5 Questions With Matt Pinfield: Taking Over TV Again with the Return of “120 Minutes”

July 30, 2011 by  

LOWER EAST SIDE, MANHATTAN: People parked in front of their TV’s at 1:00 AM, EST on Saturday, July 30th either got a blast from the past or an exciting new music jolt, depending on their carbon date. The spark? None other than “MTV2’s 120 Minutes with Matt Pinfield.”

From the heart of the LES: Matt Pinfield's "120 Minutes" returns to MTV2.

Now a monthly series, the show marks the return of NJ-home slice Matt Pinfield to a format that connected an entire generation of listeners to the new music that they craved. Originally airing on MTV from 1986-2000 (and on MTV2 from 2001-2003), “120 Minutes” began as an alternative music lifeline, serving as pre-Internet sound discovery for the likes of Jesus & Mary Chain, New Order, Kate Bush, the Smashing Pumpkins, Bad Religion, and scores more. Nirvana’s debut of the “Smells Like Teen Sprit” video there was just one of the revelations for the millions who made it a point to tune in.

A prince of all media himself, Pinfield is now back in the saddle taping the new “120 Minutes” from Arlene’s Grocery on the LES – just as the plug got pulled on his popular radio morning slot with Leslie Fram on WRXP due to the station’s sale in June. Whatever the format, Pinfield’s exhaustive knowledge of rock music never ceases to entertain and educate, delivered at it is in his ultra-high energy style.

Pinfield connected with SonicScoop to give the lowdown on his return to the screen, the ups and downs of radio, and the buzz behind NYC.

Your debut episode is going to feature some pretty diverse interview subjects: Dave Grohl, Lupe Fiasco, PJ Harvey, Sleigh Bells, Das Racist, Dangermouse, to name a few. That’s a pretty wide spread – what’s the common thread between these artists?
Dave Grohl is one of the humblest men in rock and roll. The guy was a DIY guy — the first album Foo Fighters did was on a cassette. Dave started in Scream, going around the country in a station wagon with promoters threatening to shoot him.

The reality is that it doesn’t just have to be new and unknown, up-and-coming artists. I want people there with a history from “120 Minutes,” or who are plugged into the aesthetic or ethos of “120 Minutes.” The Lupe thing relates to the fact that people listen to music now so much differently than they did when the show was originally airing – checking out dubstep on their iPod. Lupe has a punk band, and he picked my favorite Radiohead video to play on the show.

In the next episode, Big Boi from Outkast will be talking about producing the Modest Mouse record. The rapper Theophilus London talks about Morrissey! It all comes back around. There’s so much going on in there.

I thought Arlene’s Grocery was an interesting choice as the host venue for the new “120 Minutes.”
Arlene’s Grocery had a great look to it. The color and look of the background had a similar aesthetic to the original “120 Minutes.” You had a starkness, and it was focused on the music. I like Arlene’s for that reason, and you can’t deny that The Strokes and a ton of other bands did their residency at Arlene’s.

I think Arlene’s represents the Lower East Side. I’ve hung out in every bar on the LES, but we were sold on Arlene’s when we were scouting places. Although we might change it up sometime in the future — there’s always that possibility.

How did you acquire your encyclopeadic knowledge of music? What’s the trick to maintaining and adding to all that knowledge?
I guess my enthusiasm is very child-like. I’ve never lost that youthful thing. From the time I was three years old, I was fixated on the family turntable. I was sitting in front of a record player rocking to the Four Tops, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones – this was something I was focused on.

I retained the musical information because it’s the thing I’m the most excited about. People would laugh when we were taping “120 Minutes” and say, “He’s been talking for a while. How did he get so much information on that cue card?” But all that would be there was the title of the song!  I always wanted to know the lyrics, and the inspiration behind them. I cared about stories, and as I met my inspirations, young and old, they told me things that were amazing.  I read books and newspapers — the floor of my bathroom has books, magazines, Mojo Uncut. Or I’m online. I’m always reading about music.

There’s people like you and me that have a passion about exposing people to music. But I’m a music enthusiast, not a music idealist. I don’t want to keep my knowledge of music in my back pocket – I want to share that experience I have when music takes me into a passionate place, elevates my mood, makes me feel OK because I’m lonely that day, or makes me feel like I’m in love. That’s how I look at music. I just enjoy it and I’m moved by it.

Have you been using Spotify?
I think Spotify is cool. There’s so many great Websites out there right now. If you have a passion like we have, then any tool you can use to become more aware of the artist you love, or go a little deeper – that’s one of the beautiful things about the Internet.

You talked comprehensively about the June sale of WRXP by Emmis Communications to Randy Michaels and GTCR in a recent “Hollywood Reporter” article. Why, specifically, do you think NYC has a problem keeping a rock radio station going? Isn’t this like LA not having an NFL franchise?
I’ll say this only once: The problem had nothing to do with the format or the music. It had to do with financial issues at the top of the company (Emmis).

There’s an incredible misconception that rock can’t work in NYC. That’s complete bullshit. We sold out five Christmas shows, bringing bands like Spoon, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon onstage. We were doing a lot of great things and our fans were really receptive. It had nothing to do with what rock could do in NYC. NYC radio at the moment is really lacking, and I think it would be ridiculous for someone to not pick up the torch and run with it.

But there’s so many politics about how people own stations, and how they look at their market share. Rock’s surely not down for the count, but the situation of the radio station being sold was all above our heads. There was nothing that we could have done as a staff for ratings, or whatever, that could have stopped that sale.

I had a great three year run with Emmis. I loved the opportunity, and that they believed in me and the brand of me. But when a company gets acquired, it doesn’t matter what the business is – it could be a shovel-making company – it’s going to change the dynamic.

Finally, where do you sees the NYC music industry headed as a whole. Is this still the place to be involved in music?
NYC is still the greatest city in the world. It always will be. It doesn’t matter the genre, beyond NYC and into the tri-state area, it’s still the place to be. People move here for a reason: There’s an energy about being a band in NYC that’s unmatched anywhere.

Even as things get gentrified or change, you’ll still find more excitement in an NYC area show than anywhere on the planet. And I know that because I’ve hung out everywhere. Artist for artist, venue for venue, it’s stronger here, and there’s a business to support it. It’s a great, proactive area. It’s the city of artists.

New episodes of “MTV2’s 120 Minutes with Matt Pinfield” will air the last Saturday of every month at 1 AM ET/ 10pm PT and will be available online at 120.MTV2.com.

– David Weiss

Studio Tour: North Brooklyn, Part 2

April 14, 2011 by  

NORTH BROOKLYN: Our neighborhood studio tour continues with four more decidedly uncommon studios in North Brooklyn. We talked to the owners of Strange Weather, Headgear, Metrosonic, and the Fort about sessions, toys, and building an active niche in this teeming slice of the city.

South Williamsburg (Coming Soon: Williamsburg/Greenpoint)

Those familiar with the SonicScoop blog-roll may recognize the name of Marc Alan Goodman, who’s been recounting the saga of building Strange Weather’s new, full-service tracking studio on the Greenpoint/East Williamsburg border. In the meantime, it’s a small secret that his current location already hosts one of the most impressive collections of hand-picked ear candy in the city.

Strange Weather is built around a 24-channel API 1608 console

More than anything, this is a studio for artists and engineers with boutique tastes. No summary can do justice to the extensive selection of gear that includes names like Neve, API, Purple, Gates, Federal, ADL, Neumann, Coles, dbx, RCA, and Bricasti. Strange Weather is also home to a startling collection of guitars, drums, and keyboards at the ready for capturing any sound musicians can imagine.

Most surprising of all, according to Goodman, is the price, and the fact that all his vintage treasures are in prime working condition.

“I wanted to build a studio where people can walk in and use world-class gear at an affordable price in a functioning atmosphere,” Goodman says. “There’s nothing worse than booking a day at a studio where nothing works. I feel like that’s the rule rather than the exception in the commercial studios I’ve worked in.”

In the interest of full disclosure, this reporter has recently been in for some sessions at Strange Weather, and this kind of attention to detail has it fast-becoming one of my favorite places to work. Owning a studio has begun to turn Goodman into a capable tech in his own right:  his racks are over-stuffed with impeccably maintained vintage gear, and  handmade re-creations of studio classics like the LA2A, LA3A and 1176.

Built around a new 32-channel API 1608 console brimming with the choicest EQs, Strange Weather turns out to be an ideal room for overdubs, mixing, or any sessions that don’t require a cavernous live room.

When asked about his niche in the studio scene Goodman says: “Ideally everyone would complete their records from start to finish in a studio, but today it seems more common for musicians to combine studios with smaller at-home or portable rigs. We’re focused on making that process as seamless as possible; to give musicians and engineers used to working at home a place they can walk in and use great, often rare equipment in a functioning environment.”

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Rates: Click for Room + Engineer Rates
Room Rate: $600/day; $550/day for blocks of 3 days or more.

If there’s any truth behind the idea that Williamsburg is a great place to make music, a lot of responsibility for that would have to fall on studios like Headgear Recording. Since opening in 1998, Headgear has been the birthplace of seminal records from  TV On The Radio, Massive Attack, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Animal Collective, CocoRosie, Nada Surf, My  Morning Jacket, Son Volt, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Moby and Santigold.

Although the “Room For Rent” model of studio has waned as competent owner-operators create their own personal oases of sound in every corner of the city, Headgear remains one of the most accessible and freelance-engineer-friendly studios in New York.

Headgear boasts one of the largest live rooms in the ‘hood, plus two iso booths.

In addition to house engineers Alex Lipsen, Scott Norton, and Dan Long, Headgear has been home to projects from a who’s who of hip and distinctive producers and engineers, including John Agnello, Peter Katis, Dave Sitek, John Hill, Chris Moore Gordon Raphael, TJ Doherty, and Chris Coady.

Headgear is also no stranger to Film and Television Post. Recent clients include “Grey’s Anatomy,” MTV’s “Skins,” “CSI: Miami” and the Columbia Pictures comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

According to studio manager Jackie Lin Werner, the studio’s appeal is personal as much as it is technical: “ We’re not stiff or pretentious. We’re down to earth and like to be helpful. Beyond the gear and the size of our rooms, I believe people trust Headgear as an established studio with a respectable client list.  Headgear probably appeals most to indie bands and major label bands looking for an affordable, high quality studio in a space that has a creative vibe. “

Headgear’s A-room houses an automated Trident 80C console and offers a choice of Pro Tools HD and 24-track 2-inch tape. A well-equipped B room is also available for mixing and overdubs.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Contact for rates.

Neve Console. Pro Tools HD. Ampex 2”. Engineers who know what they’re doing. What more could you need to know?

Metrosonic’s vitals = Neve 5315, Pro Tools HD, Ampex 2”

According to Metrosonic’s Pete Mignola, it’s the people who make a studio: “The people who built it, the people who run it, the people who use it,” he tells us.

“Everyone who comes to Metrosonic talks about the vibe. Of course they like the great gear, the affordable rates, the windows & city views, but they always say that they love the vibe here. There’s human element to this that makes each studio unique and special in its own way.”

Metrosonic has always had a large, comfortable control room. More recently, the studio’s originally modest live room underwent significant renovations in 2008, and now, Pete and the crew are excited to bring a new 850 square-foot live room into the fold.

Bushwick, Brooklyn

Rates: $40/hr, including Jim Bentley as Engineer.

Over the past decade, North Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood has filled up with enough small private studios to fill an area twice its size. In that time, Jim Bentley’s studio The Fort has stood as one of the neighborhood’s active mainstays.

Mission control at The Fort, equipped with a Neotek Elan console

Persevering in this competitive new territory since 2003, owner/operator Bentley has hosted noteworthy clients including Brit Daniel of Spoon, Doug Gillard and Kevin March of Guided by Voices, James McNew of Yo La Tengo, Jennifer O’Connor, John Agnello and  Jemina Pearl.

This especially affordable studio is equipped for both analog and digital sessions, offering a Neotek Elan console, Tascam 1” 16-track, and a 24-channel MOTU/Apogee system. The studio bills at $30/hr on weekdays from noon to 6pm and at $40/hr 6pm-midnight or weekends, and includes Bentley’s services as engineer.

Bentley is most proud of his live room, a large, vibey space with vaulted, heavy-timber ceilings: “I love to track full bands in the room live for feel and then sauce it up and make it sound supernatural from there,” he says.

Bentley’s down-to-earth approach is made clear in his parting words to us. The Fort, he says, “appeals to the clients who realize making records is more about the man and the performance than the machine or the media buzz behind it.”

Justin Colletti is a Brooklyn-based audio engineer and music producer who’s worked with Hotels, DeLeon, Soundpool, Team Genius and Monocle, as well as clients such as Nintendo, JDub, Blue Note Records, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Visit him at www.justincolletti.com.

Bidding Farewell to Howie Weinberg, Masterdisk Promotes Matt Agoglia to Senior Mastering Engineer

January 8, 2011 by  

This just in from Masterdisk in Midtown Manhattan: Owner and mastering engineer Scott Hull announced that Howie Weinberg has left his longtime post at the studio to head out West and set up shop in Los Angeles.

Matt Agoglia in his (and Howie Weinberg's former) mastering suite at Masterdisk

In his place, Scott has promoted engineer Matt Agoglia to the position of Senior Engineer.

Agoglia — who served as Weinberg’s right-hand man for three years at Masterdisk while building his own mastering clientele — is now taking over Weinberg’s mastering suite, and will continue mastering records using the same gear that he and Howie have been using for years, a rig used to master classic records by The White Stripes, The Clash, Wilco, Nirvana, U2, Public Enemy, Pixies, Sonic Youth and many more.

This mastering suite is located within the Times Square Recording Company space, formerly Scott Hull Mastering (prior to Hull acquiring Masterdisk in ’08). This space also encompasses writing/production rooms for Kyle Kelso, Mikel Rouse and Jeff McErlain, and a secondary production environment for producer/engineer Dave O’Donnell.

As always, Masterdisk headquarters — housing Hull and the rest of the Masterdisk team — is at 545 W 45th Street.

“The Times Square space is a really cool group of mixers and songwriters and artists, grouped together there with Matt’s mastering studio,” says Hull. “Even though, with Howie leaving, this could have been a good time to shut it down and consolidate, I really wanted to maintain this environment — there’s chemistry and potential collaborations there with those guys and Masterdisk and myself, and I’m not sure that’s all been fully explored and realized yet.

“Mastering is not just mastering anymore,” he continues. “Half of the time we find ourselves being mix consultants, with clients sending us material that needs to be re-mixed. It used to be very rare for the mastering engineer to suggest that a mixer or the client to take another look at their mix, but it is coming up more and more. The pro stuff is still great, but that first step down to semi-pro is a big one!

“So we get a lot of people asking us to recommend mixers to help them get a better sound out of their recordings. From a business standpoint, it would make a lot of sense, ultimately, to have a group of likeminded people to share opportunities when they come up.”

About the departure, and the promotion, Hull said, “Of course we’re sorry to see Howie go, but this is part of how the mastering business has always worked. No one stays at any one place forever. Young engineers work with senior guys, and learn the finer points of the craft. When spots open up, the younger engineers step up to move the torch forward.

“I started my career as Bob Ludwig’s assistant. And when Bob left Masterdisk for Maine I was promoted to Chief Engineer in his old room. Matt’s a very good engineer, and his clients have been very happy with his projects over the past few years. I have total faith that as more people get to know his mastering style, he’ll be very successful here.”

Recent records Matt has worked on include Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach, Spoon’s Transference, Wavves’ King of the Beach, and Rogue Wave’s Permalight.

Speaking of young mastering engineers working their way up, Masterdisk continues with its Masterdisk Indie program that Hull launched just over a year ago. “Of my first round of indie guys, several of them are now doing regular work,” says Hull. “Graham Goldman, for example, has done a few metal projects that have gotten some nice attention. And a couple of the other guys have been bringing in bands from the Brooklyn indie rock scene.”

As for his own schedule of mastering projects, Hull mentions a couple of recent 5.1 surround releases, including Sting’s just released “Live in Berlin” concert DVD. He mastered Sting’s Symphonicities album for vinyl and CD and then the concert DVD with stereo and 5.1 mixes, both with arrangements and production by Rob Mathes. He’s also been working on 5.1 mixes of Dave Matthews Band concert recordings.

“We’re finally getting serious about surround – we did a few more surround projects this year, and we’re adding some gear and finishing our surround rig over the next month or so,” he reports.

“I was talking about surround back in 1999! But the reason I’m putting a little more effort into it now is that I think Blu-ray is going to stick around for awhile. I work with a lot of contemporary composers and people who might be pushing the envelope in different realms and I have this sense that — from a creative standpoint – someone’s going to do something cool with this, and I don’t want to be too far away from it when that happens!”

For more on Masterdisk, visit www.masterdisk.com. And to book Matt for your next session, contact Erin Hungerford at erin@masterdisk.com. Matt can be reached at matt@masterdisk.com. Congrats Matt!

An Interview With NYC Taper: New York’s Live Music Archivist

September 15, 2010 by  

LOWER MANHATTAN: We meet Dan Lynch aka NYC Taper downtown near City Hall at lunchtime. This is Dan Lynch by day — a criminal defense and civil rights attorney with offices near the city courthouses. By night, his scenery changes a bit. The very next night, for example, he’ll be recording MGMT at Radio City Music Hall.

Dan Lynch aka NYC Taper at Glasslands Gallery in Williamsburg

On the scene since ’07, NYC Taper is a beloved resource amongst indie rock bloggers like Brooklyn Vegan, Large Hearted Boy and Pitchfork and music fans worldwide. The intrepid recordist, Lynch and his four-track recorder and mic array capture an estimated 150 shows a year, capturing some of the best (mostly indie-rock) shows going down in our fair city. Through his website — www.nyctaper.com — he then provides show reviews, streaming recorded highlights and the entire concert as a free download.

Did you hear that Spoon played Cake Shop in the middle of the day this week? NYC Taper was there. Did you, like us, regretfully miss the Rocks Off Concert Cruise with Built To Spill a couple weeks back? Worry not, NYC Taper was on board. And when you just can’t swing a super-late-weeknight at Monster Island Basement, tune into NYC Taper — he may have you covered.

A sampling of NYC Taper’s summer ’10 recordings include Deerhunter and Real Estate at Pier 54, Franz Nicolay in Backyard Brunch Sessions, The National at Terminal Five, Flaming Lips at Central Park Summerstage and Holly Miranda at Vivo in Vino.

When Lynch or one of his three contributing tapers post the recordings, mixed in their respective home studios, they include the full recording details, i.e. Built To Spill on Rocks Off Concert Cruise: “This set was recorded with the Neumann microphones pointed at the stacks from about twenty feet, and mixed with feed from the soundboard. Soundboard + Neumann KM-150s > Edirol R-44 (Oade Concert Mod) > 2x 24bit 48kHz wav files > Sound Forge (level adjustments, mixdown, set fades) > CDWave 1.95 (tracking) > Flac Frontend (level 7, align sector boundaries) > flac.”

Stream “Carry The Zero,” and we guarantee you’ll want the whole recording — it’s completely exhilarating. You feel like you’re there, getting swept away and out to sea, singing along with all the enraptured fans. And always chief among them is Lynch, who does this purely for the love of it — really, read all about it here:

Where did the concept for NYC Taper come from, and how long have you been recording live shows?

The site started in May of ’07. But, I’ve been recording concerts for a couple decades, though never with this regularity or at this quality. There are actually a few of my nineties recordings on the site. [i.e. Black ’47 @ Paddy Reilly’s in ’96]. I’ve also been collecting music since the late 70s and going to concerts in the city since I was a kid, growing up on Long Island.

Prior to starting the site, I’d been recording shows and posting them up on whatever Bit Torrent site, and it just seemed like there was nothing to it. And then one day someone took one of my recordings and posted it on their blog, without giving any credit. Plus, they’d down-sampled it to MP3 at a really crappy bit rate, and it sounded awful. And I just thought why don’t I do this? Why don’t I set up my own blog?

Tell us about how you got started…

For the first two or three months, I didn’t really have a vision for where it was going. It was just about putting up recordings and having that control over where and how they be posted. But then, about three weeks after I started the site, I recorded Dinosaur Jr. and that was big. And then Wilco at Hammerstein Ballroom and — wow — I was getting all these hits!

Those were both bands that allow fans to record their shows. But ultimately, I began reaching out to get permission to record bands and building my contacts there. And the big switch was when I started to realize that it’s not all that rewarding to record bands that everyone already knows. I love Wilco and I’ll go see them whenever they’re in NYC and record the show, and it gets big traffic for the site, but it’s more rewarding to find the band nobody really knows and help them get out there, and then see them playing bigger and bigger venues and feel like you had a part in that.

Awesome. And so it really took off. Why do you think it was the right time for something like this?

Setting up at Glasslands for the Prince Rama and Deakin show 9/13

Well, there are two different ways to record a concert. There’s what I do — actually getting the artist’s permission and recording with high-quality equipment to produce something everyone can be proud of. And then there’s the other subculture of fans bringing in their tiny recorders and tiny clip-on microphones and recording concerts. Some of those sound okay but most sound pretty thin.

This whole subculture has helped me in some ways because artists accept the concept that whenever they play out, people can’t really be stopped from recording the show. And if you can’t stop people from recording, then you — the artist — want to turn that into something you can control. They know I do good work, so it makes sense for them to give me the access and I’ll go in and do it right.

What criteria do you have when deciding which shows to record?

Well, I don’t go to see stuff I don’t like. NYC Taper is also a live music blog, giving people information, links and generally a good review — creating a buzz around music I think deserves it. In some cases, my recordings have given bands more exposure, which has led to more success. And that is my ultimate goal with this.

People reach out to me all the time now, and sometimes the bands are really good. So it’s definitely ballooned. There’s also a social element to it — I put on a CMJ show every year and an anniversary show every May. I’m not trying to be a concert promoter, but it’s just something I can do now because I have this vehicle to promote and all these artist and venue contacts.

Did you start out thinking about NYC Taper as something you might build into a business?

No, it’s not a business. I’m not making any money and I don’t want to make any money. I also don’t want to lose my shirt though. I’ve invested a lot of money into equipment, tickets and travel, etc. but occasionally people donate some money. I was able to pay for about half of the server fees last year with donations. I also get a lot of invites and get on a lot of guest lists.

And as far as the actual recording — how do you typically set up? Do you have different configurations or methods?

It depends on the venue. I generally like venues that are going to let me plug into the soundboard any way that I can. And then I’ve got the 4-track recorder so I’m going to put two high-end mics somewhere in a good spot in the room. I’ll get 4 channels, and then mix it down however it needs to be mixed down.

I’m using the Edirol R-44 recorder. It’s really small, which is great. I have external battery power, an 8GB SD card and I can get about 4 hours of music in 4 channels at 24/48. And then I’ll pull it into the computer, and I’m using Sound Forge to edit and mix.

OK, and where do you like to place the microphones, using a recent show as an example.

NYC Taper's Neumanns setup aimed at the stacks on the Glasslands stage

Sure, I was just at The Rock Shop in Brooklyn, and I set up the microphone pole right in front of the soundboard, and then I set up my recorder and took a line out from the board. At the Rock Shop that’s literally 20 feet from the stage and so I used my Neumanns.

But it really depends — I record in so many different venues in the city. I’d only been to the Rock Shop like twice, but it’s easy. Other venues aren’t as easy — I might have to run extra cable and figure out a different setup. A lot of it is haphazard too, so I’m going in there and figuring out what I need to do right away. And I want it to be quick in and out because I’m doing 150 shows a year.

What’s the biggest venue you’ll record in?

I was in Terminal 5 for The National the end of July. In a lot of the big rooms, you can’t get a board feed unless you pay for it. Sometimes it’s $200 or more. One place asked me for $3,000! In those cases, I’ll just run mics in the room. So a lot of the recordings are just that — mics in the room. And if that’s what it is, I’m doing four mics to a four-track recorder.

Where have you gotten the best results? What’s the best room in NYC?

The best room, sound quality wise, is probably Bowery Ballroom, where I don’t get a sound board feed very often, but I have a couple times in cases where the bands went out of their way to talk to the sound guy on my behalf. But the sound in that room is so good that just running four mics from the balcony sometimes produces amazing recordings.

And how exactly to you place the microphones in that case, where you’re capturing the room, no board feed?

A pair of Neumann KM-150s, which are the hyper-cardioids, are pointing straight into the stacks, and a pair of DPA 4021s are going out (sideways) to get a rounder feel. They’re cardioids too, but they have a wider spectrum. All four are mounted on a microphone pole.

Ooh, I also really like the Bell House — the setup is really good for me there. The board is raised and I get to be up there too, so I’m raised above the crowd with a straight line at the stacks. I’ve had a board feed there a bunch of times, and the people working are always good.

What about a DIY-type venue, like Monster Island Basement?

Todd rents a small system for these shows and there are limitations, but I’ve been really happy with some of these recordings, like the Akron/Family show there in July.

And what about post-production? What’s your philosophy about the end product?

NYC Taper gets a board feed from Glasslands FOH Derek Maxwell (left)

I want it to sound as close to the experience as possible. I do not normalize. I don’t want a wall of sound. If you look at my wave files, I want life and breathing room in between the peaks. I want it to have some natural dynamics.

So, I’m pretty conservative in the field in terms of recording. I don’t want peaks because I know when something peaks out and brickwalls then I can’t even use it. When I go back to mix — let’s say it’s a four channel and I’ve got soundboard and audience — the audience is going to be pretty basic. I’m just going to bring it up to 0.1 on the peaks. A lot of times I’ll get heavy drumbeats or claps that I’ll have to soften but I want most of it to be in that range — the real peaks at like 0.1.

And then on the board, it depends because a lot of boards are vocal heavy or keyboard heavy, so I’ll have to figure out the percentages of what I want to do. If the board is well-balanced, and the audience is loud, it’s going to be 75% board; if the board is poorly balanced and the audience is really nice and clean, it’ll be 75% audience.

You go to more shows than anyone I know — which have been your favorites this year?

My favorite show so far this year was Holly Miranda at Vivo In Vino. This happens one Sunday a month, they bring in an artist and team them up with a boutique winery at In Vino in the East Village. She was solo for this show. It was like she was playing in someone’s living room. I also saw her at Bowery Ballroom in May and that was one of the better shows I’ve seen this year as well.

And are you available for hire?

Yeah, I do a few shows here and there. But it’s not that much fun for me necessarily. If I’m going just to make some extra money, and the band doesn’t do much for me and I wouldn’t record them otherwise, then it’s like a job. And I have a job — I don’t need another one. (laughs) But it’s nice to get paid to go out to a show and sometimes you make good contacts with the venues and sound guys.

NYC Taper has caught on fast — what do you think that says about the market for live concert recordings?

The fact is that there are other people and companies doing this because fans want these recordings. That company Aderra records concerts to flash drives and there’s another site called PlayedLastNight. But I like to think I’m doing more than just recording these shows. There’s the social element as well.

You see yourself as more of a blogger and recordist.

Exactly. And in that sense, it gives people more of a feel of the experience. And if they don’t agree, they can comment! I’ve also become, in some ways, kind of a tastemaker by choosing to record bands that I think are good. I get comments on the site where people say ‘I loved this recording and band — I went out and bought the CD. Or, I’m glad you recorded this because this band didn’t come to my town. That’s the goal — when that happens, I really feel like I’ve done something good.

Indeed, and on the tastemaker tip, tell us about some of the artists you’re excited about right now!

Sharon Van Etten (right) at The Rock Shop. Photo for nyctaper by David Andrako (http://davidandrako.com).

Well, I’ve been plugging Sharon Van Etten for a couple years now. She’s headlining Mercury Lounge in October. I also like Common Prayer (led by Jason Russo of Hopewell), who played Rock Shop this week. I really like their album. I’ve always been a fan of The Loom, and they have a new album that’s really good. And I think Diamond Rings is going to hit it big pretty soon.

I’ll do my CMJ Show on Thursday at Cake Shop and we’ll have like nine bands, including Unicycle Loves You, Keepaway, ArpLine. Every band is a band I believe in.

Cool! And where do you go from here? Do you have plans to build out the site in any way?

One of the things I want to start doing is streaming. My first streaming show is going to be a venue that’s reopening and it’s going to be a pretty big deal. That may not happen for a few months.

I also want to get more people involved in the site. Right now, it’s three regular tapers. Down the road, I want it to be 20 people, so we’re doing one or two shows a night. I want it to be like Brooklyn Vegan, with their photo coverage, but for recording. I can only do so much, I need to get some other people involved.

I also want to redesign the site — and I’ve been looking for a white knight for a server. It’d be awesome to have a humongous server — everything could become more comprehensive and I could expand the reach, so more people know who I am and what the site is all about!

Visit the NYC Taper site at http://www.nyctaper.com and check out the huge archive of shows, including Spoon at Cake Shop on Monday afternoon. It’s already up! And follow NYC Taper on Twitter @nyctaper.

Lia Ices, Small Black, Banjo or Freakout, Sebastian Blanck (etc.) at Rare Book Room Studios

September 7, 2010 by  

Since we last checked in with Nicolas Vernhes at Rare Book Room Studios in Greenpoint, he tracked and mixed on Spoon‘s Transference, recorded with Dirty Projectors and Bjork, mixed the Animal Collective movie Oddsac, and much more. Read on!

Nicolas Vernhes mixed the forthcoming debut LP by Brooklyn's Soft Black, "New Chain," at Rare Book Room Studio in Greenpoint.

Most recently, Vernhes produced/engineered the upcoming Lia Ices record, which will be released in early ’11 on Jagjaguwar, and a new record by Banjo or Freakout for release early next year on his own Rare Book Room Records. Also for Rare Book Room Records, Vernhes co-produced and mixed the new album by Sebastian Blanck, Alibi Coast. Check out Blanck performing album-opening track, “I Blame Baltimore” at Rare Book Room Studio HERE.

Vernhes also mixed Steve Wynn’s new record for Yep Rock, engineered/mixed the new Versus album On the Ones and Threes for Merge, mixed the new Small Black record, New Chain for Jagjaguwar, produced/engineered the new So So Glos EP for Green Owl and recorded/mixed Endless Boogie’s Full House Head.

Vernhes has also engineered a three-song EP for a new project featuring members of Junior Senior.

Check out Rare Book Room Records here, Rare Book Room Studios here and our ’09 feature on Vernhes and Rare Book Room HERE.