October 28, 2008
Toronto Music Scene has decided to branch off and incorporate other aspects of the music scene into our site. The bands definitely make up the core of the scene, but so do the fashion designers, the cd artists, the producers, the promoters and numerous other individuals that contribute to the solid rock in this city.
You’ve worked with a plethora of talented artists including Jersey, the Dunes, Turn Off the Stars, the Salads, Sadie May Crash, Kittie and Machete Avenue. What have been some of your favourite bands/projects to work with and why?
Every record I’ve worked on holds a special place in my heart, as do the individuals that make up those bands. I always make sure we’re having fun at all times and that things don’t get too serious or stressful. It’s really hard to pick any favourites among them all, but there has certainly been many years of laughs and jokes with all of them.
In one of our emails you mentioned a neat story regarding the building of your "3000 square foot studio and the singer of a band that builds homes, and one of the coolest barter/trades in history." Care to explain?
I did an EP with a band called Chasing Mercury in 2005. The singer of the band, Robbie Mercury, has a day job framing houses. The idea for the studio had already been over 10 years in the making. My goal was to have a place in the country where bands could come and make a record without the annoyances of the big city. I approached Robbie with the idea of him building the studio in exchange for me producing the record, as well as engineering, mixing and putting up the entire band for a month here. I designed the studio and had plans made up and in the summer of 2006, we went to work. I hired his brother to help out, and my family and I did a bunch of work as well to get the place done in a matter of months. In May 2007, Chasing Mercury started work on their first full-length record, which was released in September 2007. Robbie still comes by periodically and helps out with little ideas and things I have for making the studio a better place.
What are the most common mistakes you notice from independent bands that head out to your studios?
As a producer, it’s my job to make sure the artist or bands are prepared. Whether that means having the songs ready before they get here or simply making sure to bring extra strings and drum sticks. Preproduction is there so that I can get together with the bands and make sure everything is ready before they get here. If they’re not, then we work together to get things ready. That may mean helping write a simple guitar part for a section that’s not working yet, changing focus on a beat or completely rewriting a song.
Do you have any advice for bands that are getting ready to record their first EP?
Hire someone that you believe in. Listen to the records they’ve done. If you like them, look further into who has worked on them. Many bands think they can DIY and be indie and save cash, but there are people out there doing this for a living that really know what they’re doing. I’m as indie and DIY as the next guy, but I know my limits and when it comes to hiring someone amazing for the job, I don’t hesitate. Just because I can electrically wire up a house doesn’t mean I should be doing it – I’d prefer to hire someone that has tons of experience and can get me out of a jam if something comes up. The same can be applied to bands doing their first record or EP. Find a producer that knows what they’re talking about (and there’s plenty of them out there that don’t) and get to know them.
Has technology and at-home equipment/programs helped or hindered independent artists in terms of sound and sound recording?
I’d have to say it’s helped in the sense that ANYONE can now do something that sounds mediocre in their bedroom. Things like Garageband and Logic have allowed so many people to just throw loops of music together and create songs. I always feel that with any new technology, everyone’s bar raises. Musician’s in their bedrooms and basements can now do work that I only dreamed of when I was starting out with a cassette 4-track, but the problem is that technology is now available to everyone, and everyone is using the same tools which makes things sound bland and boring. You still need the vision and talent to make it stand out among the rest, probably more so now than ever. I’ll take a 4-track over that any day.
Is it more beneficial for artists/bands to seek professional services rather than recording themselves early on in their career?
Well, I would be a hypocrite for saying yes, because I did exactly that in my early years – bought a bunch of gear and learned to do it myself. I spent many years messing around when I could have simply hired someone great to do the work. Unfortunately, back in those days, there weren’t many indie producers around. Unless you were on a major label, there was no way to afford the big guys. These days records don’t cost $300k anymore, and there are many guys out there doing it, at varying degrees of greatness. Again, I think it’s best to seek out a producer that you like the sound of and inquire, unless you want to spend 10+ years getting great at recording yourself.
What projects are you working on right now?
I have a number of records coming up with many great artists, both known and unknown. The info for who’s coming in or is in is always posted on my site. I’ve also built a mastering room here at Beach Road and am doing that work as well now for artists.
For more information on Meier, Beach Road studios, his services and for samples of his work, please visit:
All photos courtesy of Siegfried Meier