>> All hands were on deck September 28th for Wicked Squid Studio’s annual open house. Founder/Owner Josh Pettinger was joined by his staff and crew of interns for the event. The public was welcome to tour the studio and participate in demonstrations of all the equipment they’ve curated over the years. The most exciting development since the last open house was the recent acquisition of a state-of-the-art console.
Josh started his company with a mobile recording studio. He traveled to various locations such as music festivals to make recording more accessible to musicians. While he still offers mobile recording from the comfort and convenience of an RV, he has since settled into a brick-and-mortar location. The current locale is an industrial space located near Rochester’s High Falls. The high ceilings and warm wood beams not only add to the general ambiance but are also create a conducive space for sculpting with sound.
My tour started with a warm welcome at the door from staff. I stopped to chat with Josh, who was bursting with pride about the new console. I was wearing my Periodic Table of Elephants T-shirt, and he told me that the boys from PTOE had just re-recorded some of their new tunes using the new equipment. He was really excited to be able to offer this level of technology to clients.
Next, I met Terry James, Studio Manager. He fields all the calls and emails that come into the studio. Until recently, that also included all booking inquiries. He filled me in on the new online booking system that makes it even easier for people to access the studio.
Everyone gathered around for speeches about local music history and building a music community. Josh also took a turn at the mic, expressing his gratitude to those who have helped build the studio into what it is today.
“This is really a community effort,” Josh said. “I want to thank all the dudes in the Squid Squad… this place would not exist the way that it does and it would not have grown as much as it did. The fact that we’re all together on this thing is what makes this so special.”
Making my way around the room, I was drawn to the wall of drums of all shapes and sizes. Wicked Squid has amassed an impressive percussion collection. Some of the pieces are well-worn, some are shiny new. Sound Engineer Justin Montione told me about how all the pieces are available to mix and match to custom build a kit that produces the sound the recording artist is aiming for.
Being in the studio felt like being a kid in a candy shop. There’s just so much sweet gear to sample. And I wasn’t even half-way around the studio yet.
I passed people who were trying out the vocal booth, but I was drawn to the sound of someone playing a keyboard. Again, the variety was vast. There were modern digital keyboards, but also new and old analog ones.
Squid staff member Evan Vasquez opened up the top of a vintage fender to display the mechanics inside. Each key is connected to a hammer, like a piano. Unlike digital, the keys on an analog board are weighted, meaning that they are sensitive to how soft or hard they are struck. Evan said he’s currently refurbishing another keyboard like this one - and each one of the 77 hammers must be individually calibrated. It’s not a profitable hobby, but a labor of love to restore and preserve instruments from the past.
I headed over to a wall of amps and cabinets. Here Ian Fait was stationed, with a few guitars within reach and plethora of pedal boards fanned out in an arch around him. He demonstrated the differences between the vintage and newer speakers. We chatted about our mutual love of math rock and shoegaze. One of the pedalboards was his own. Another was on loan from Adventure Audio, which manufactures pedals on the other side of this building. The boards in between contained pedals which belong to the studio and are available for use during recording sessions.
Ian showed how the pedals can be used to augment sound, and how they can even be stacked to create different combinations. With the tap of a foot, he could go from a washy surf rock sound to grungy garage rock and then to an echoing psychedelic delay.
As exciting as all this was, it was time to view the showpiece, the recently installed Rupert Neve Designs 5088 analog console. Producer Chris Dubuc-Penney gave an overview of the console, its features, and its capabilities. He played a recent recording made in studio, and then isolated each of the elements and talked about how much control the artist has over the final mix.
I’m not an audio engineer, and a lot of the technology is way over my head. What I can tell you is that the sound quality was as rich and full as any live performance. There’s more about the specs in this video made by the manufacturer:
I ran into a lot of friends from the local music scene while I was there - people who play in bands, and people who I’ve hung out in audiences with. We caught up on recent and upcoming events (sorry, no spoilers).
The history of Rochester as a place that foster the arts, the caliber of musicians in the area (in part due to programs like Eastman School of Music), and the wealth of venues here has helped Rochester to rank among the top cities in the country for music lovers. The cutting-edge technology at Wicked Squid puts the studio on par with ones in big cities like NYC and LA, spurring the regional music industry forward by leaps and bounds.
Visit the Wicked Squid website to find more information, book a session, or schedule a tour. And follow on social media to see more pictures taken by Elijah Richards, and keep an eye out for video shot by Matt Klahn. <<