The biggest mistake is like the first day of school and showing up without your pencils… Make sure you’re prepared” – Paul Chirka
MM: What’s the story behind OCL? This is an impressive facility. How did it all come together?
PC: Up until a year ago OCL studios was a concept from the owner Dan Owen. He had expressed interest in building a studio in his basement, and had looked at a couple studios in Calgary. He came to the conclusion that he’s got this house, an eight thousand square foot house on an acreage; why not utilize that? He’s already got the space, property tax is cheap and you could create something that’s different.
It went from being a $2,000 studio to instantly a $2 million studio when we said we’re committing to what the design ended up being.
MM: How is OCL different than other local or regional recording studios?
PC: We market ourselves as a “commercial residential” studio. When that term had come to light for me I thought: residential studio? That’s kind of a weird thing. You automatically think home studio. Surprisingly when you search residential studios there are very few in the world and they’re the premium “big guys”.
I came across The Bathouse studio in Ontario, which is pretty much the only other residential studio in Canada. I looked where they’re at with their gear and their space and that’s where we’re at, and so it was accurate for us to be able to say that. By having a residential studio we offer the amenities of a residence. Bands can stay here. They have kitchens. They’ve got pretty much
everything they would need to live here and function on their own.
What a residential studio embodies is isolation. The Bathouse is quite a ways out. We’re fortunate cause we’re 15 minutes away from the edge of the city. Downtown is about half an hour. There are two towns within 5 minutes where you’ve got full service everything. We’re better off because it’s not “pack your bags, we’re not going to see civilization for the next month”. It’s accessible.
MM: What are the biggest benefits of having the studio out in the country?
PC: There used to be a lot of residential studios in the 70’s and 80’s and they had virtually all died off. Now they’re coming back as a novelty and it’s a very unique experience. Being in a city like Calgary where any recording studio seems to be a novelty, we’re fortunate in that it’s not a saturated market at all.
It’s nice being out here. And I think anyone who has come out here has stood on the front steps and said “Wow”. It’s just open fields. You can see the mountains. It’s such a tranquil and perfect space. You don’t have the distractions of the city. Any distraction that comes up is something you create. It’s not like there’s a hustle and bustle right outside the door.
MM: Do you have any tips for artists who are preparing to go into the studio?
PC: Do things from home that might be time consuming in the space. Now, with budgets, there is a lot more pre-production outside the studio. Bands are doing the best that they can to prep themselves by prerecording tracks, especially with the quality of buying a nice little preamp on your computer.
Just utilize time. I like to sit down with a band a really figure out a schedule. I don’t want to see a client walk out the door at the end of the day and feel like they didn’t get everything that needed to get done. And I don’t want to put the owner in a compromising position where we just need a couple more days to finish something, and the band is out of money.
I’ve worked with bands that have shown up in the studio asking if the studio has guitar strings. Make sure that you’ve got everything. Especially coming to a studio like this where if a drumstick breaks you’re still looking at an hour and a half round trip to go into Long & McQuade.
Were in a bit of a unique position in that you have to make sure that you’re coming out here like a camping trip. You gotta prep yourself!
MM: What are the most common mistakes bands make in the studio?
PC: Making arrangement changes. Every band should at least consider having a producer work with them. Even if it’s not on everything, just having another set of ears and having someone to help give them a bit more direction. Really have a plan going in and make sure you execute it as well as you can.
Common mistakes? You show up and your guitar isn’t set up. Everybody is scratching their heads cause every other chord sounds like crap. I think going into a big studio is exciting for a lot of bands and they should use that excitement to go to Long & McQuade to get your guitars set up. Take care of those little tiny details.
I would say the biggest mistake is like the first day of school and showing up without your pencils. Just making sure you’re prepared.
MM: As far as studio performance and efficiency, what separates professional bands from the amateurs?
A really big thing is a lot of amateur bands come in without any experience playing to a click and they want to play to a click. That’s great, but when you are wasting two days because the drummer is trying to follow along to a click, it’s not working out.
The thing about a band with a lot of studio experience is they come into the studio and they know what to expect. They know what they can get from the studio. They know what they can bring in.
There are artists that I know of that sing naked. They like to get into the vocal booth and take off all their clothes and that’s good for them. That’s what they need to do to get through it. That’s an example of an experienced band that knows what works. They’ve tried it out. They can do it and rock it.
MM: Where do you see OCL in 5 years?
PC: We want to aggressively enter the market. When I worked with Chris designing the studio I went through and picked all the gear that I knew everybody was going to be using. So what we really want to do is attract more national, more international talent.
We’ve got the microphones; we’ve got the outboard gear. We’ve got all that stuff. We have a space here that pretty much any engineer that has worked in a big studio can come in and they can feel comfortable and familiar. I want to see it becoming that space that guys know.
MM: If you could bring a dream artist into OCL who would it be?
PC: Hmm… that’s a tough one. There is this band in the southern States called Mute Math. They’re so technical and when it comes to the drum sound, that’s what I love. If you talk to an engineer and they have their “thing”, my thing is drums. I want to record and replicate what they’re doing.