A Recording Studio on the Range
By: Sam Houghton, March 2, 2012
SAM HOUGHTON - John McNamara in the control room of his Woods Hole home studio.
Step through the door into a small room. There’s a sudden drop of pressure, a quiet zoom, like slipping underwater. Egg crates are stapled to the walls. Numerous mics and a drum kit sit among floods of wires snaking across the floor towards a control room.
Two dudes are sitting hunched in front of a computer, listening intently to an acoustic track.
“What do you think?” one of them asks. He is short and tan with buzzed black hair and an intense yet friendly expression. His name is John McNamara, and this is his home studio.
“It’s alright,” the other guy responds with a shrug.
“You want another take?”
“Yeah, if you have the time.”
McNamara opens his arms with a smile and as if to say, “my home is your home.”
The Do It Yourself revolution is here. Garage bands, equipped with nothing but a more than a crappy tape recorder and a Radio Shack mic are mixing tracks that become albums distributed by major labels. With the recording program ProTools and a Mac, your band can come out of the basement and start sounding like The Beatles.
McNamara says that his roughly $9,000 studio can “recreate 90 percent of what a professional studio can” at an affordable cost, with minimal time restraints, all in the laid-back atmosphere of a cozy home.
McNamara got his a taste of music production at Berklee College of Music, where he studied trumpet, but his thirst came when his high school band 86 watched their money slip away in the hands of the professionals at Monkbam Studios in Plymouth.
“I was watching these engineers playing around with the knobs and it seemed so elementary. It sucked. I thought, ‘I could do that. I could do that better,’” McNamara remembers.
Five years later, McNamara has slowly built up his independent label, Kid Charlemagne Records, into what has become a hub for Upper Cape musicians. On any given day, the studio will be hustling with local singers and bands – including Jimmy D, John Beninghof, Luke Vose, and McNamara’s own band, The Commonwealth – all yearning for that signature warm sound.
From the Heart Media
After a jaunt down Route 28 and a swing through the back woods of Brewster, you’ll come across a different kind of home studio, one with jagged edges and a raw, bootleg sound.
From the Heart Media is a label built around the bed of Tim Sylvia, a drummer in multiple bands, a producer, promoter and everything in between: a man that appears to be single-handedly carrying the mid-Cape music scene.
If you’ve heard a recording from The Soft White 3 Way, Western Syndrome, or El Viaje, chances are Sylvia’s put his spin on it. He has no formal background in engineering, yet he boasts a similar advantage to McNamara’s compared to the professionals: endless time for maximum creative comfort, and quality that rivals an expensive studio recording.
“I like doing it. I want the music to get out there,” Sylvia says humbly.
Everywhere you turn, you’ll find recording studios in basements and bedrooms popping up. Musicians are no longer waiting for handouts from the fat cats but taking matters into their own hands.
Perhaps the glitz and glam era of the rock ‘n roll star—idols funded by fancy entertainment companies—is dead. But sprouting up in its wake are pockets of creativity crafted by the very hands that make the music.
Music produced by musicians: it’s been a flourishing ethos since the Sex Pistols declared war on everything corporate and royal, since Black Flag ripped across the country in a rat infested van and Kurt Cobain called it quits.
It’s about creating something real and good that we can all claim as our own and share amongst each other.