GOWANUS, BROOKLYN: Bryce Goggin of Trout Recording is a man who stays on schedule. The prolific producer/engineer who put his stamp on Phish, Spacehog, Nada Surf, Trey Anastasio, and dozens of other indie darlings works daily at his decidedly home-spun, Neve 8028-based Trout Recording studio from 10-6, and that’s it. From that moment on, it’s me time. Family time. Because Bryce knows that thriving in NYC is all about balance.
Q: What are you doing today in Brooklyn, Bryce?
A: I’m actually mixing a small band called The Droves, in between tracking Apples in Stereo here and them playing at Carnegie Hall tonight in an REM tribute concert. I’m spending a day mixing The Droves with my friend Christian Gibbs who’s also in the bands Lucinda Black Bear and Kenny Saveleson who runs Bang on a Can.
This is definitely a sort of writing experiment for Christian Gibbs, whose main ensemble is Lucinda Black Bear. He just sort of wants to blow his rock wad, and Kenny is only to happy to join in. I think they’re probably gonna make a Droves CD to distribute on Christian’s label. HEY CHRISTIAN! WHAT’S YOUR RECORD LABEL CALLED? “Eastern Spurs”.
Q: Why are you the right mixer for this project?
A: A project like this is just a nice day of mixing, stirring up the pot, getting some vocal action and tinkling the ivories. I’ve got it all running through my nice warm Neve. I cut the basic tracks, then Christian recorded all of the overdubs at his house. Which is the wave of the future – or the wave of the present.
Q: The last time I was at Trout Recording, I loved the homespun feel. You feel more like you’re in a comfy wood shop than a recording studio. What’s going on with your vintage gear collection over there? A: We’ve got a pair of Big Reds on the mains, lately we’ve been really geeking out on our ribbon and tube mic pres. Inserting relays in the input trannys so we can strap them for 30 ohms which makes the RCA’s and B&O’s much happier. I try to resolve a lot of my interface issues with iron. Transformers seem to color things is such a nice way. This week in the shop we’re installing a bunch of line transformers I had from some BBC equipment into a rack of Sphere EQ’s that have been loading down everything I patch into them. I’ve had lots of friends leave their lovely guitars, lovely keyboards, Hammond B’s, the likes of that stuff to keep it in the mainstream-of-consciousness zone. It’s been pretty nice for me.
I’ve come up with these old Magnacorders, which are mono ¼” reel-to-reel recorders. They have tons of headroom, and they have outputs to drive the speakers, so they’re your mic pres and amplifiers all combined in one.
Q: How did you get exposed to the Magnacorder in the first place?
A: I saw a picture of one up on Ebay and started researching the history of the company. Their first big commission was the Eisenhower inauguration in 1953 and I became intrigued with it. I found someone in DC with a couple in the basement, and I flipped for them. They’re great for reamping string sections, horns sections vocals. They have tons of color mic preamps.
I finally gave up trying to source AC701k’s (tubes) for my Neumann SM69. I had Eddie Ciletti swap its tube out for a Raytheon tube, which changed the load on the capsule itself. It’s a pretty tweaky thing to swap out the tube from the original design. I don’t know many people you can trust to do that job. It has taken a lot of critical analysis on Eddie’s end to get the mic sounding as great as it did with the Telefunken tube, which has been out of manufacture for 20 years and is basically out of stock in all the usual places.
Q: Bryce, when we originally set up this interview, you compared the business to trench warfare…
A: It just seems like everyone is so seat-of-the-pants and recording at home. At this point, I am mired by too much gear and wondering what kind of niche there is for conventional pro recording. Which I never thought myself to be, but in comparison to the one-man, one-mic setup at the house that everyone is pursuing, some days it just feels like – you know – the margin has become awfully thin.
Q: You sound like you have a lot of projects going on, nonetheless. How are you personally managing to keep busy?
A: I think it’s mostly based on previous work! I was fortunate enough to mix Anthony and the Johnsons this spring and summer, and now I get some calls from Europe. People who track and mix here, seem to not only come back themselves but also send people back my way. Bishop Allen has been singing my praises regularly in interviews. So I try to make my opportunities into long-lasting relationships if I can.
The key is that every gig is my last gig. Every gig is really important, nothing can get overlooked. You’ve gotta be on it very time. Fortunately, this is music I really enjoy working on. Art I can really admire and enjoy taking a part in. Taking it to another level that people are giving and receiving.
Q: You said you only track and mix Monday-Friday, 10-6. Why do you operate on such a tight schedule?
A: I thought it would be really difficult, but it works well for the working musician who does gigs at night. It’s not too punishing. I hear from people who tell me that they can’t work like that, but I can’t make everybody happy. On the other hand, if I have to kick it up for a couple of days because I’m on a tight deadline, I’ll do that.
Q: What are the benefits of working like that?
A: I think that my productivity is way higher, because I can stay focused in that amount of time. It’s no longer that endless, draining session. Now there’s always this finish line looming over me. I’d rather be up against the wire. I find myself constantly procrastinating when I have plenty of time, so why bother?
Q: How would you describe the current NYC recording scene?
A: Fortunately for me, there still are enough people who have a grasp of how special it is to be in a facility expressly for working on music. I can’t count how many times people have come here, done an overdub, and said, “You know how great it is to be around people and interact?” Pulling a file offline and noodling around with it is not the same social experience.
So what we do as producers and musicians is really important: getting together, communicating, socializing. Which in our catatonic, button-pushing state seems irrelevant, but as time goes on seems like a really important way of working. – David Weiss