Culture by the Minute: Interview with Michael Chambers by Jeremy Freiburger, Cobalt Connects

Culture by the Minute: Interview with Michael Chambers

originally published at Cobalt Connects

Jeremy’s interview with moon:and:6 starts at the 11 minute mark. Here’s a transcript of the interview:

Our clip that we shot offsite over at Catherine North Studios before this episode with Michael (aka moon:and:6), one of those people that’s a really great connection in this community and showing how the studio plays an interesting role in musicians’ development. Let’s jump to that clip of Catherine North Studios.

Jeremy: Alright, so here we are at Catherine North Studios down on Park Street in Hamilton. I’m here with Michael from Catherine North Studios. Michael, Catherine North has been in this community for a long time; you’ve got quite a legacy. Talk to me about some of the artists and the kinds of artists that have come through the doors here and the multi doors that Catherine North has been over the years.

Michael: There’s certainly a long list of artists. I’m going to focus more on the stuff that’s happened more recently — I think it’s a bit more exciting. Over the last couple of years we’ve had some larger acts like City and Colour come in, and Whitehorse — a hometown act as well, which is nice. And then a whole number of local independent artists — Ophelia Syndrome, Paul Federici, Of Gentlemen and Cowards, who were just on Letterman a few weeks ago. It’s just been a really exciting time. I’m actually relatively new to Hamilton — I’ve been here for five or six years now — but it’s been a really exciting thing to become part of Catherine North and all the things that go on here.

Jeremy: And the business has grown over the years, and it’s morphed and changed and all sorts of different things. How does a creative business like Catherine North attract that variety of clients through its doors?

Michael: A big part of it is word of mouth. That’s probably where 90% of our clients come from. They know somebody else who’s recorded here, or they see us while looking through credits of other records…

Jeremy: Sure… “Who made that track?”

Michael: Yeah, or “How did they get that sound? Where was this recorded?” So we certainly do get inquiries through that as well. But by far, the vast majority are word of mouth. It’s like, “Hey, my friend recorded a record there, and they said it was great… We want to come in.” And what we always do too when a new artist comes in is have an opportunity to sit down and meet with them and make sure this really is the best place for them to record. Because it’s a unique space; there’s no control room here, it’s one open room. I think it can work for anything, but sometimes some people feel more comfortable in different situations. I always want to make sure that is really clear to the artist when they’re coming in.

Jeremy: Sure — we approach that in a similar way in that we run studio facilities for artists to have studio space. And as much as sometimes an artist comes to our door first, we may not be the right space for them, depending on what it is they’re chasing. Being able to objectively talk to an artist like that is, I think, a really important part of being a creative business that sticks around.

Michael: Yeah. And another big part of that is, it’s not just the space; it’s also the people. Because if we’re working twelve hours a day together, you gotta like the people that you’re going to be with. There’s nothing worse than finding out after a few hours that there’s something about your personalities that just don’t work right. So that’s another thing too. There are are a number of engineers who do work out of here. And so a lot of that initial meeting with a band is all about finding out, personality-wise, who’s going to be the best fit for this? Is it going to be me, or is it going to be Dan Hosh? Is it going to be Duke Foster? Who in our group is the best fit for that?

Jeremy: The music industry’s gone through a whole mess of changes over the last ten or fifteen years — whether you’re talking about distribution, or about how major labels play into the music industry, and people self-recording — all sorts of stuff. How has Catherine North managed to pull through all of those changes and still be the business that it wants to be, and still be a business that’s connecting with artists?

Michael: You make a lot of points there. I think certainly on the major label side, things are completely different now. But we never really had a lot of that — we were mostly dealing with independent artists. Even City and Colour and Whitehorse, who I mentioned earlier, are both on independent labels. So they’re not as directly affected by that. It’s not the big market stuff, where they’re losing a lot of money through illegal downloads and such.

But the independent artists still need a place to record. Some people are doing an awesome job recording things on their own. But part of what coming to a studio is about, too, is getting that extra objective opinion, where we work together on something. It’s not just about, “band plays, we hit record, okay give us your money, and out the door.” As I said, you come in and you have the meeting. We sit down and we talk about what the artist’s goals are.

And I think it’s that — just keeping in touch with, and keeping sight of how we are actually helping; where we’re adding value, and where we’re not adding value. If there’s something that an artist can do on their own, and they can save some money — go ahead! We’ve also done things where somebody just wants to record drums, because it’s a beautiful space and you get a nice drum sound. They’ve got a recording setup at home, they can do their vocals and whatever there — no problem.

At the same time, you know, it’s nice to be able to see a project through to completion! So there’s a lot of different ways that we can fit in. It’s not just about churning out hit records. It’s about helping artists achieve what they’re truly capable of, but maybe can’t do on their own, or they just want that extra opinion in the process.

Jeremy: Well there you go, music being absolutely a collaborative art here at Catherine North. Check them out on the creative directory to learn more about what Michael and his team are doing here in Hamilton.

And there you have it folks — Michael over at Catherine North Studios doing great stuff again. Still connecting artists, helping them reach their goals, whatever it might be — whether it’s artistic or career development or whatnot. As a studio, playing a really important role there.