Learning by experience is the most rewarding method when the goal is musical proficiency, whether it's just you and a guitar in your bedroom late at night, or recording someone else's ideas adeptly and with an expert ear. Nicholas Petersen and Russell Ellis just celebrated the first anniversary of their recording studio, Polyphonic Audio in Carrboro. They've succeeded for over a year thus far by simply scratching up the knowledge and equipment to make it work.
Running their own recording space started as an idea while both worked shifts at Go! Rehearsal Studios. Ellis was a soundman and Petersen was an intern learning the nuts and bolts of sound recording. Petersen explains his heightened desire to learn: "I wanted to learn live sound. I just started meeting people throughout the months that followed. I used my eight-track cassette [recorder] for little or nothing for as many people and friends as possible. I worked two jobs and bought as much gear as the next recording required, and worked as hard as I could to get the most from what I have."
Nurturing their ability to listen and hone in on the finite details of the recording process: mikes and room acoustics, working with musicians' raw sounds prior to overdubs, etc., they have made Polyphonic into an inviting place for newcomers to studio recording as well as experienced fans of vintage gear. "We have a 2-inch analog tape recorder. I would have to say this is our selling point, and that we are cheap!" Petersen adds. The studio provides primarily recording services, but is in the process of acquiring audiotape-to-CD transfer equipment.
With the deluge of better and easily accessed recording software like Pro Tools on the market, it's important for a local place like Polyphonic to have a niche. "I'm not into effect processors; I like tubes and tape. I'm into documentation recording, not using unnecessary EQs," he says. Petersen and Ellis have already been busy using this admirable approach, drawing a number of the brightest Durham and Chapel Hill bands to their door, such as Cold Sides, Des Ark, Ben Davis and Kudzu Wish, among others.
Petersen and Ellis encourage home recorders to bring in their four- or eight-track songs in to mix at Polyphonic. Serving as a go-between between the musician and the equipment is the most important role of an independent studio like theirs, and they are fully aware of how to play that role. Petersen explains this ideal, "I like the people that are recording to get their hands dirty mixing. Getting them involved in muting channels, moving faders, including them as much as possible. I want there to be a shared fulfillment throughout the process as well as demystifying the world of flashing lights and knobs."
FCC Public Hearing at Duke: Monday, March 31
In upcoming events, please make your voice heard at a public hearing by the FCC on Media Consolidation, Monday, March 31, 12:30-5 p.m. at the Duke Law School, Room 3043. The FCC is moving toward loosening, or even eliminating, many of the most important regulations that protect competition, local input and diversity in the media. This could further roll back restrictions on the big players such as Clear Channel and AOL, allowing them to dominate the airwaves. Clear Channel, for instance, recently sponsored pro-war rallies across the country that boosted the image of support for President Bush's attack of Iraq. FCC has heard from the corporations, now they need to hear from YOU. Opportunities like this are rare. For more info, contact Kurt Meletzke at 613-7214, view the webcast at www.law.duke.edu or learn more about this issue at www.reclaimthemedia.org.