Music was my escape and my world to explore, following the adventures of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Yes, and whoever else, through pop distortions of the universe," Avast recording studio owner and producer Stuart Hallerman says of the role music played during his formative years. It was also what would help him escape working for the Man later on. In 1990, after saving money fixing bicycles, soldering together hi-fi components, and honing his skills behind the board doing live sound for bands like Heliotrope and Soundgarden, Hallerman was ready to quit working for other people and move into his own recording studio, which began in an Olympia living room. "Finding a space in Seattle was tough," he recalls. "Even after I had enough equipment collected and bands ready to record, I could not find a landlord that would rent me a space. After a year of driving down every main street and side street, writing down and calling hundreds of numbers, I found one ornery old man that didn't hang up on me when I said what I wanted to do. His name was Spiro and he said, 'Give the younger generation a chance!' and, 'If they come over complaining, tell them fuck you!'" Avast's new home was an unassuming building off of North 45th Street in Wallingford. Its well-worn couches and posters on the wall give the place a clubhouse kind of feel. The cozy space between those comfortably shabby walls soon became the birthplace to many renowned records by the likes of Alice in Chains, Built to Spill, Death Cab for Cutie, the Shins, Modest Mouse, and Band of Horses, among others. "It's a lot less likely your A&R person will come interfere with your session if you are this far from New York and L.A.!" Hallerman quips. "There is [also] a sound and a way of working with people that is a bit more . . . organic here. It's not true of everyone, but there is a sense of live performance that we like to capture, in contrast to a more contrived pop, gridlike perfection that you might find elsewhere." And despite Hallerman's initial fears that the studio boom might dry up along with the demise of grunge, that's been far from the case. In fact, business has been kind enough to allow him to recently open a second, much larger Avast in the old Ironwood studios space, which he hopes will draw even more bands to the area. The self-proclaimed "gearhead" has a secret weapon on his side: the Trident A-Range mixing board. "When the producers of the world realize that it's here in Seattle," he says of the device, "it's going to attract some attention and some great artists. The board came from Cherokee Studios in L.A., where it was used by Ringo Starr, Alice Cooper, KISS, and Frank Sinatra. It's going to be the kingpin of the new Avast!"—Avast Studio, 601 N.W. 60th St.
BEST SPOT TO FIND GEAR: "Pacific Pro Audio [200 First Ave. W.] is the best place for recording equipment. I don't even shop around, I just go there."
BEST PLACE TO SEND BANDS ON A LUNCH BREAK: "Paseo on Fremont [Avenue] makes some amazing Cuban sandwiches and their dinner plates are awesome."
BEST ESPRESSO: "Vivace and Caffé Vita are great, but my new favorite is Trabant on 45th...they fly in Black Cat Espresso from Intelligencia in Chicago."
BEST PRODUCER/ENGINEER: "Phil Ek keeps Avast busy, and Reed Ruddy has been consistently helping to make records for mumbledy mumble for years now, too!"
BEST PSEUDO DELI: "Secretly, Two Bells makes the best Reuben in town—Tuesdays only."