There often comes a time in a band’s musical life when a trip to the recording studio becomes necessary. From the million takes of one song to get the sound just right to the obsessive knob-twisting that happens while the music is mixed down to the final cut, some artists love every bit of the process.
Others find those moments of fine-tuning mind-numbingly tedious. But no matter how you feel about a trip to the studio, it’s crucial if you want to give those clamoring fans digital or tangible versions of your music.
One of the hardest parts of the whole deal is picking out a studio to make your masterpiece. There’s a slew of factors and priorities involved that differ for every band. A lot of times, dough is a primary consideration, as budgets dictate what studios bands can afford for the project at hand.
For some, it’s gear. That can mean either the recording tools the studio utilizes or the instruments they have available for bands to use that sound better, stronger, or different from their own gear.
Personnel can be another biggie. The chance to work with the person or team who made so-and-so’s record sound soooo good is top priority for some musicians. And if that costs a little more, they’ll save up until they can get their tunes into those skilled, magical hands. Some bands like a team focused on recording bands in their genre. Others prefer engineers who can make multiple styles sound like a million bucks.
If you’re thinking about laying down some tracks here in metro Phoenix, there are several recording studios to choose from. Each has signature features to aid in the decision-making process. Here’s a guide to help you get started.
If you have a penchant for vintage gear, Mesa’s Flying Blanket Recording has your name all over it, with a collection that includes recording gear, as well as guitars, drums, pianos, and amps. Run by engineer Bob Hoag, who is as known for his drumming skills as he is for his recording talents, this studio offers analog recording and mixing, as well as digital for you fancy, computer-loving performers out there. Get comfy while you’re in the historic 1947 building. There are lounging areas, an eat-in kitchen, and even a shower. Some of the bands who may have washed themselves and definitely have made music there include Fairy Bones, Take Over and Destroy, and the Darts. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss rates and get location information.
At Premier Studios, your band could be in the hands of Jeremy Parker. If the possibility of working with a Grammy-winning engineer gets you excited, Parker fits the bill. In addition to producing music for big names in hard rock, like Disturbed, Slipknot, and Godsmack, his roster has also seen the likes of Alicia Keys and Evanescence. Premier’s space at 1142 West Indian School Road offers more than 2,000 square feet, and it’s packed with modern equipment, along with room for the whole band to comfortably enjoy the entire experience. Their hourly rate is $65. A full day will cost you $500, and a six-day week is $2,500. Call 602-915-8877.
For those about to rock, Mike Bolenbach’s Full Well Recording Studio is described as the “perfect blend of analog and digital.” Hey, if it’s good enough for Alice Cooper and producer Bob Ezrin, then chances seem pretty good that you’ll leave with a smile. Other notable locals to have created recorded offerings at this downtown-adjacent facility are Scorpion Vs. Tarantula, Nunzilla, The Earps, and Dierdre. Consoles and recording media include a 1979 Tangent 3216 Analog Recording Console, an AMEK Einstein Sidecar, and Pro Tools HD3 with 40 channels of IO and a 24-fader control surface. If that sends your geek alarm into high gear, this may be the place your rock gets rolled. Call 602-367-1342 to schedule a no-charge consultation or to discuss recording rates.
In a 1,000-square-foot standalone building is Jalipaz Nelson’s Audioconfusion, where many local artists have spent hours crafting releases from EPs to full-length recordings. Nelson prefers live recordings with vocal overdubs because of how the energy of a live performance translates to the final product. Playboy Manbaby, AJJ, The Oxford Coma, and The Haymarket Squares are some of the bands who have gone through Audioconfusion. This spot is definitely one where the skill and composure of the engineer makes it a favorite. It’s an intimate place that doesn’t count on frills to make quality recordings. Contact Nelson at his Mesa studio by calling 480-898-9904 to talk about prices based on your band’s needs.
Catherine Vericolli’s Fivethirteen Recording has passed the decade mark, opening back in 2006. Using items from a lengthy list of gear, Vericolli and her team of Mike Hissong, Dominic Armstrong, and Jonny Terrill — along with some guest engineers — have recorded a variety of acts like Tony Martinez, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, and Colorstore. Rates differ depending on band needs and gear use, and are determined upon scheduling. The studio is also equipped with multiple tape decks that can handle analog transfers. Fivethirteen doesn’t list their address online, but you can give them a call at 480-788-5709.
Byron Filson’s Villain Recording has been around for more than 15 years. It’s a good spot to go to if you have a DIY-style recording that you want to re-amp and beef up without going to the trouble of starting from scratch. This might be a more affordable choice to enhance your recording. If you are noisy, they note that they do not stray from aggressive genres, so feel good about taking your brutal wall-of-sound lineup and cranking up to maximum volume. Call or send an email to discuss your needs and figure out a rate plan. They don’t list an address online, but you can ring ’em at 602-369-4725.
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North Phoenix’s Cosmic Soup Recording is run by founder Jeremy Daniel, a graduate of the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe. From hip-hop artists to punk rock bands like Contradiktion, the Pro Tools-certified Daniel does it all, from recording to the mixing and mastering in his home-based studio at 16637 North 17th Place. Sister Lip, Perfect Sense, and Alex Squared have been Cosmic Soup clients. The hourly rate is $30, with day rates and packages available. Call 480-331-7687.
With a client roster that reads like a who’s who of hip-hop artists, The Saltmine Studio Oasis has been a recording beacon for acts like DMX, Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Eve, and Bone Thugs N Harmony. And rockers, too, like Sheryl Crow, Ministry, and Megadeth. This Mesa complex located at 48 South Macdonald has five separate recording facilities, and whatever you’re into — analog and vintage, new and digital, or some kind of combination — can happen here. If you can afford to go full rockstar, this is a luxurious destination where you can relax on a patio complete with misters and a barbecue grill. Oh, it’s also about 16,000 square feet and walled in, so Saltmine can be its own live music venue, hosting 500 guests in a lovely outdoor setting. Even with all that fancy business going on, they note that they try to accommodate all budgets and don’t want money to be a deterrent. Don Salter is the contact to discuss the many rate options. There are discounts for different blocks of time that are booked, too. Call 480-220-4007.
Underdog Studios kindly lives up to its name. Say you’re a band that just needs a few songs for a single or a demo — they have a three-song recording package for $500, or three hours of recording for a hip-hop performer or singer/songwriter for $100. Regular studio rates of $65 an hour get you access to a producer and all the gear they have to offer. The Ataris, Fayuca, Jimmy Greenwood, and In Memory Of are some local and national bands that have made music at the Mesa studio, located at 65 South Sycamore. Andrew McColley is the “Underdog” of the team, as that’s the nickname he’s known by, and his team is rounded off by Kristen Taylor, James Trevor, and Richard Lozano. Call 480-420-4388.
Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version.