by Robin Cremer | photos by EJ Drake
At the intersection of 6th and MacVicar, Rundown Studios resides covertly under the marquee of its previous occupant, rarely meriting a second glance from passing motorists. The public in general is oblivious to the fact that if his Toyota is parked out front, Rundown’s proprietor Paul Schneider is probably inside creating aural masterpieces.
Although employed as a Lawrence firefighter, Schneider, also a singer/songwriter, has been composing, recording and performing since 2000, with several releases available, most notably on iTunes. He profits modestly from his efforts.
“About every two or three months I’ll get a twenty-five dollar check from iTunes sales,” Paul says, smiling.
Writing heartfelt lyrics based on personal experiences, Paul’s songs have often found a place in the hearts of others.
“The song ‘Movin On,’ from my first CD, was actually written about my grandfather dying and kind of dealing with that. A 17-year-old girl who came and saw me at a coffee shop got a hold of my CD, and then emailed me.”
She told Paul that she’d been taking care of her terminally ill father for several years and his song was a particular source of comfort to her.
“Wow, that’s pretty incredible that something I wrote for me actually helped somebody else.”
Historically, certain recording studios have unquestionably shaped the sound of modern music. During the fifties, Sam Philips essentially wrote the blueprint on Rock and Roll at Sun Studios in Memphis. Further north in Detroit, Hitsville U.S.A and Barry Gordy’s artists, were calling out for a brand new beat with the Motown sound. And of course, modern music was forever turned on its ear, when a scruffy group of Liverpudlians walked into London’s Abbey Road Studios and, with the aid of the legendary Sir George Martin, set out on that long and winding road. These three studios and their respective producers are just a few of the standouts who have given us some of the most diverse, memorable music of our time.
Carrying on with this time honored tradition, albeit on a much smaller scale, Paul Schneider and Rundown Studios here in Topeka are gaining a reputation among the musical cognoscenti, as the place to go for a professionally done mix, recorded and produced by a capable and knowledgeable producer.
With affordable and easy to use computer software available enabling the budding Bob Ezrin, or novice Rick Rubin, to produce decent sounding demos at home, one wonders if there is still a need for an established recording studio. Paul readily acknowledges the importance of home studios, but points out that certain limitations may hinder the amateur producer’s final outcome. Experience and hindsight is the key to successful and pro-sounding results in the studio, and this is where the professional producer, such as Paul, still holds sway.
“What I have spent time at, thousands of hours, is music production and engineering. I have practiced a hundred different ways to record a kick drum . . . this is something a lot of guys don’t have the time to do when they’re in a band and they have a home studio. What ends up happening is a lot of guys will record their music and it sounds okay . . . but where it never reaches, is the level you hear on the radio, because what you do in the studio, you sculpt every single piece of sound in the mix through a lot of different techniques that takes years to learn.”
The recording process for a Rundown session begins quietly enough.
“With each band I go through a pre-production, sitting down with the band, and developing a strategy of how we’re going to record.”
The tracking session comes next, with Paul setting up several mikes, so that all vocals, instruments and every separate part of the drum kit has its own track that will be individually recorded.
“Each song will have anywhere from twenty to a hundred tracks on it . . . there might
be a guitar track that we might overdub or replay and duplicate it onto another track.”
Next is the mixing process, when Paul brings it altogether. “You take all the tracks and try to mix them. That sounds like the band playing together. The majority of the time they do play together, but we do a lot of overdubbing, so a lot of tracks are played independently. We’ll record the band as a whole but then come back in and overdub.”
Paul will then go in to edit the track. A familiar word for many, it essentially has the same meaning in the audio realm.
“Editing is much like a person would do in Word. Maybe you have a piece of an article at one place you really like and you want to copy and paste and put it in different places. Audio’s the same way, when I go in to edit, there will be portions of tracks, where say a vocalist, for instance, won’t sing from the beginning until the verse starts. Well the majority of the time that empty space on the track is miscellaneous noise that doesn’t need to be there. So what I’ll do is edit out the non-crucial areas that I don’t need.”
Paul will perform this painstaking, time-consuming process until he feels it’s ready for the band to take possession of the final mix.
Traditionally a producer’s job is to oversee the band, offering suggestions to improve a track, or giving guidance on the arrangement of a song, while the recording engineer is the guy who figures out how to achieve that auditory concept envisioned by the producer. Paul fills both roles at Rundown, and does so with creative flair. An occurrence when he felt that the song “Carry Me” by Kansas City band Awaken Us, was lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, illustrates this perfectly.
So, working his studio magic Paul constructed a two second segue using pieces of the band’s recorded output.
“Some people will use samples of things. I have a lot of fun creating things, so I’ll take a cymbal roll and reverse that cymbal and put all kinds of crazy effects on it, take a guitar chord that they played, reverse it, do some synth stuff and lay it real tastefully back in there and make this sweeping two beat sound back into this chorus . . . so I spent probably five hours on this one little segment.”
This attention to detail is the norm for a Rundown Studios session, setting a Rundown mix apart from your average home studio recording.
Conveniently located, ironically named, Rundown Studios is in the business of producing high class, low cost, superior sounding mixes for the band or artist willing to take it to the next level.
A few of the artists who have spent time at Rundown Studios are: Monk’s Wine, Head Change, Paradize, Order Number 11, Rehtaeh, Jeremy Swedlund, Mirror Image, Changing Effect, 7 Minute Goodbye, NeoCircus, DKB, Killing Eve, David Luther, Mavens, Brass Knuckle Betty and Awaken Us. Check out the “Rundown Sound” at rundownstudios.com
[ republished from March 1 - April 15 seveneightfive | text by Robin Cremer | photos by EJ Drake ]