Whether you’re looking to record something in a basement or head into a professional studio, Winnipeg has no shortage of options for musicians who want to make albums.
Home recordings continue to be a popular choice and one Winnipeg band sticking with them so far is Boys’ Club, an emo/punk quartet that started in 2012.
Its most recent EP Dolores was released in November 2013 and was made in the Blue and Red Room, the basement home studio owned by Jordan Voth, best known for recording with Winnipeg punk band Dangercat.
“I do like the comfort of home recording, but I wouldn’t be opposed to recording in a commercial studio. I think it would be good just for the experience,” says Tyler Young, Boys’ Club bassist/vocalist.
“But being that we’re not very financially stable, going this route seemed like the best choice,” drummer Sebastian Cox says. “At this stage I don’t really see the point either. We should keep getting used to the recording experience, writing songs and releasing music before we start dropping the big bucks.”
While Voth attended classes at the Mid-Ocean School of Media Arts, he’s still in favour of recording at home and is currently working on an EP for a new band he’s singing and playing guitar with called Bleed American.
“The most important thing bands can do is write good songs and play them well,” says Voth, 24. “Bands are going to be what they are whether they go to a pro studio or they come here. In the end, it’s bands that make good records, not producers.”
Voth says there are certain advantages to recording in a home studio, and while his rates are generally project-dependent, he allows new clients to record one song for free.
“The biggest advantage of being in a home studio like mine is you’re not on the clock. You can spend eight hours just doing a guitar solo if you want,” he confirms. “I also only do one project at a time so my focus is on just one band at a time, which isn’t always the case at some commercial studios.”
While he runs Cubase (music software) instead of industry standard software and doesn’t have nearly as much equipment as a professional studio, Voth says he has what he needs to get the job done.
“I have three high-end mics I use for vocals. Bigger studios have 10 or 20 of them, but you don’t really need that many.”
A studio that tries to take the best of both worlds is Precursor Productions, which opened its doors at 218 Marion Street in 2000 and is the first professional studio in Winnipeg entirely based around digital technology.
Andrew Yankiwski, a partner in Precursor, has been at the studio since the start, gaining previous experience from the ‘90s underground dance scene, in addition to being a member of the band FLFK.
The studio’s past clients include hip-hop group the Lytics and electronic pop band Vikings, but it also works on films, offers services to corporate clients and organizes classes for those who want to learn how to record stuff themselves.
“Our approach created a lot of confusion around our competitors since the traditional view is that people wouldn’t need our services anymore if we just taught them how to do it,” says 43 year-old Yankiwski.
“But we found there is a symbiosis between teaching people how to make music and then doing it professionally. Most people take our introductory courses just to get the ball rolling and some of them will also come to us as clients because they have gaps in their knowledge and want the guidance to immediately get something that sounds pro.”
He also thinks community is a big reason his studio continues to thrive, even though people can easily play around at home and do their own thing.
“A lot of people have told us they’ve come here to meet people, since those in their existing peer group aren’t really into this type of thing. We do offer a place for people to meet if they’re excited about getting deep into creativity, and they might end up with some new friends along the way as well.”
Empire Recording is yet another professional studio in Winnipeg, but one that takes more of a traditional approach to the process.
Shawn Dealey has worked at Empire as an engineer for the last year and has gained lots of experience through founding the Prairie Recording Company studio, which closed down last year. He’s even flown down to California to work with American rock band Counting Crows.
Located on top of Whiskey Dix in the Exchange District, Dealey’s space boasts two studios, a live room, lots of instruments and an SSL 6024 E/G+ series console, which is commonly used in big Los Angeles recording studios. He says the console is the only one you’ll find in Canada between Vancouver and Toronto.
All of that equipment is one reason the 28 year-old no longer works out of his house.
“I’m really not in favour of home recordings,” admits Dealey. “I always found it very frustrating to try and accomplish anything when I was working at home because of all the distractions. I think that people really get into the mindset that they’re really here to work when they come over here.
“Another big bonus coming to a studio like one this big is easily getting people in the same room to play together. Having a big room is also better for capturing stuff like drums, which is really harder to manage in a smaller space at home.”
Recording rates at Empire vary like they do at most studios, but are generally between $425 to $500 a day, a cost that alternative/punk duo Mobina Galore thinks is fair.
The band formed in 2010 and says it spent one day recording a two song demo at Empire last year.
“Our goal with that was to get something we could send to other producers and record companies that might be interested in working with us, to basically add a name to our resume that someone was going to recognize,” says Jenna Priestner, Mobina Galore guitarist/vocalist.
She says she has a small Boss digital recording studio at home, but still chose to record in a professional studio.
“I think the most important thing is to just consider what you want out of your music because it really varies for everyone,” she says. “We really think it’s important to hear the perspective of someone who hasn’t heard the songs before and can offer us feedback.
“If you want to take it to the next level where you’re touring and getting support behind you, I still think the only option is to go into a professional studio with a producer.”