Midnight Records | Buzz Blog

Midnight Records

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It’s no secret that a lot of local musicians prefer the DIY approach to recording. But for those who want to head down a more professional road there's one locally owned studio that's thriving and looking to help more artists with their work.

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--- Midnight Records has been operating out of downtown SLC since early 2007, giving local artists a place to record their material in a polished environment with a wide array of instruments and quality equipment at their disposal. This week they hit the one year marker with fond appreciation to the artists who helped make the studio a success (along with a party to mark the occasion this Friday), and an optimistic vision for the future of the studio. I got a chance to chat with studio manager Kent Rigby about the studio, its brief history, thoughts on the scene and a few other subjects that came to mind.

Kent Rigby
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http://www.midnightrecordstudio.com/

Gavin: Hey Kent, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kent: I put down the violin and started playing guitar after I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964, and have played in several bands since. I started recording my band Us At Midnight on a Tascam Porta-Studio 4 track cassette recorder back in 1986, and caught the recording bug. I'm a licensed architect, ceramic artist, sculptor, musician, and recording engineer. Over the years I've had many other creative outlets including poetry, songwriting, photography, printmaking, painting, and jewelry making. I was involved with Left Bank Gallery from it's inception and served as Gallery Director for many years. This got me into the Salt Lake Gallery Association where I held positions as Public Relations Director, Vice President, and President over a ten year period. My efforts in the visual and performing arts have largely been involved with emerging artists and my work with the Utah Arts Alliance has continued that tradition.

Gavin: For those who don't know, what is Midnight Records?

Kent: Midnight Records is a recording studio established under the umbrella of the Utah Arts Alliance, a 401c3 non-profit organization. Our mission is to help promote visual and performing arts by providing support for emerging and under-served artists. At Midnight Records, we offer affordable sound recording services. Usually as package deals, according to how many songs are recorded, rather than hourly recording rates. 
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Gavin: Where did the idea to start the studio up come from?

Kent: I have been collecting musical instruments and gear since the 70's and finally had so much stuff that I decided to do something else with it besides record my band and my friends. I hooked up with the Utah Arts Alliance and became the Gallery Director after the demise of New Visions Gallery, an offshoot gallery from Left Bank. Derek Dyer is the executive director of the Utah Arts Alliance and has been supportive of my ideas. The Utah Arts Alliance Gallery was at our building at 2191 S. 300 W., and was kind of off the beaten track, as far as galleries go, so we decided to try and find a better gallery location that could also house a recording studio. Derek found the 127 S. Main Street building and we were fortunate to secure an affordable lease.

Gavin: Why did you choose to work with the Utah Artists Alliance and not do it as an independent project?

Kent: There's not much money in either the art or music business in Utah, and I've always had to work a day job to pay for my involvement with the arts. I felt that the recording studio was not going to be profitable enough for me to quit my day job and try and run the gallery and studio full time, so doing it part time through the non-profit seemed to make the most sense. Besides, I enjoy working as an architect, and don't want to give that up. The non-profit route helped out by making it affordable to start the recording studio and continue to run it without a lot of capitol. It allowed us to focus on helping artists rather on trying to make money to survive.
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Gavin: How did you go about getting all the equipment and instruments you needed?

Kent: As I mentioned, I had been collecting instruments and gear since the early 70's, however, I  still needed some key pieces of equipment to complete the recording studio and took out a 2nd mortgage on my home and raided my 401K plan.

Gavin: Did setting up go smoothly or was it a difficult process?

Kent: The most difficult part was renovating the 127 S. Main St. building which had been vacant and unmaintained for many years. The building was a wreck. It took 3 1/2 months of working every night and weekends to get the first gallery, Contemporary Design and Art Gallery, owned by Michael Melik, ready to open and another month to get the Utah Arts Alliance Gallery open. The recording studio took an additional 7 months to get ready to open. During that time, I was working the day job as well as doing the renovation work, so it was 19 hour days. Once the building was ready, the equipment was installed and set up during a weekend. So, that was the easy part. 
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Gavin: Tech wise, what kind of audio and recording equipment do you have?

Kent: I'm recording through a 24 channel Soundcraft Ghost analog mixing board into a 24 channel digital hard disk recorder. Once the tracks are completed, I transfer the tracks into the computer for mixing with Cubase SX3.1. CD's can be printed directly with an ink jet printer and copied with a duplicator. I've got some high end pre-amps and great mics so we get a good sound capture. The Gretsch Renown Purewood African Mahagony drum kit records well, as does the Boston grand piano. The Marshall and Mesa guitar amps are hard to beat. Studio tech Cal Cruz, has been a big help with getting the computer side going, as well as helping setting up sessions and sound production. 

Gavin: What was it like when you first opened up, and what was the public reaction to having a new recording studio in town?

Kent: When the studio was about ready to open, I asked artist John Bell to do an art show to coincide with the studio Grand Opening. He came up with the theme “The Sound & The Fury”, Heroes, Madmen and Fools. This was the perfect theme and the imagery revolved around music and musicians. John's partner, Mary Fresques, is a great promoter, and she did a fantastic job of getting publicity for the art show and openings. She invited another TV station to cover the event, which really sparked public interest in the project. We made some good contacts from the TV coverage and again during the Grand Opening event. I also did some advertising in SLUG Magazine. Because the recording format was new, I decided to initially concentrate on offering free recording services to friends and friends of friends, to get up to speed. Then I started booking bands and musicians. The initial public reaction was quite good, and the studio has been busy, usually booking sessions about two weeks out!
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Gavin: Who are some of the artists that have used the studio to date?

Kent: Artists and bands that we've worked with so far include: Cerulean Blue Music Consortium, John Flanders, Tom Grisley, Michael Lucarelli, Stalin's Dossier, Guitar Cat and the Prowlers, Hard Luck, Greg Thompson, Russ Hermann, Teresa Fuller, and Oh! Wild Birds.

Gavin: Has the idea ever come up to start your own label, or are you primarily sticking to just being a studio for other labels to use?

Kent: Yes, I'd love to start a label, and have the logo for Midnight Records, all ready to go. I also want to be able to offer music publication services. These will come in time as the studio does less "free-bee" work and begins to pay the bills.

Gavin: You hit the one year marker this week, how does that feel and have you got anything planned to commemorate it?

Kent: The one year anniversary is a great milestone, in terms of shear survival. We're planning a One Year Anniversary Celebration on Friday January 9th, 6-10PM, with an art show, “Earth People” by Derek Dyer, and live music by Oh, Wild Birds. It should be really fun, and everyone is invited to come and enjoy the art and music, free of charge.
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Gavin: A little state-wide, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?

Kent: Salt Lake has always had a fairly strong music scene and it is continually getting stronger. I am impressed with the talent and song writing ability that's out there. Especially the younger artists, the Indie scene is exploding around the world. The traditional nature of the music business has changed forever. I see this as a good thing and I'm excited about the creative fever that's been sparked. I don't have any negative comments, except regarding the few bands that have not honored their recording contracts with me. It's your bad Karma dudes, live with it! 

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it better?

Kent: I've heard artists talk about the need for a local venue where bands and musicians could play and get their stuff heard by a wider audience. Maybe a coffee shop venue like the old Painted Word. Another friend of mine wishes for a hip place where artists of all kinds could hang-out and talk art and listen to music. I wish I had the resources to start such a place. Maybe someone will step up and make it happen sometime. The problem with the club and bar scene, like most everything else in the world, is money. Society doesn't tend to support artists directly, we let them fend for

Gavin: What do you think about local labels, and do you believe they help or hinder musicians?

Kent: I think local labels are fine and help artists. Anything that serves to promote music and helps it get to a wider audience is good. My goal for starting a label is motivated only to help artists and I'm sure others feel likewise. Once you go commercial, there has to be a certain amount of "selfishness" to keep the dollars flowing, and that's when "problems" with any system arise. I think of money as being a tool, not a goal in itself. Artists have to make money at their art to do it full time. That's the challenge, how to best help people become working artists.
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Gavin: Do you wish there were more areas available for bands to practice and record in, or are we pretty well set for what we have?

Kent: If there could be public funding for additional rehearsal and performance space, then there are many artists out there that could benefit from it. It terms of commercial space, it's probably fairly well balanced in terms of who can afford to use what's available. More cheap commercial rehearsal space would be good, but real estate costs money.

Gavin: What can we expect from you and Midnight Records over the next year?

Kent: Midnight Records will continue to grow and develop internally and always strive to produce better and better recordings. We will continue to endeavor to provide economical recording services to local bands and musicians. As soon as the work load demands it, the studio will become available for weekday recording sessions, and more artists can be served. I have some other engineers who can open the studio during the day. This is not something the commercial studios will like, but basically we'll be serving artists that can't afford to use them anyway, so it's all for the greater good! 

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug

Kent: I'd like to plug the Utah Arts Alliance in general, and our visual arts program specifically. The Utah Arts Alliance provides programming for performance, recording and visual arts. We offer studio space, performance space, classes, economical sound recording services, and an art gallery for emerging and undeserved artists. We have an annual Request for Proposals where artists can make application for a visual art exhibit. The exhibits are presented free of charge. The gallery is located at 127 S. Main St. There are actually two art galleries there. I mentioned Contemporary Art and Design Gallery, which co-locates with us and helps pay the bills, so we can continue to serve the great local visual and performing arts community.

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