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They can show you what the red button does: Gordon Davies and Marc Fuller.

Photo: Josh Potter

Signal Flow

Recording duo use a bucolic studio for conservatory courses in audio engineering

By Josh Potter

If 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 album.

“It’s 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 gear.

“We 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 pump on.”

“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.

“At 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 hesitate.

“I 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.

“So many people are doing home recordings now,” Fuller says, “but they’re not necessarily getting the best sounds.”

“Just 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.

“We 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 bit.”

The Edie Road conservatory program begins in March. For more info, call 692-2822, or e-mail


Felice Brothers

CHANGE THE NAME, NOT THE GAME Everything has been up-up-up for the Saratoga-based duo Charlie Everywhere since we featured them last summer [“Happening Cats,” Listen Here, Aug. 28, 2008]. Word-of-mouth buzz that bordered on hysterical led to tour dates with Syracuse band Ra Ra Riot, which has now led to a record deal with European label BBE Records, the imprint behind acts like Madlib, Pete Rock, and the late J Dilla. But just as they were to sign on the dotted line, they were informed that their own name might lead to some trademark problems. No problem: World, meet Phantogram. The newly minted moniker will adorn their new EP, due later this spring, as well as a full-length to follow later this year. In March, Phantogram will appear at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas; first, they’ll open for the New Deal this Wednesday (Feb. 18) at Revolution Hall. Follow all the happenings at

SOUTHBOUND Speaking of South by Southwest, the taste-making music festival runs March 18 to 22, and the Capital Region will find itself well-represented at this year’s outing. In addition to Charlie Ev . . . er, Phantogram, festivalgoers will be privy to an excellent cross-section of what our area has to offer: the upstate-bred sounds of hard-rockers Ironweed, alt-folk army Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned, and one-man acoustic machine Sean Rowe. Rowe has a new album called Magic, coming this April on Collar City Records, and the bits I’ve heard are outstanding; you can download the first single, “Wrong Side of the Bed,” at And keep up on all things SXSW at

BACK TO THE GRIND Also prepping a new record are Troy’s power trio to end all power trios, Super 400. They spent some time at the famed Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tenn., last fall, and this month they’ll return there to oversee the production of a vinyl master. That’s right, kids: They’re finally going on wax. And it’ll be a special one, for sure: Ardent will use the legendary lathe (the machine used to cut the master disc) used to cut grooves at the Stax recording studio, as well as on a number of Ardent releases. The machine is in the Stax Museum of Soul Music, and it’s coming out just this once more for the Super 400 job. The band also have launched a newly redesigned Web site at, and they’ll hit the road sometime in May, likely for the remainder of the year.

MORE NEWS OF THE NEW The Catskills-based ragtag band of Felice Brothers have a new one on the way, due April 7 via Team Love Records. Yonder Is the Clock will be the band’s fourth release, and by all accounts follows tightly in the footsteps of last year’s acclaimed self-titled release. That is to say the record should be filled with all the the dusty harmonies and shady characters that populated their previous discs. If you haven’t seen them live, you should—their shows are known to take on a revival-like atmosphere. And you’ll have numerous chances to catch them this spring: April 7, they play the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie; they’ll be at Valentine’s right here in Albany on April 10; and on April 18, they’re at Pearl Street in Northampton, Mass. Follow the band’s travels at

IT’S NO GRAMMY, BUT . . . Western Massachusetts-based bluesman Albert Cummings recently picked up a major award from weekly blues newsletter Blueswax: Artist of the Year. It’s a pretty big deal: Blueswax has the largest subscription base of any blues publication, and the award winner is determined based on readers’ votes. Cummings’ latest disc, the live Feel So Good, was recorded at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, and it’s available now on Blind Pig Records. Our congratulations go out to Mr. Cummings.

—John Brodeur

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