GREENPOINT, BROOKLYN: When it’s this cold outside, huddling up together makes perfect sense. With this week’s release of Brooklyn Heat – a collection of singles recorded by six BKLYN indie bands in six days last summer – we can all hope to feel the searing goodness of NYC rock and roll come shooting through our speakers.
Interestingly, Brooklyn Heat’s helmsman, Producer/Engineer Shane O’Connor, had to warm up to the idea of making a compilation. But the offer of free studio time from Monsterland Recording Studio (now RIP) proved impossible for this hard-core recordist to refuse, and that’s a good thing.
When the collection officially launches this Thursday night (1/20) with a party at Greenpoint’s COCO 66, people are bound to hook onto what they hear. Each Brooklyn Heat band – Quiet Loudly, Gunfight!, Shark?, Quilty, Little Racer, and Magnetic Island – make their own urgently artful contribution to the comp. The rock here is as compelling, raw and real as it is well-recorded.
For music producers, engineers and artists who are as interested in how to capture a concept as they are in overdubbing a Clavinet, the machinations behind Brooklyn Heat are worth knowing.
How did the idea for Brooklyn Heat come together?
I was approached by Bones Howell (his stage name, he specifically asked me to not use his given name), the owner of Monsterland Recording Studio about working out of his studio in the winter of 2010. I did a few projects out of his studio but I had other studios around NYC and Boston that I was working at as well. His studio was more of an overgrown — and built out — project studio with great gear.
Monsterland existed for about six years in various forms and he was tired of running the studio as a commercial venture — I owned a studio for three years in Boston and I can completely understand why owning a commercial facility can be frustrating.
Bones asked me if I would be interested in some free studio time to work on a project outside of the typical confines of a commercial recording. He suggested a compilation project, but my reaction was lukewarm at best: To me, a compilation was something that ska bands from 1997 put together. It was rarely, if ever, seen as a comprehensive work and was usually meant for the purpose of selling a larger product like an album or a touring bill.
I thought about the proposition more, and I decided that a compilation in the year 2010 didn’t need to be for the purpose of commerce at all if I didn’t want it to be. With this opportunity of free studio time from Monsterland, I could create a meaningful body of work outside of commerce that was purely for the promotion and proliferation of the artist. With this goal in mind, Brooklyn Heat was born.
That’s an organic genesis – the best kind. How did you select which bands would be involved? And with the sometimes questionable nature of compilations, why do you think this was something they wanted to be a part of?
The primary factor in choosing artists for Brooklyn Heat was my personal interest in their work. I had to really dig what they were doing, and their potential in the future for selection in this project. I also wanted the artists to know each other. There are a multitude of micro scenes in Brooklyn and I wanted to highlight a moment of “rock” in the summer of 2010.
Through the filter of my personal interest and selecting artists from the same social circle, there’s a cohesive sound to Brooklyn Heat that I was not initially intending, but I think its the most significant part of the project.
The project’s sound happens to be fast, somewhat punky, and largely stripped down. For the bands that I picked, there was an effort to stay away from things that are often indulged in with home recordings such as wild effects and endless layers of keyboards. The record is more about capturing bands in a moment that an inserted production aesthetic.
You definitely get that. The bands each have their own sound, but there’s a clear common thread between all of them as well. So how did Monsterland work out as the studio for the project?
Unfortunately that studio is now closed, but I hope to do similar projects in the future. I’m not sure where yet, but I’m sure someone I know will throw me some studio time for another venture like this! But Monsterland happened to be well equipped to record a rock band in a live setting, which is how most of this project was recorded.
The Brooklyn Heat Website says that you recorded six bands in six days. Was it tough to work this way? On the other hand, what are the benefits of recording a band-a-day?
The press releases all say “six bands in six days” which is partially true but also a lie. There were some mix revisions that happened outside of that time constraint, but not far beyond 10 hours per song. The time constraint was actually created by me, not by the studio owner. Monsterland’s owner would have been fine if each song took a month, but that wasn’t what I was trying to create. I think a day to record a rock song is a perfectly acceptable amount of time.
I tend to push for live recordings as opposed to an overdub method. I was trained as an engineer by very traditional producers and engineers who tried to keep recording styles of the ’60’s and ’70’s alive, and I think the time constraint adds to that aesthetic as well. I like schedules. It keeps people honest about what’s important in a recording.
The workflow was very casual since there wasn’t a dollar sign attached to the clock. Each band cut basics before lunch and then we would cut any overdubs and vocals that were left in the afternoon. Most of the mixes were done in two hours. It’s easy when the song is good and everyone is relaxed.
For recording equipment, most of our tools were rather standard: We had a Pro Tools HD1 rig with a Lynx Aurora 16 box, and I mixed mainly in the box with a Dangerous Summing Buss on the back end, and I had some nice compressors on crucial elements such as kick, snare, vocals, bass — I had an LA-2A, two 1176’s, and a Distressor. Those all helped, but because the dynamics of the performances were on I opted for a lot of group compression with plugins. I like those Stillwell Audio plugins a lot.
Throughout the entire record I was testing the ADK S-7 and A-6 microphones for a review. I usually don’t test gear in actual recording sessions, but for this project I felt it was appropriate. They are nice mics.
Sounds like an uncomplicated workflow, which is totally appropriate for the project. Was there a song from the bunch that you really enjoyed capturing?
The Gunfight! cut (“I Would Be Your Man”) was probably my favorite song to record for this project. On this song, members of Quiet Loudly lent a hand with some guitar solos, and backing vocals. Both bands share the same bass players so there was this weird incestuous quality about the creation of that song that felt like I was really capturing something special. Gunfight! and Quiet Loudly were on tour together all summer so they had all kinds of unspoken chemistry that I had to tap into very quickly.