Steve Smith and The Seattle Drum School: Part Three

Artist Focus

Steve is an intellectual heavy weight; a modern renaissance individual.

Look for Steve’s upcoming book, Keys To The City.

https://seattledrumschool.com/?gclid=CjwKCAiA4Y7yBRB8EiwADV1hacJP6X-VNbOAh-Xd08qO269OQv8IqjU_gPWFF3ApOSXSiFRL-NntORoCyr4QAvD_BwE

Part 3 of 3

Mackncheeze: What inspired you to become an audio engineer?

Steve: I love listening to music, that’s what got it started. When I was going to Central I didn’t have a lot of money, I always had to work, going home on weekends to teach lessons. I also had bands; to have a band you need a P.A. I had worked at Hanford, I saved my money, and so I bought a P.A.

My mom would freak out because I was always bringing home some piece of new gear……

Mackncheeze: Oh, it started early?

Steve: Very early. My mom would tell me that I could not afford another piece of gear. My response was, “It’s worth it. It’s going to help me.” She didn’t believe it. She wanted me to have a job with a health insurer.

It got to the point where I bought a bigger Yamaha Mixing Console and put it right in the middle of the family room. “Here Mom, look what I got.”

We also needed transport so I bought a van.

Mackncheeze: This is sounding familiar.

Steve: We needed a place to rehearse so I would get the house with a basement. We would have to have a demo.

Mackncheeze: How many band houses were you in?

Steve: 4 or 5, 6 or 10, I don’t know.

I bought a stereo tape deck, we would set up in the rehearsal space and then I would try to record. I had two mics, trying constantly to get the demos to sound like an album; constantly experimenting with placement. Then I bought a four track and the possibilities blew my mind. I just got hooked.

I graduated to an 8 track cassette recorder, a Tascam 688. That thing was killer; ended up recording a demo of Kristy’s and my band, Billy Moon. My former student, Bill Rieflin, drummer for R.E.M., heard a copy of that session and he thought it sounded really good. I ended up using that demo for a Disc Makers unsigned band contest. Out of 508 bands in five states we scored the highest, made it to the finals.

I love recording, love learning from it.

Mackncheeze: When did you buy your first outboard processor?

Steve: That was in 1996.

Mackncheeze: That’s 20 years of recording before you bought a compressor.

Steve: With the recording contract we had after the Disc Makers contest, I picked up 2 ADATs, and two Empirical Labs Distressors, we recorded tracks off my 16 channel Studio Master Console. The record label brought in Don Gilmore to mix the single at Stepping Stone studios, on an SSL 4000 G Plus. He spent ten and a half hours remixing our single. On play back I asked him a lot of questions, then we put up the original track and everyone was blown out. Don thought there was no reason to remix the tune.

We took that original track and remixed it in our studio, using my recently acquired knowledge from Don, two days later presenting it to our A and R person. I said to him, ” If I had a few choice pieces of gear I would be really good at this.” He told me to make a list and they would tack it on to the producers advance. That financed a lot of the really good gear I own. The mics, pre-amps and what not, including a Crane Song STC8. A lot of that gear is now on loan to Robert Lang Studios.

I am so blessed. I have put together another studio here at the Drum School. I get to record my wife, Kristy, who is an amazing singer/song writer, my band The 350’s, which are unreal, Danny Godinez and the stuff we have worked up with him. So blessed to be able to work with this caliber of people.

End of Part Three

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