Room and Boards: Ferndale's Home Recording Studios (Part 1)

Ferndale Patch takes a tour of Ferndale's home recording studios of some of the city's local musicians.

Whatever method. Whatever works.

"There's a science to it," said local band Computer Perfection's Gene Corduroy, traipsing delicately through his basement studio, over vintage synthesizers and around a handful of "broken" organs. "I understand that science. But I understand, more, what my ears are telling me."

Chad Thompson reflects on his own basement studio.

"There's so many things, so many variables," said Thompson. "Whatever works, that's my philosophy."

Welcome to the subterranean soundproofed cellars of the all-to-hip city of Ferndale. These Ferndale DIY-audio engineers may be a breed onto themselves. They're bewitched, almost with a reverent, and some might say romantic, fixation with music. And both Thompson and Corduroy have recorded their share of songs in their basement studios.

Over the last decade, the recording industry has seen a substantial shift by audio engineers from analog to digital equipment, from recording to reel-to-reel tape decks to digital workstations, i.e. computers. Yet, mixing songs on a computer has made recording and mixing music accessible to nearly every budding musician.

"A lot of engineers are pissed off about digital and people being able to do most things at home," Thompson said.

Though Thompson said that a lot of bands still stick with an analog 4-track recorder, eventually, they'd need to go beyond that.

"You run out of options after a while and you want to do more, to upgrade microphones, equipment," Thompson said.

Thompson began "upgrading" after he and his brother Keith's band Johnny Headband went through mixing sessions at Detroit's White Room studio for their debut album. His set up began to transition (along with his residencies from Royal Oak to Farmington to Walled Lake back to Royal Oak and finally to Ferndale).

And so what began with a 4-track recorder became an elaborate sound laboratory and the primary means for demoing Johnny Headband songs.

For Corduroy, it's not about the equipment; it's about the song.

"I'm totally not a purist or nerd about digital-versus-analog," Corduroy said. "Lots of basement-recording enthusiasts are tape-only, or analog-only. I'm just not a gear-geek. I care more about the songs, in fact I probably spend more time on the songs than I do thinking about how they're recorded."

How Corduroy -- and collaborator and fellow Computer Perfection band mate Nathaniel Burgundy -- has recorded their songs in the past includes capturing the ambience of vocals in their hallway or drumming in the dining room.

Corduroy and his wife, as well as Computer Perfection singer, Bem moved to Ferndale four years ago. "It was the first thing I did when we moved in - we didn't even have pots and pans and I already had my studio computer already set up," Corduroy said.

One of the best parts of setting up your own studio - it becomes your own world, an escape - a meditative place from which you can shut out the rest of the world.

"I don't want to feel like I'm in a basement," Corduroy said, nodding to the Christmas-tree lighting, the construction-paper cutouts of Hobbit characters and the casual, cluttery spill of the instruments. "I can't write, I can't get into that stuff, unless my environment feels right to me."

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of Ferndale Patch contributor Jeff Milo's dive into Ferndale's home studios.


Johnny Headband recently wrapped up their second proper full length LP, Who Cooks For You, looking forward to releasing it an early 2012.

Computer Perfection put out a cassette (and digital) EP recently.

Guy Fawkes November 28, 2011 at 08:15 PM
The last thing in the world I would want the public to know is whether I have $20K worth of recording equipment in my basement.


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