On the Corner
Support Local Music
by Jack Partain
Sitting in his office in Rundown Studios, producer and engineer Paul Schneider seems less like a geeky recording tech than an ambassador for the craft as he explains the philosophy of his studio.
"I’ve had bands of my own." he says. "But the main thing that I was never happy about is that most studios if you’re a struggling band you’d go record and they’d just give you a rough mix and if you wanted a pro mix then you’re talking $700 hundred bucks a song and most people can’t afford that."
"So I opened this studio with that in mind, trying to provide a professional level mix with-out as much cost."
Intelligent and articulate, Schneider, who is also a local fireman and veteran musician, knows the importance of quality recording for a young band.
" I will do demos for people," he says. "But I really don’t like to. I think it’s detrimental to the band. If they’re gonna record they might as well just go all out. People make a decision within the first 15-20 seconds and if it sounds like it was recorded by the band people don’t even give the song a chance. But if it has that polish and production on it people will give it a chance. The body and the message of the song will have more of a chance to come through."
Discreetly located in a converted central Topeka storefront, from the outside Rundown Studio's is doesn't seem like the hip spot for local musicians it is quickly turning into. But inside, the building seems like the perfect place to get the creative juices flowing. Comfortable and lacking in pretension, Rundown is different from a lot of other studios in that it doesn't flaunt it's hipness. Perhaps because it reflects the personality of it's creator.
"I started construction in July 2008 and I built the whole thing myself," Schneider says. "It was just an empty space."
After officially opening in January, 2009 Rundown has pro-duced an interesting array of artists including hard rock (Come Ascendancy, Brass Knuckle Betty, Another Day Gone) emotronic (Lawrence's Shout it Out Loud!) and classical/celtic (Kansas City's Rehtaeh). A major reason for this popularity may be Schneider's hands on approach to production.
"I pretty much do everything from engineering right on up to producing," he says. "So when a band comes in, I’m the guy setting up the mic’s, I’m the engineer, I’m the guy picking what pre-amps we go through and how it’s mic’d and how it’s played and then of course I do the mixing and then I also do the mastering.
"I’m one of those guys that Iikes to do everything," he continues."I'm kind of a control freak."
Largely misunderstood by the listening public, paradoxically the producer is often overlooked in the recording process, many times thought of as little more than a knob turner sitting in a dark room pushing buttons. Schnieder says it's more than that.
"As an engineer I’m able to apply everything that I know about music and really delve into things," he says. "Take it to an art form level which is what a lot of producers don’t do. They never delve into 'If I take the EQ on a guitar and dramatically change it, what does that do?'
"Everybody’s different in how they produce, how they mix, how they record," Scheider says. "I’ve got my own little way to do things, a little bit of a unique sound, even though in todays market a lot of bands, most bands will come in and say that they want a live sound, but when you get down to the finished product they want what they hear on the radio and a lot of the time what they don’t understand is that takes a lot of backend work and of course you have to get what you need on the front end. My philosophy, the way I do things probably might be different from some peo-ple but, most of the time, the music comes out with the feel of what the band is doing."
And like any great producer, Schneider says it's easy to see himself as part of the band he's working with.
"That’s one of the fun things about it," he says. "Yes, you do become just like a member of the band. They joke around with you and you have your place in the band. What you’re doing is taking all the elements of the band and bringing them together to make a specific sound. So a producer or mix engineer ends up being very important to the group. If you stick with a person then that’s what defines the final sound. And a lot of major bands, that’s what they do, they get a producer and they stick with it."
And sticking with it is something Schneider knows something about. Music has always been a part of his life.
"I played guitar, piano and drums since I was a kid but I al-ways played other peoples stuff," he says. "I was a big Van Halen fan."
"When I was thirty I started writing music and put out a CD called Movin On. When I listen to it now it’s about the most horrible production I could think of. But it still sells on iTunes. I don’t understand why – Europeans have a weird taste for music."
And his experience in production is lengthy and nearly obsessive.
"I’ve been mixing for fifteen years," he says. "But as far as producing other people, probably the last four or five years since I’ve had a band come in and I feel comfortable giving what I consider the best for the song in my opinion."
"I’ve always loved music," he continues. "Production gives me the ability to go so far inside music. There so many things, so many sides of it, from a production side. This year I've probably spent a good thousand hours in here."
In the next year Schneider plans on focusing even more on his work and finding new bands to work with.
"I spend so many hours in here," he says, without complaining. "It’s hard for me to go out and listen to bands and approach them and say I’d like to produce you. I’d like to be able to do more of that."
But what about getting rid of that pesky ghost? Artists at Rundown have reported sightings of ghostly activity within the studio, and Schneider has photographic evidence. Paranormal fan or haunting critic?
"It's not a mean ghost," Schneider says. "A lot of bands hear about it and are like 'Yeah, that's cool'."
Visit Paul's MySpace for more info: myspace.com/rundownproduction
Artists that have recorded at Rundown Studios:
Shout it Out Loud!, Emotronic, myspace.com/shoutitoutloudks
Another Day Gone, Metal, http://www.myspace.com/anotherdaygoneks
Rehtaeh, Celtic/Classical/ Gothic, http://www.myspace.com/rehtaehsmusic
Tiger Team Eleven, Metal, http://www.myspace.com/tigerteameleven
Jerrod Guth, Acoustic, http://www.myspace.com/jarrodguth