Monday, November 19, 2007

Central City Recording: The new player in town


by Dave Schaefer

Depending on who you talk to, Columbus may or may not be the Indie Art Capital of the World, but it’ll be the Indie Music Capital of the World if Andy Dodson, Max Lewis and Ben Miller have anything to say about it.

They’re the owners of Central City Recording, Columbus’s newest recording studio located on High Street in Clintonville, just south of North Broadway. With an interior painstakingly designed by Andy himself, the facility is deceptively large, state-of-the-art, and, well, as cool as a recording studio ought to be.

Instruments are lined up everywhere -- from a vintage Fender to a 1965 Wurlitzer piano. Keep walking all the way back, past the glassed individual studios surrounding the engineering station and through a set of double-up doors and you’ll find a sound-proof rehearsal/jam room.

But, aside from all that, what perhaps sets Central City apart is their philosophy, which is embedded with a commitment to both this city and its local scene. After a quick tour of the place, I sat down with owners/producers/engineers Andy, Max and Ben, along with their marketing and promotions team Zac Goble and Erik Smith, and talked to them about Columbus, the local music scene, and their plans for both.

“We’re all from Columbus,” said Andy. (Erik’s from Cleveland -- all “Ohio boys” as Erik put it.) “And this is a great city for music -- it’s full of talent.”

To them, there was no question this was where their new venture would be located. Andy again: “Columbus is known as a pretty good microcosm of the US in general, so our whole theory is if a band can make it in Columbus, they can make it anywhere. Why would you want to jump out of something like that, where you have a really good opportunity to test your music and really get it out to the whole area all at once? When you go to Chicago or LA, there’s more agents and more this-and-that, but to get out to the fans you’re one of a billion there. So we’d like to get the word out about Columbus and let people know that you can get heard here.”

Ben: “A lot of the bands make the mistake of wanting to move out to LA or they want to move out to Texas.”

“You can do all that here,” added Erik. “You don’t have to go to Chicago or New York.”

“Ultimately,” said Andy, “the goal is to give people the opportunity to make a living from making music.”

Andy, Max and Ben have been in bands together since they were in their early teens. Andy went to school for recording and latched onto the idea of opening a studio. After spending some time in Michigan, Ben moved back to Columbus and the three of them began working to get the knowledge they’d need to make the idea a reality.

“About two and a half years ago, Ben and I went down to the Recording Workshop in Chillicothe and took some courses down there. We came back, got jobs at Guitar Center, started learning, started meeting people. Eventually we got a business plan, got investors, pitched the idea, got the space and we’re here.”

“The three of us have always had a keen interest in the recording process,” said Max. “When we were a band, we didn’t play live very often -- what we did relish in was the recording process. So if we’re connected strongly in any way, it’s that most definitely. And this felt natural for us to start.”

“If we’re not going to be rock stars,” Andy added, “we should help other people be rock stars.”

Now that things are up and running, I asked what the biggest challenge was they’d faced so far.

Max spoke up right away. “The construction.”

Andy agreed. “ That’s the biggest thing. We kind of did this all ourselves. The design was my design with the input of these guys and our contracting team, but we didn’t have a general contractor, so we all had to learn how to get through the city process and all the code enforcements and stuff like that. At the same time, we had to build a space that was spec’ed out with double walls and double doors and things that aren’t necessarily what they want to see in a place. So I think construction was definitely the biggest hurdle. The biggest so far.”

The next hurdle is getting their name out on the street in the ears of the local talent. Although grassroots efforts are important -- flyering, going to shows, partnering with businesses, etc. -- Zac says they believe strongly that helping the local music scene flourish is the key to their own survival. They noted bands such The Receiver, Triceratops, El Jesus de Magico, Necropolis, and Two Cow Garage. “ We’re local music junkies,” Andy added. “That’s a big part of why we’re here. This town is full of talent and we’ll do anything we can do to help the scene.”

Now that their idea has become reality, the guys at Central City believe that success is imminent.

“Between all of us,” said Zac, “we’ve got a lot of good people and contacts in the industry from all over the country and especially in Columbus and we can use that to our advantage and really help some people get to where they want to be. You don’t have to go sign to a major label and work with all those agents in LA and NY -- we can do that stuff here. Here in Columbus and here at Central City.”

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