Making Music: Exploring Louisville's Recording Studios Pt. II

By Victoria Austen Moon

It has been brought to my attention that Louisville has become home to several great studios, all of which deserve their own moment in the spotlight. On that note, this is the second in a series of articles looking at Louisville's recording studios: the over-the-top home studios, the stellar new commercial studios, and how musicians, engineers and producers in this town are doing what they can to make Louisville music sound as great on tape as it does live.

The Place: DSL Studios

President and Founder: Dave Stewart

Partners: Mike Baker, John Bajandas

Bluegrass Industrial Parkway is not where you would expect to find one of Louisville's top new commercial studios. Tucked into lines of warehouse-style buildings with dry and dusty-sounding names sits DSL Studios, looking more like a corporate office than music studio from the outside.

But looks can be deceiving.

Once inside the glass doors, the studio exudes a Zen-like aura from its warm lighting, pale wood floors and the comfy couches that pop up everywhere, inviting you to curl up and let the studio's creative vibe envelop you. DSL's chief engineer and producer Mike Baker might greet you at the door with an offer of a Coke from the studio's small kitchen, and you follow him down the hallway that leads to the two studios, noting a living-room-like space off to one side with a leather couch and TV (a bonus for all those musician's spouses and significant others).

The studios themselves are two large rooms, back to back, with the same hardwood floors and soaring cathedral ceilings made for optimal acoustics. Two isolation booths are centered between the two studios, and Studio A features a 64-track ProTools Mix Plus system, while Studio B features 16 tracks of 1" tape analog recording as well as eight additional tracks of ProTools digital recording. Both studios offer high-quality microphones, signal processing and MIDI, and the studios services include writing, production, recording, mixing, mastering, CD duplication, voice-over recording, audio sweetening and audio post-production.

"The new studio has been designed with total flexibility in mind," said Stewart, "We've designed one studio around a high-tech Pro Tools computer-based recording and editing system, while the other has a focus on vintage analog gear. We can tie them together seamlessly or easily move projects back and forth, offering the best of both worlds and maximizing the creative options."

The studio also takes comfort and accessibility in mind, something often neglected in recording studios. Leather couches sit invitingly in the studios, and whether band members are in the isolation booths or in the studio they can maintain eye contact with other band members.

Of course, like most studios, DSL wasn't born overnight. Dave Stewart, President and founder of DSL, opened the studio approximately thirteen years ago. Currently he serves as a consultant on marketing and technical issues for the studio and also serves as director of marketing for Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne, Indiana, as well as writing freelance pieces for magazines such as EQ and Guitar Magazine. He started out as a bassist in several cover bands in his teens and twenties and became interested in sound due to his work as a band member. Eventually he became a live sound mixer and did that for several years before opening the studio. It has been going strong since, most of that time as a home studio run out of Stewart's home by Stewart and Baker. During that time, they recorded the likes of Metroschifter, Endpoint, the Java Men, Butch Rice, the Enkindels, Danny Flanigan and Satchel's Pawnshop. As the demand for the studio increased over the years, Stewart and Baker realized the need for a bigger space and found it at their current location on Bluegrass Parkway.

When they moved into the studio this year, they took the best of the home studio and added to it the benefits of the renovated, 2,000 square-foot warehouse that now houses the studio. Bajandas, the studio manager for DSL, had an integral part in the construction and acoustics of the new space.

Perhaps the best part of DSL, though, is that it is a studio for musicians run by musicians. Bajandas is a guitarist and songwriter formerly of Domani, Baker is a bassist who last performed with the Rain Chorus, and engineer/studio musician/producer Alex Tench is a guitarist as well as bassist for Cornbread Mafia.

Realizing that choosing a studio can often be a very subjective — and expensive — proposition, DSL's staff offers potential clients the chance to come in, tour the studios and even lay down a track or two to get a feel for whether or not this is the studio for them.

"We want the people who record here to be really comfortable with the studio, and with their experience here. We're definitely willing to work with artists to get their project where they need it to be," said Baker.

Although studio fees at DSL generally run around $35 per hour, the studio is willing to sit and discuss individual needs of an artist working on a full-length project. The studio is located at 10352 Bluegrass Parkway, and its phone number is 499-2102. You can also fax the studio at 499-5131 or email them at info@dslstudios.com. For further information, check out their website at www.dslstudios.com.