine; and The Legal Matters have been my baby for the past few years and we are almost finished with our third record. They used to be a side project when I first started, but now they are one of my main projects, so the better songs I write go to The Legal Matters. I’m super-excited to get this new album out there. We had to slow it down a little because of COVID, but our last album did quite well. We were able to release it on the Omnivore label and they will be our first choice with this new recording; but it’s a wait and see kind of thing. Smaller Indie labels are struggling right now as well because of COVID, so we’re taking our time with this project so when the industry picks back up we’ll have a better chance of getting it out there.”
Never one to rest upon his laurels, Andy says he has also been busily getting more heavily involved with the Recording Academy of Producers & Engineers, which is a branch of the Recording Industry of America. “They have a membership of close to 6,000 professionals and recently I was able to meet Chris Shaw through this group, who is the producer on Bob Dylan’s new album. I’m meeting people whose records I’ve loved for a long time and spending time picking their brains. I’m learning more now than I ever have, so it’s weird how things work that way.”
“For me music much like life is a journey that never ends.”
For more information on Reed Recording Company please phone 989-450-6749 or visit email@example.com
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)