“Some [producers] exist to make shitty bands sound good,” said John Morand, local music producer and co-owner of Sound of Music Recording Studios.
“Some [producers] exist to make shitty bands sound good,” said John Morand, local music producer and co-owner of Sound of Music Recording Studios. “I’m the opposite. I’d rather work on bands that don’t need that kind of help…I don’t mind putting the work in and editing…but it’s better if you have a bunch of badass musicians and you just get out of the way.”
Morand started recording punk records in the mid-80’s for his friends.
His dad owned a multi-media company and he learned to engineer by working for him. At night he would sneak back in and use his dad’s equipment to record his friends’ bands.
“Most engineers I know, there’s one or two bands they started with that were responsible for most of their success…Mine was Honor Role because I went to high school with Penn (Rollins)…we didn’t know what we were doing …we just kind of figured it out.”
In the 22 years since, Morand has produced everything from Lamb of God to Daniel Johnston to Sparklehorse to The Hackensaw Boys to D’Angelo.
“I’m probably the only person who’s done both Hanson and GWAR,” Morand said.
That’s quite the combo. Maybe we could convince them collaborate on an album?
At it’s peak in the mid 90’s only “rock stars” could afford Morand’s studio.
“We were booked eight to nine months in advance then, back when the music industry was functioning,” he said. “It’s not that way anymore…which is a good thing actually.”
As the music industry changes, so does the recording studio. This is one of the reasons Sound of Music moved to its new location at 1710 Altamont Ave. in Scott’s Addition, it’s seventh in 22 years.
The new building allows more space for a second recording studio, but also provides more opportunities for multi-media art production, It has a darkroom and space for a live music venue.
Morand said he’s hoping to create a creative space similar to the Brille Building in Manhattan.
“We’re trying to get our video people in here, some tour promotion people, we’ve talked to some agents, we’re trying to fill the spaces with people doing cool things,” he said. “We’re gonna stretch it as far as a Pilates teacher, massage therapist…if someone’s having trouble with a chorus, we’ll send them over there, and they’ll take care of it.”
In this era of Pro Tools, Spotify, and home laptop engineers, according to Morand, what makes a band successful isn’t the number of albums they sell. Much rather, albums are little more than a promotional tool, the same as music videos and band artwork. They serve nicely as merchandise to sell after the real work: touring.
“The best bands are willing to put in the time to be successful…like the Southern Belles, Nervous Ticks, Lady God, Those Manic Seas,” Morand said. I want bands who get out on tour…Bands like that are what keeps Sound of Music going.”
This is partly why the new space, like the old, will eventually double as a music venue.
“It’s quieter here—no VCU cops—so we can have shows here and nobody will mess with us…no fire marshals,” he said.
The venue space also offers bands the unique opportunity to make money from the recording of an album in an era where most bands self-fund the recording process.
So, instead of a net loss of thousands for the band (Sound of Music’s average day rate is about $400, depending on the producer), recording during a live show allows Sound of Music to recoup the cost of recording from the door profits while producing a live album the band can sell.
In many instances, the bands do so well that they actually make money in ticket sales from the event.
More importantly, according to Morand, “bands sound better when they forget they’re recording.”
“In the past people were suspicious of recording…and now it’s the opposite,” he said. “A lot of people…don’t feel like you’ve done your job if you haven’t edited everything because they’ve only ever recorded anything separately…with one or two mics.”
As time moves on Sound of Music has adapted. One thing that hasn’t changed is the notion that it takes a strong work ethic to be successful.
“I typically work 80-90 hours a week because you can’t turn work down…12 hours a day is the minimum,” Morand said. “Bands don’t want to stop for dinner, stop for anything…I’ve done a lot of damage to my relationships and my health in the past by getting too carried away working an extra hour here and there… but that’s what it takes.”
By every standard imaginable John Morand has found success with Sound of Music. He oozes personality and has a wealth of knowledge about the music industry, and about life.
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