Rocket Queen: Pay Day Productions

Despite the economy, local music studios are in a boom.

In 1995, a recording studio called Alternative Productions occupied a non-descript storefront on Aurora Avenue North. Owner, musician, and engineer David Loucks was slowly building a client base, but his success was violently cut short when he was brutally murdered in his own studio that spring. He was beaten and choked by thieves who had entered the studio under the guise of a booking a phony recording session, then left to suffocate to death while the perpetrators made off with several thousand dollars' worth of recording equipment.The killers were eventually brought to justice, and the space is now rented by a hirsute, warm-hearted fellow who undoubtedly brings much healthier energy to the space. Local guitarist/entrepreneur Ben Verellen runs his custom-amp business there now, and when I visit him to check out the shop, he admits it's been a challenge to get such a niche business up and running in our shit-storm economic climate, but they're making progress. "Each month we are able to pay rent a little earlier," he says. "Now we just have to figure out how to pay ourselves a living wage."Upstairs in the very same building, local producer/These Arms Are Snakes drummer Chris Common is enjoying a slightly more comfortable level of success. Red Room Recordings, the 24-track analog and digital studio he co-owns with fellow producer Matt Bayles, is booked solid through August. Aside from the well-known talents of the two owners, it's clear why Red Room is popular—it's a decent-sized space, with a spacious live room, a full kitchen and a shower, and more covetable outboard gear than you can shake a tambourine at.Bayles recently recorded the debut EP of Sandrider (a most excellent new side project from Akimbo's Nat Damm and Jon Weisnewski), and is gearing up to mix the 10th-anniversary live Mono shows that he recorded in New York City earlier this year. He's also tracking overdubs for forthcoming work by Sleepy Eyes of Death, and mixing a new Bronze Fawn record. Common recently wrapped up a new EP for prog-metal outfit Pelican, and is looking forward to sessions with Struck by Lightning, the Helm, Samothrace, and Trap Them.These are tough times for most industries economically, but it would appear that the recording studios of Seattle are thriving: Almost every local producer I know has their hands full at the moment. "Whew! The grist mill is running overtime," says Kurt Bloch when I ask him what he's got on the books in various studios around town. "I'm tracking Unnatural Helpers and Idle Times this weekend," he explains. "And I'm also mixing new stuff by Visqueen and mastering the new Midnight Idöls."Jupiter Studios in Wallingford is hopping too. Owner and producer Martin Feveyear just finished forthcoming releases by Slender Means and Sirens Sister, and will be working with Brandi Carlile, Duff McKagan, Common Market, and Natalie Portman's Shaved Head soon. Mysterious Red X in Georgetown is also as busy as can be. "I just finished the second Grand Archives record," reports owner and producer Ben Keresten. "Really good stuff. A bit darker than their first."Local Americana outfit the Maldives seem to have been in the studio for an eternity, but are finally in the mastering phase with their full-length debut, due out on Mt. Fuji Records this August. It was recorded with Kory Kruckenberg at VU.recording, a North Seattle–based studio where J. Tillman, Rocky Votolato, and Damien Jurado have all captured excellent recordings. That last nugget comes my way via Maldives leader Jason Dodson, who is at the Conor Byrne Pub in Ballard to catch a secret Arthur & Yu show. The vintage-sounding pop duo is gearing up for a series of high-profile performances with help from the Moondoggies.When the band takes the stage just after midnight, Grant Olsen and Sonya Westcott are backed by Kevin Murphy on guitar, Bobby Terreberry on bass, Carl Dahlen on drums, and Caleb Quick on keyboards. As one onlooker accurately predicted, the merging of the two bands loosens up Arthur & Yu's typically pristine and precisely executed pop, while darkening it just a shade or two enough to make them sound like a laid-back version of Austin psych rockers the Black Angels. This same configuration of musicians will give attendees of Rodriguez's June 23 show at the Triple Door ample reason to come out early when they open the show at 7:30 p.m.rocketqueen@seattleweekly.com

 
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