The Wasatch Front has a plethora of recording studios available, ranging from DIY constructs in people's basements to full-blown professional setups housed in large buildings. But for a lot of these studios, many of them might not make it past the first five years. Rates, music trends, housing, equipment and those in charge all play a factor to any studio's longevity, but as it is across the U.S., many are finding it tough to survive in these days. So imagine the sense of accomplishment Rigby Road Studios must feel to know they've been around over 15 years, contributing to the success of several musicians and playing a role in getting professional sounding music out to the masses in Utah. Today we chat with musician and studio founder Joel Pack about the studio and what they've got cooking for 2015. (All pictures courtesy of Rigby Road Studios.
Gavin: Hey Joel, first thing, how have you been since we last chatted?
I've been really well! I'm a father now, and that has really lit a fire under my but to take charge and get serious about all the stuff I say I'm going to do, and actually put action to it!
Gavin: How has the last year been treating you and the band?
In the last year, I've put out a full length record as well as a documentary DVD with my band, The Manorlands Project
, released two EPs with my old band Broke City (we had a reunion show earlier this year), and also released a Christmas album I've been saying I'd record for the last 15 years. It's been a busy year, but so good!
Gavin: Do you have anything in the works for a new album?
I'm sure I'll put something out in 2015, but I'm not sure what yet. I've been co-writing with a few different people, and probably have an album's worth of material written from all of that, but we'll see what gets released. I've also been toying around with the idea of writing a children's record now that I'm a dad. That's another thing I've always wanted to do. It feels like there would be less "rules" or expectations with a children's record. Little kids just want to hear music that makes them feel something or sing along. They don't necessarily have opinions yet about what's hip or trendy or whatever, and that could be really refreshing. That was the fun about recording my Christmas EP last year. Christmas songs are cheesy, and they're supposed to be. There's no need to put up some kind of "cool guy" front or anything like that.
Gavin: Getting to the studio, when did your interest start to form your own room for recording?
I've been recording out of basements and kitchens and even the back of my Hyundai for the last 15-16 years. I've learned a lot and had a blast making the best of not so perfect recording conditions, but I decided it was time to really give myself a proper place to work, and my clients a proper home away from home to make their art. Also, I felt bad when my wife came home and there would be random band guys napping on our living room couch or stinking up the bathroom in our little house.
Gavin: When did you and Devin Patten first meet and how did you become friends?
I met Devin about 10 years ago through mutual friends. He's just a straight up cool honest giving dude, and for whatever reason, he thinks I'm cool too.
Gavin: What made the two of you decide to take on this new venture, and where did the name come from?
Devin is actually just a friend who framed the control room in the studio for me. I gave him the dimensions I wanted for the room, and he knocked it out it a couple days! The dude is seriously a work-horse. I came up with the name Rigby Road Studios from being a big Beatles fan. I love the song "Eleanor Rigby," and always respected the legacy of Abbey Road Studios, so I kind of fused the two.
Gavin: What was it like setting up the studio and optimizing it for what you needed?
I was down to the wire getting everything ready for the big grand opening at the end of 2013. I was going in early and staying way late getting the construction done just the way I always wanted, setting up all the gear, having the luxury of bigger separate rooms and everything. I remember that last night before the grand opening, it was like 1 or 2 AM before I started locking up. I got all teary eyed, and just kind of stood there looking at the place. I felt like the 19 year-old version of me who had just recorded his first local band in my mom's basement got to hop in my current body and get a sneak peak of what would be going on 15 years later. I was really really proud.
Gavin: What were the first few years like for you and what challenges did you have to deal with?
I think there are a lot of similarities between the first few years and now. I was so eager to learn new recording techniques and buy new gear, I wanted to find that one band that would be a "game changer" for me. It could get difficult getting bands to pay for recording time, and I never knew where my next paycheck was coming from. Those things haven't changed for me, but I feel like my attitude towards those things has settled a bit, except the learning and buying more gear. I'll always be that teenage kid drooling over that next piece of gear or staying up reading interviews from my favorite producers and mixing engineers. I still get really passionate about finding new talent as well.
Gavin: A few years ago you moved to South Salt Lake. What brought on the change of location?
South Salt Lake has been a pretty awesome central location for my wife and I. It's close enough to downtown to catch shows or eat out at whatever cool new restaurant just popped up, and also not too far from clients coming from further South.
Gavin: For those curious, what kind of equipment and instruments do you have?
I am running Pro Tools on a Mac, and primarily use API and Universal Audio preamps. For mics, I have 2 Manley Reference Cardioid tube microphones that get a lot of use, along with a bunch of other mics from AKG, Shure, Sennheiser, and sE. I have a wall full of guitars and basses that keeps growing every year, a couple of older keyboards including a really cool and well kept Rhodes, and an AWESOME sounding DW drum kit that stays set up with mics ready to record pretty much all the time. Setting up drums and hoping the drummer brings in a kit that sounds okay, tuned well and has decent heads on it was always a gamble and would usually eat up a big chunk of time. Having the DW kit always there ready to go has been a total game changer for me. I used to have to set aside an entire day to set up drums and track a few songs. Now, I can get into a song with an artist, and sometimes we won't even decide to put drums to the song until we've been working on it for a while, and then I can just call a drummer in, and an hour later we have a drum track.
Gavin: Who are some of your favorite bands you've had a chance to work with since opening the new studio?
I had a really good time working on the Wildcat Strike record. The Holy Water Buffalo record is going to be AWESOME when it's done. I'm in the middle of recording a couple songs for the band Sober Down, and they are turning out pretty nuts as well. I got to do some cool stuff for Golden Sun and Royal Bliss as well. Oh, and the Visitors EP was a highlight as well! I know I'm going to kick myself in the head for not mentioning more bands here, but those are the ones sticking out in my head at this very moment.
Gavin: Are there any plans to expand the studio beyond what you have now, or are you comfortable with the way you have everything set up?
Everything is so cool right now, and I feel very blessed or lucky or whatever to be in the situation and the environment I have. That being said, I am always looking forward, and have been kicking around the idea of building more of a destination "compound" style recording studio somewhere a little closer to Park City. It would be really cool to have a place for artists to get away and really immerse themselves in the process of recording without being distracted by the city. Ideally it would be somewhere bands could live for the week with a kitchen and bunk beds and all of that, and be able to enjoy the amenities Park City has to offer without actually being in Park City.
Gavin: The studio itself turned 15 years in 2014. How is it for you sustaining so long in Utah?
Like I said, I have been very blessed to be in the situation I'm in. There are studios popping up every day, and it gets easier and cheaper every year for artists to record their own material in their bedroom without a producer or engineer. I am ever grateful to my clients that I've turned into my friends over the last 15 years for keeping me in business, and for keeping a roof over my head and food on the table for my wife and son. For me, I think it's really been about relationships. I have met so many cool people, and most of my very closest and best friends are people I've met because I recorded their band. These are the people who are keeping me alive, and I meet and get to know new ones every year. It's really made me happy and filled my life with a lot of joy.
Gavin: What kind of impact do you believe the studio has made on the music scene in that time?
Oh man, that's really hard to say. I'm not here making anyone rich and famous (yet), but it's important to me that bands and artists rally together and help give each other a hand up. I love that a lot of different artists will meet each other at the studio in passing, hear what the other band is working on, and then start booking shows together, or borrow band members for live shows or start co-writing. To me, that's the most important impact. I've hooked up countless bands with bass players, drummers, singers, guitar players, keyboard players, etc. I believe my clients see me and the studio as sort of a hub where if they need a question answered, or need to be put in contact with someone who can help them out, I can point them in the right direction. Rigby Road Studios has been that place for them.
Gavin: What have you got in store for the coming year?
More writing and co-writing, I'd like to set the bar even higher for quality, and I'd really like to help facilitate real music careers for more of my clients. Oh! And I'm sure I'll accumulate a crap-ton more gear like I seem to do! Maybe I'll even buy a used car.
Gavin: Do you have any dates coming up or any events you want to promote?
I'm rolling out a web series this year called "First Friday with Joel Pack." It documents the recording process beginning to end with a different band every month. So far, we've filmed with rockers Royal Bliss, indie band Golden Sun and a bluegrass band called Porch to Porch. The first 3 webisodes should be up in February on the website.