Dan Byers is a St. Petersburg College Music Industry and Recording Arts student. Byers has many years of experience as a recording engineer in his local studio. We sat down with Dan to find out about his studio, his experiences, and any other off the wall thing he was interested in telling us.
AG: “Tell us a bit about your studio.”
Dan: It’s in this like 10,000 square foot building or whatever. So it’s big, 120 little kids every day. It’s this big day center and in the middle of it there’s maybe 800 sq ft, area that doesn’t have any outside windows. It’s all walls that are enclosed by completely by the rest of the building. Around me, to the backside of the studio, there are two classrooms. Then, on one side, there’s a hallway and across from the hallway there’s like three or four more classrooms and stuff. So, right now, it’s nap time there; it’s totally quiet, but, in thirty minutes the kids wake up and it’s the loudest place on the planet. At 6:30(PM) they all go home, the business park is dead silent, so it all works pretty good. I work nights and weekends there because of this stuff (college) here. Most of the people I end up recording have some sort of kind of crappy day job or something like this…
AG: “Musicians normally do.”
Dan: So around 6:30/7:00(PM) they’re like, ‘Alright, I’m off work; I’m ready to record something.’ Then Saturday and Sunday I have all day. I tell people it’s in the daycare; if you’re in the daycare, you’re at the right spot. They walk in and it’s all decorated for children and all that stuff; then you walk in and open the door to the studio and you’re like, ‘Okay, it looks like a studio.’
AG: So what do you have there? You’ve just got the control room and the tracking room?
Dan: A control room and a live room, yeah. I have access to the rest of building, too. So outside of the control and live room (out of each door) there’s a long hallway and it’s like 130ft long or something like this so I can do things like put a guitar amp at one end and a microphone at other.
AG: “Reverb chamber.”
Dan: Yeah, just to get weird things going on: just natural delays; you know, placing mics down the hallway from a source. It can still be inside and be over 100 feet from your source. The hallway does really awful, bad things to the sound because it’s this narrow, skinny hallway. You clap and the flutter echo is awful but there’s always a few spots where it sounds real screwed up but really cool right here I’m going to blend that back in. I don’t do it a lot but it’s cool to have over 100 feet of indoor space to record with.
AG: What do you normally record there? Vocals, full bands…
Dan: Full band stuff, vocals… everything. Right now, I’m working on a children’s nursery rhyme CD; I’m working on an electro-funk project, working with a heavy-metal band, an acoustic singer-songwriter kind of project; and working with Sam’s band, Halibut. I don’t what you’d call them, kind of a folk-rocky, type of stuff.
AG: Yeah, something along those lines.
Dan: I’m working with those guys and I think that’s it right now.
AG: So not a lot going on then? Just your generic, normal, bands, every so often, right?
Dan: Yeah, nothing normal. No ‘Oh, three piece power pop? Got that!’ No… All kinds of stuff, hip-hop, country, metal, classical type stuff, whatever. I don’t pretend to be good at any one genre or even think that I’m good at all of them. It’s whoever contact with and if situations work out for we’re a match for working together. ‘No, I can’t meet with you at 4:00PM to track stuff unless you want the sound of 100 kids in the background.’
AG: And if you do, it’s great!
Dan: If you do, great! Yeah, I’ll be there at 4:00PM! But being in school and stuff. I don’t say ‘no’ to stuff. There’s few I’ve had to go ‘No, I can’t meet your schedule because of other things going on.’ So yeah, all kinds of music, all types of people too. It’s awesome.
AG: What would be the most ridiculously out-there person, or project you’ve had to work on?
Dan: I don’t even know… I’ve dealt with personalities that were difficult. One of the first projects that I worked on that this guy was sent to me, I was working at a studio at the time-I don’t even know how I got that job. It kinda ended up being presented to me. The engineer who was working there just totally flaked out, disappeared, stole some gear and fled the country type of deal. I knew the people there and they were like, ‘Hey, can you come and help us with some stuff.’ They were nice people; they gave me simple stuff, basically doing an inventory on the studio, letting them know what files were stolen from the computer, simple stuff like this.
They were nice and I was nice to them so they were like, ‘Hey, you know we have this opportunity to record this singer guy we met down in the islands somewhere. Will you do it?’ So I was like, ‘Yeah. Sure.’ So this guy would come in. He wouldn’t have any songs written so he’d free style over a very simple drum beat for 20-30 minutes then I’d have to make musical beds that at same tempo and chop his vocals up and put it in a song format. So it would take 20-30 minutes of nonsensical rambling and assemble it into a song, creating a beat and everything like this.
I had worked with him, he was here for a few weeks. They put him up in a hotel; they had flown him in from… I don’t remember what island he was from, and he hadn’t spoken to me very much. Then, one day, he starts telling me this story of how he’d killed a bunch of people one day and shot some cops and stuff like this. And I was like, ‘Really, you killed people and then you shot cops? What are you doing here?’ I was thinking he had duked my boss and his wife into flying him out of his country to avoid… then he’s like, ‘No, I was in jail for it and stuff happened.’
Basically, it ended up being some fluke of the justice system and he got set free. He was like, fully admitting to multiple murders but because the justice system there wasn’t working properly or whatever he ended up getting set free. So I’m in the room with this killer guy feeling real uncomfortable and I was just like ‘I really hope that not everyone is like this, that I don’t always have to be working with a mass-murderer type of guy.’ He was super nice, did this real strange music that didn’t really have any form to it that we had to assemble into songs. That was one of the stranger, more completely, out-of the-blue, right out-of-left-field sort of things that happened in the middle of the session-finding out the guy was a murderer that has no qualms about like, ‘Yep, I’m a murderer. I killed people.’
Then there’s other, normal, personality-type stuff like bands fighting in the studio because they’ve never heard their band mate play that part before and their band mate is saying they’ve been playing that part for years that way or whatever it is; or it’s maybe people hearing their performances underneath the microscope of the recording studio because they’ve been playing live for a while but never heard themselves recorded and they hear it back for first time and it’s devastating so there’s grown men crying and stuff like this. It’s not normal but…
AG: It happens?
Dan: Exactly, it happens. People having breakdowns and stuff like this because they thought their skill level was higher and they can’t just play the parts they wrote down and stuff like this. But those are, to me, more normal type of things. Other than the murderer guy, nothing has ever come out where I’m like, ‘I want to leave. I want to get out of here.’
Now we’ve heard Dan describe some of the weird and awkward situations he has faced during a recording session, we’ll continue our conversation, in part two, asking him about some of his favorite moments.
If you are interested in working with Dan Byers on your own project, can contact him via his website: