Studios are branching out everywhere across the Wasatch Front—and with good reason, as our music scene has been seeing a steady rise in new bands looking to make quality albums. It's cool, yet very uncharacteristic of our scene, as a lot of musicians went the DIY route for so many years making music out of their basements, but now we're seeing people willing to spend their hard-earned cash on quality. One of the recent additions has been Pale Horse Sound Studios out of Pleasant Grove; founder Greg Downs chats with us this week about the origins of the studio and the music coming out of it. (All pictures courtesy of PHSS' Facebook page.
Gavin: Hey Greg! First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Northern Utah. I started playing in bands when I was around 14, and learned how to do live sound and started recording bands at around 16. I have mixed and recorded for nearly two decades, doing records early on with groups like Part Two, Pieces of Eight and others from the area. Later, I hopped around a bit, living and working in places like Phoenix and Los Angeles. I am now living in Utah County and enjoy sailing, writing music, making records and hanging with the family.
When did you first take an interest in music? Who did you enjoy listening to growing up?
Probably around 10 or 11 was when I got really into music. Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation
was the very first cassette I owned, followed shortly by Paula Abdul. I listened to whatever my parents did, which at the time was Top 40 in the '80s. When I was a few years older, I jumped in my older sister's car to try listening to her music. The first song that played was "Head Like A Hole" from Pretty Hate Machine
. Changed my life. Reznor has been on the top of my list ever since.
What pushed you to start playing and getting involved with local music?
I knew I wanted to be in music when my dad took me to my first concert, Van Halen. It was over. From then on, I was a guitar guy. It was just a passion: playing in bands, recording other people's bands, mixing shows for other musicians.
Aside from your solo material, what projects have you been involved with locally?
The studio is fairly new, but I have been trying to keep myself busy over the years. Everything from writing with groups like Royal Bliss, Joel Pack or Stephanie Maybe, to producing tunes for bands like My New Mistress, Erasmus and Berlin Breaks. I have even been working with a hip hop artist and country artist as of late. I love it all.
What got you interested in learning the technical side of things?
Purely necessity. I got into live sound by wanting big PA’s at my band's shows and not being able to afford an engineer to run it. They drop off a PA and show you how to hook it up a time or two, then next thing you know, you're getting calls to do it for someone else. With recording, it was because I was always wanting to make music, but couldn’t afford that much studio time, so I had to learn. Thanks to the kindness of some local folks, I had pretty easy access to learning and apprentice-ing that way.
Was it easy for you to learn the ropes to that end? Did you study for it anywhere, or was it all self-taught?
It came fairly naturally. I had worked in the studio and been doing live engineering for some time, then decided to go to sound school. I dropped out after a few months of realizing it was a lot of money to learn a lot of things that I had already been forced to learn the hard way. Plus, graduates were hoping to land internships at places I had already worked.
How did the idea come about to start your own studio? Where did the name come from?
We wanted to create a place to bring people together to collaborate and be creative. I wanted to make a place that musicians felt like they could hang out and spend a lot of time making music, or even just drop by to say hello. A place for a community to form and help grow our existing community. A place that other producers could come and work and feel at home. The name Pale Horse came from a nickname we had for our band van back in the day that later became our publishing company. We called it the Pale Horse because it was white and “carried the four horsemen of the apocalypse,” so when I was trying to come up with names, that felt like a nice nod to the old days of which I am very fond.
What made you choose Pleasant Grove for the location?
We thought that PG was a great place to try and serve the needs of many. Pulling from Provo, Southern Utah, Logan, Ogden, Wyoming and Salt Lake City, this seemed like an easy place to get to. It's only about 30 minutes from Salt Lake City and right off the freeway.
What was it like converting the space into a studio?
It wasn’t too bad. My father helped out with a lot of the construction, since I haven’t worked with my hands like that since working construction in high school. The building was close but just needed some finishing touches. It still has a lot of “character,” but is perfect for what we do.
What kind of instruments do you have on site to record with?
We have a little bit of everything. Guitars, basses, banjo, banjitar, squeezebox, mandolin, cello, grand piano, two drum kits and a handful of amps that I enjoy. Since I am also a composer, we also have tons of really fun virtual instruments, ranging from vintage synth to out of this world sound design. You can also check out a video online
that an old friend Rich Bischoff from Studio 14 put together that is pretty rad, and shows a lot of what's there.
What was it like for you when you first opened up and were getting the word out?
It was pretty scary. I don’t have much of a rep around here. Most of my musical background was spent in Cache Valley. But the response has been incredible. Everyone that has come in has been floored. We are really trying to create a creative and comfortable space where people can hang out, unwind and make their best work.
Who are some of the people that have come through and recorded with you?
Berlin Breaks, My New Mistress
, Gavin Langley, Mount Storm, McKay Harris, En Venom, Mathew Lanier, Melody Pulsipher to name a few.
How is it for you working with musicians from two different music communities?
It's been great. I feel like its a good home for people who just love music regardless of what community they are from. I have had a blast seeing some old friends come through, and making new ones. The bottom line is, I love music, and I love great writing and great execution. Those are elements that should be at the top of everyone's wish list. I listen to everything from Lady A to NIN and everything in between.
For those looking to schedule studio time, what do they need to know and have before they come in?
They need to know that weekends are very popular and to plan ahead. It always takes longer than you think, and you will always be less prepared than you think you are. Best advice is rehearsing the songs
, not just your part, and don’t
be afraid to call each other out on your crap. Sitting in the control room is the wrong time to try and build up the courage to tell your drummer he is stepping all over the lead vocal. Also, click. Using a metronome doesn’t mean you aren’t cool, promise. Also, I am always looking for artists to develop and work with as a producer. If you have something you think may be interesting please hit me up!
Are you looking to expand the studio anytime soon or are you happy with how things are now?
I love the space and size it is now. I feel like it's very appropriate for the types of projects coming in. I think future expansion would involve a live venue element.
What can we expect from you and Pale Horse Studios over the rest of the year?
Expect to hear some tunes! Have some fun projects on the books and always looking for artists to develop and work with on a producer level. We are a very new studio so it is exciting to just now be crossing that threshold where bands that are doing records here are starting to release them. We are also working on launching a live performance channel on YouTube showcasing live performances, so be on the lookout for that. Contact us if interested in performing on the channel. I also wanted to say that we do live sound as well for events. Part of Pale Horse Sound Studios is live engineering. With two decades of experience, we have worked with some of the best in the biz, and can bring you top-tier professional live sound for a very affordable rate. Most recently we sponsored and ran the outdoor stage at The Art Garden for Crucial Fest in Salt Lake City, mixed at the ASCAP Music Cafe in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival, as well as various events throughout the year. We do everything from small clubs to large outdoor venues. Local and international bookings available.