They can show you what the red button
does: Gordon Davies and Marc Fuller.
duo use a bucolic studio for conservatory courses in audio
you didn’t know what you were looking for, it would be
easy to mistake the Edie Road recording studio for just
another dairy barn out in the woods and fields of Argyle.
From the outside, there’s little indication that the modest
structure houses anything other than cows and hay, never
mind the equipment used to record a Grammy-nominated hip-hop
kind of funny to think that Kanye West was sleeping on
the floor on a futon mattress right over there in the
corner,” says studio owner and engineer Marc Fuller. “He’s
a cool guy and it was a fun session.”
West used the facility to track the 23-piece Harlem Boys
Choir, who had a summer residency in Saratoga Springs,
for his debut album The College Dropout. The album
went triple platinum. To Fuller, though, the story is
only one of many dating back to the early ’90s—when he
started at the studio, then called Sweetfish, as a high-school
intern—through his purchase of the facility, to this year,
when he and longtime production collaborator Gordon Davies
plan to open a one-of-a-kind conservatory program for
aspiring recording engineers.
On a cold afternoon in December, after a massive ice storm
had crippled the area and left the studio without power
for days, the story Davies and Fuller are most anxious
to tell is the one of their most recent session. Davies
had brought a band of friends, the Steamers, up to the
studio so that he could refamiliarize himself with the
recording console in preparation for the conservatory
classes. What he got was a lesson of his own. For two
days they tried to power the studio on a gas generator,
but it wouldn’t give them enough juice to run all the
couldn’t run the water pump if we were running the studio,”
says Fuller, “so if you had to use the bathroom, we’d
have to take a break, turn off the studio and turn the
National Grid trucks were driving by, working on the power,
and we were in here with our candles. But it was a great
session,” says Davies.
The anecdote stands as an extreme potentiality for a quality
the studio has long prided itself on: the creative ambiance
that rural isolation can generate. With a second-floor
apartment, built to accommodate sequestered musicians,
the studio offers its services to urban artists who may
not have the luxury of silence and solitude.
a studio in the city, you’re in a room recording and then
you take a break, walk out into the street, and your senses
are assaulted,” says Davies, who’s spent 20 years as a
freelance audio engineer in the New York City area, where
he makes his home. “You come up here and it’s very creative.
You can be upstairs hanging out half of the day and when
creativity strikes you, you can just walk downstairs,
plug in and start recording.”
Davies has been bringing projects to the studio since
the early ’90s, so when Fuller called him up one day to
pitch the idea of the recording conservatory, Davies didn’t
had always thought about how it would be possible for
me to implement my own audio program,” Davies says, “but
it always came down to needing a studio.” Now, with the
resources in place, Davies has customized a course offering
that draws from his experience working at the Omega Recording
Studios in Washington, D.C. (a large commercial studio
licensed through the University of Maryland), and allows
room for instructors to teach from what they know—namely,
the many “stories from the trenches” that both engineers
eagerly offer up.
With the commercial music industry in free-fall, the timing
of such a venture may sound peculiar. Not so, says Davies.
When he left Omega, enrollment was up, but few students
aspired to the conventional industry course of taking
an internship at a commercial studio, climbing the ranks,
and eventually going freelance.
Davies explains, “We’re gearing our program toward people
who are going to be buying the gear and want to start
a home studio, or musicians who want to work at home and
have bought the gear but don’t know how to use it.” Just
as file sharing and bit torrent has revolutionized the
way music is distributed, affordable home recording equipment
is busy turning every sap with a laptop into a producer.
While many in the industry bemoan this sort of populism,
Fuller and Davies are taking it in stride.
many people are doing home recordings now,” Fuller says,
“but they’re not necessarily getting the best sounds.”
because you’ve bought Pro Tools doesn’t mean you know
the right way to use equalization, compression, etc.,”
says Davies, referring to the industry-standard digital-recording
software. The aim of the course, then, is to use the setting
of a professional studio to teach students the foundational
principles of audio engineering so that they can then
apply this information to their home setup.
The first of the program’s weeklong sessions will cover
the hardware that engineers at any level will encounter,
including microphones, consoles, signal-processing technology,
EQ and compression. The second week is an in-depth Pro
Tools tutorial. The third week covers niche skills like
jingle recording, commercial production, surround sound,
and audio for film and TV production. In the fourth and
final week, the group will have a professional band on
hand for students to practice recording, overdubs, mixing
and mastering. Each Saturday the studio will have an open
lab for students to practice their skills.
For now, each day of the program is broken into three
four-hour slots to accommodate students who also work
day jobs, but Fuller and Davies look forward to a time
when they can offer more intensive, specialized classes.
just want to get this one up and running first,” says
Fuller, “before we put the dorms up.”
Davies echoes this modest goal. In light of the subpar
recording quality he’s heard in music lately, he says,
“I’m hoping to see if we can bring the bar up a little
Edie Road conservatory program begins in March. For more
info, call 692-2822, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.