Why should I record at Flat Black Studios?
The quality, experience, and end result are unparalleled anywhere in the midwest at our rates. We work on over 60 records a year, and have recorded for hundreds of artists, dozens labels, television, movies and video games, all at the best rates in the midwest. We make many LPs, and several dozen CDs and digital releases a year. Do we believe you could get this quality of recording at another studio? Sure, there are a lot of great studios out there, and some good engineers too. When you combine our experience, gear, quality of work and rates, we are unmatched. Simply put, we are the best recording value anywhere.
When I book a day at the listed rate, is that for recording, or mixing, or mastering or what?
When you book a day at Flat Black we are not going to pull the hidden upcharges move. There is not a room, plus engineer plus services rate, just a single, everything included rate. The day rate is the day rate no matter what you do in here. If that means mixing, great, we love to mix. If that means tracking and you take the session files with you, that is fantastic. We love being involved any way possible. If that means recording, mixing and mastering, we are down with that as well. If it can be accomplished in the time you've booked, we will gladly do it.
Okay so I get what we can do while we are there, but if you guys are so great, why are you not charging more?
We want to maintain a steady flow of work. We love to do this, and if it means charging less in order to get the pleasure of working more, with more artists on more records, so be it. As long as the ends meet and we can afford to keep the preamps , compressors and EQs on, we're all good. We just want to be involved with talented artists, quality music and great albums. Although this is our work, it ain't digging ditches. We feel lucky to do this, so the great rate is a way to give back to the musical community that has supported us and carried us from home hobbyists to where we are now, Iowa's premier studio.
So are you guys engineers, or producers, or what? What do those words even mean?
This year I heard several stories from artists who had previously recorded elsewhere, horror stories. From artists being bullied by their previous engineer into giving them writing credits because that engineer played guitar parts on an already written record to other engineers wanting to get lawyers involved, be credited as a producer (after the recording was done) and get 'points' on the record (you pay them for copies sold, streamed, placements, etc). This is exactly the opposite of what I am after and what I am about. I want to make the record you want to make, the way you want to make it. Take no offense but I don't want to help you arrange or re-arrange your material, I don't want to play on it, or tell you how to change it, at all. It is yours and that is not my place. I want to help facilitate you making the record you want, in the way you want to do it. I am not going to try and talk you into or out of anything. It is your art, and my job as an engineer is to try and capture it the best way possible, as quickly and honorably as I am able to. I have no authority over your vision and don't pretend to. Producers help with arrangement and song structure, add and subtract parts, help with lyrics, or even the writing of the material from the start. By the time you get in here, chances are the material is written and ready for an engineer to document it. Although Dana T occasionally produces for artists, it is spelled out long before they get here, and I (Luke) don't want to produce. If you do want a producer, I know several, and will gladly put you in touch. If you want an engineer, this is your spot.
I have heard a rumor that you offer some sort of package deal for merch too?
We do. We have partnered with White Rabbit's screen printing shop. They are constantly printing band's merch like t-shirts, sweat shirts and posters. If you book a session and want to tie it to a merch deal, we'll hook you up. If you are here for a week, there is a decent chance you can leave with your merch when you leave with your record. How cool is that?
I own an interface and like to record myself, but need somebody to record drums. Are you guys into that?
Absolutely. We will do as much of the recording as you want, and you can take it with you and do with it what you want. We only ask to be credited for the work we've done. (Taking credit for others work is pretty shitty, and it has happened to us before, so we are just putting it out there.)
I recorded my record at home, but can't seem to get a decent glued and polished mix. Can you guys help?
Most of the time we can. We can assist or take over a mix if you'd like us to, or if you get a mix together but need help with mastering it, adding some analog love (like using physical compressors, eqs or tape) or anything else, as stated before, we love being involved.
So do you guys track to tape, or digital?
Flat Black Studios is a 24 channel ProTools based studio. We pride ourselves on the speed at which we can get fantastic results and basing the operation in the digital realm greatly speeds up workflow, costing you a lot less money. We are able to get these results thru a large variety of high end, top shelf and boutique analog solid state and tube based preamps, compressors and EQs. The end capture is ProTools via HD converters. If you do want a little tape flavor, some folks want their edited drums, drums and bass or full tracks transferred onto tape and brought back into the digital realm. We can do that via a 1977 MCI JH110A.
I see on Instagram you call yourself a #ruralrecordingresort so what's up with that?
That is a bit tongue in cheek. When most people think of a resort they think spa, weight room, tennis courts, stuff like that. When we say rural recording resort, that means we have 10 wooded acres to explore, places to crash in the studio and around the property (a couple campers), a campfire pit (with outdoor speakers for listening to your mixes), etc. There is a living room with gaming systems, and of course most importantly a fantastic studio with tons of amps, guitars, drums, piano, keyboards, Rhodes, and even a eurorack modular synth. This is a place to get out of your town, city or state and focus on the task at hand; making the best possible record you can, the way you want to make it.
Legal disclaimer: There is NO CHARGE for staying here. This is NOT a hotel or a country inn, but a private members only recording studio. Membership is a $1 fee for your lifetime, taken off of your final bill.
Bro, you trigger drums?
Well, I know I just said I would make the record the way you wanted, but I would love to avoid triggering drums if we possibly can. One thing we get a lot of joy out of is miking a drum kit, and making it sound as good as possible, while sounding like an actual kit. It is an art and is a huge tell of skill level of the engineer. I know more and more engineers use samples and triggers to be their drum sounds instead of actual, organic drums, and that is a certain aesthetic, just not our preferred method. If you absolutely want that, we will accommodate, but we would love to try and get the actual drum kit first, if you'd be so kind as to indulge us. If we cannot get the sounds you are after, we'll go with plan B.
How about amp sims? Can't I just plug in direct?
You can, and if that is what you are after, that is cool and we will do it. That said, part of the fun of making a studio album is putting different mics in front of different amps in different spaces. If we could start there, chances are you will enjoy making a more organic, real album. Once again, if you really are not into mics, and amps, we do it the other way.
Autotune, tell me you autotune?
We generally do several vocal takes and see where we are at. If we can't get a take all the way across a take we can comp one from various takes, do punch ins, or lastly, get out the pitch correction software (that we loving call the talent box [thanks to our friend Dan Maloney]).
I have heard some stuff that comes out of your studio that I thought sounded great, other stuff I wasn't into. What's up with that?
We are engineers first. We are not here to judge how a record gets made, or the quality or creativity of the artists. We are a full service studio that documents what you want, and presents it the way you like. Some people spend quite a long time on their records, spending multiple days on a single song. Other bands come in, rip thru the material almost like a live set, and are done within a day. It's your album, and your aesthetic. One man's trash is another's treasure.
It seems like you are kind of out of content and are just typing stuff?
It is true. I never thought anybody would make it this far...