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Bill Baker, Guitar Tech from Dave's Sound in Whippany, NJ

Bill Baker, Guitar Tech

Bill Baker, Guitar Tech

Bill knows a lot of people and has worked on guitars owned by Ace Frehley and Dez Cadena (The Misfits)

Who is Bill Baker?

Bill Baker, a guitar tech from New Jersey, works at Dave’s Sound Repair in Whippany, NJ. He has been fixing and playing guitars since he was a teen and has been working with Dave Hirsch his whole career. Bill is known for being former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley’s guitar tech and friend in the early ’90s and had a massive Ace collection. He fronted the Ace Frehley tribute band Fractured Mirror. He also has the Ace Frehley Archive, a site dedicated to Ace Frehley. Further, he is known for his popular restringing video on YouTube. He has met and worked with a lot of people in the business. Bill has so many stories, so we have to do this interview in parts.

MUSICXPLORER — Bill, how did you become interested in guitars?

Bill — As a kid, I just loved music. My father had a couple of friends that played guitar and they would come over, and I would watch them and be fascinated by that. Later on, when we moved, the neighbor next door would sit out on his front porch, play bass, and jam along to records. I would watch him through the window of him playing. One time he told me to come inside and watch, and I’m like, “Well, you have got to teach me how to play.” So he gave me some lessons and kinda taught me how to get through the Eagles “Victim of Love.”

So you were learning how play and fix guitars on your own?

Bill — Yeah, I started to take my guitars apart and put them back together. Back then you couldn’t buy a book on how to do that. I remember, I had this one guitar that didn’t work. It had these push-button switches that were very unreliable, and I sort of learned how to make a better contact using a soldering iron. So, I picked up little things like that along the way, but it wasn’t until I bought the first good guitar, a 62 reissue StratDemarzio made a stacked pickup that I put in the Strat. It kind of gave me a start on working on guitars.

When did you start to work on guitars for a living?

Bill — I walked into a music store in Morristown to get an amplifier fixed and told the owner, Dave Hirsh, that I work on guitars, and said, “I can do little repairs on guitars, if you need somebody.” and he said, “You know, maybe you could come in on Saturdays and do some things for me. I could use some help.” I started working for Dave one day a week, and then eventually turned into two days a week. Dave eventually moved to a bigger location, and I have been with him ever since.

So, you really taught yourself how to repair guitars?

Bill — Yeah, sometimes I would learn by doing. For example, somebody would come in and say, “I got a Tele and I want a Floyd Rose put in it.” I knew it was going to be difficult, and I tried to talk him out of it. I told him the guitar was going to get butchered up. He was still insistent on getting it done. I’d say to myself, “Okay, how am I going to do this?” While I had the jig to put in the Floyd Rose, I had to measure twice and cut once. I wish I had a picture of that because it was crazy to do, and stupid because it was an early seventies Tele that would be worth a pretty good buck now.

Bill Baker working on Ace Frehley's (KISS) Les Paul
Bill Baker working on Ace Frehley’s Les Paul
Ace Frehley from KISS and Bill Baker
Ace Frehley and Bill Baker

How did you start to figure out how to refret?

Bill — I was looking at other fret work jobs that other repairmen did, and I would see something that didn’t look right and I’m like, well, gee, I got to figure out a way to do this better. I saw a lot of bad refrets, you know, there’s got to be a way to do it nice and clean. So, I decided to start on a Gibson Flying V that I had, and I refretted the guitar a few times until I got it right.

Did you go anywhere to learn how to do inlays?

Bill — I went to the Guitar Symposium that was held at the Nazareth College, sponsored by Martin. There was a guy there who was cutting pieces of Pearl, and I was like, oh, that looks kind of cool, and I always wanted to know how to do inlays. I asked about it, and he let me practice cutting up the Pearl with him. I then decided I was going to refret that Flying V one more time. I cut out musical notes, and I inlaid them going up the fingerboard.

That sounds pretty cool!

Bill — It was, and I thought that guitar was going to be wonderful and it was going to be my guitar, because it was so cool, but then I realized I didn’t like playing it cuz the way the flying V sits on your body. So I sold it.

What’s your favorite thing about repairing guitars?

Bill — Probably my favorite thing is just seeing the varieties of different guitars, especially working on really cool guitars.

What is your dream guitar?

Bill — I love Les Paul’s. So my dream guitar would be like a flame top Les Paul with super jumbo, Dunlop 6000 frets, just one humbucker, and a volume control. But, I know the Gibson Custom Shop would probably want about 10 grand for it, so I’ll never have one.

That would be nice to have though. What’s your least favorite thing?

Bill — The thing that I like the least, is working on these Chinese knockoffs. They are low-end quality and because there’s a lot of problems with them. It’s hard to get parts that fit because a lot of these companies make up their own sizes, and the work is sloppy and the wiring is sloppy. I got a story about that.

Yeah, you have some good ones.

Bill — And they are all true.
Somebody brought me a Chinese counterfeit Gibson and the wiring was not shielded, so the thing is really noisy. The parts are cheap, and the guy thinks he got a great deal. But when I add up how much it’s going to cost him to put in better pick ups, better pots, and all new wiring, it’s gonna be more than what he just paid for the guitar. Then the fret work is no good and the nut and bridge are just awful. I started adding all the stuff up to make it, and I said, “You should have just bought a used Epiphone and you would have had a much better guitar.”

What are the Pots?

Bill — Pots are the controls. That’s short for potentiometer, in layman’s terms.

You have a couple of videos that are pretty popular on YouTube about your “Z” method for restringing guitars. There is one that has over 15,000 views. How did that come about?

Bill — Is that the high-definition one?


Bill — I think on the first one that I did, there were over 200,000. The video I did in 2008 was with the guitar that I bought from Dez Cadena of the Misfits.

Did you also work on Doyle’s guitars?

Bill — No, but I did work on the basses that Jerry Only designed that were made by CWF in Newton.

Bill with Jerry Only of The Misfits
Bill with Jerry Only of The Misfits

Cool, have you seen the controversy on your method versus the Gary Brawer method?

Bill — I forget, but I saw it.

It’s on The Gear Page.

Bill — Gear Page. Yep, you’re right, there were.

Yeah, so it was on The Gear Page in 2017, and it’s also on the Seymour Duncan and The Right Brain site. The debate is the over and under, one string at a time method, and yours.

Bill — Yeah, which I saw people call it the the “Z” method. Well, I’ll explain that.

Many years ago, Dave my boss, told me three fingers are good to wrap around the tuners. That’s what they had come up with, from when he was working at Robbie’s Music, back in the 70’s. That was kind of my rule too. When I first started playing, I had a Strat. Strats have those slotted tuners so you just kind of put it in and wrap it. I learned because of the tremolo that you had to stretch the strings out and get the slack. You couldn’t have too many wraps that couldn’t be sloppy. It had to be nice and neat.

The majority of the comments I have seen on the restringing videos are that people say that you shouldn’t take all the strings off at once because it messes with the neck.

Bill — Well, here is my opinion on that. When the guitar was made, did it have strings on it?  No, it didn’t, so it’s OK to take them all off. Don’t take them all off and let the guitar sit for a couple of years, because the truss rod is pulling in the other direction. But, if you take it off for say a half hour, or an hour, or even a couple hours, or even if you have to do some major work, you have to take them all off. If you have to take them all off to clean the guitar and put the strings right back on, the guitar is going to go right back where it was. The truss rod was set for the counter tension of the strengths. Now, let’s say you had twelves on there, and you took all the strings off and you put on eights, the neck is probably going to be too straight. If you had eights on there, and you put twelves on, the neck is probably going to be a little too curved, but if you had tens and you put back on tens, then you’re going to be OK.

A Les Paul is different because of the floating bridge.

Bill — On a Les Paul, if you take all the strings off, the tail piece falls off, the bridge will fall off, and the little wheels can lose their their spot. So a safe way to play it, is change them one at a time. If you’re paranoid about anything going out of adjustment or whatever, just change them one at a time, but it makes it a little tougher to clean the guitar.

On a Strat, you wouldn’t have to worry about it.

Bill — If you have a floating tremolo on a Strat, it’s the string tension that’s causing the bridge to float. If you take them all off the bridge, it is going to lay on the face. If you have a Floyd Rose guitar and you take them all off, the Floyd Rose is going to flop onto the face or into the cavity, and it’s going to be a pain in the ass to put it back. So, what you want to do is, if you have to take them all off, and if you have a tremelo on a Strat, you could always stick a guitar pick under the back of the bridge, and it’ll keep it up where it was. You don’t really have to, but if you wanted it to be exactly where it was, you could do that.

What do you think about the other restringing method?

Bill — There’s nothing wrong with either — there are pros and cons to each one. I guess there’s really no right or wrong. It’s whatever you want to try.

What made you do the video in the first place?

Bill — The whole reason that I made that video was because when I was in my Ace Frehley tribute band, Fractured Mirror, we were going to play one last time at a KISS convention and the original guitar player, Mike, from that band showed up with his guitars, and he says, “Can you change my strings for me?” and I’m like, “Mike you’re 40 years old you can’t change your own strings?”

That’s funny!

Bill — Yeah, I told him, I should make a video, so, I said, “Okay Mike, you’re going to hold the video camera, we’re going to use your guitars, and we’re going to make a restringing video.” I then transferred it to a DVD, and sent it to my friend in Australia, who runs my website and he uploaded them for me.

We are running out of time for this part of the interview. But how did you meet Ace?

Bill — I had a table at one of the KISS conventions in 1990 and this guy was asking if anyone wanted to buy one of Ace’s guitars. I said, “Sure, but I don’t have the cash on me right now.” I told him about a Marshall cabinet I was selling, and he said that we could meet at his house to trade the amp and the guitar. He also said that he could have Ace meet with us to sign the guitar, since he had to bring it to his house.

Sounds pretty cool.

Bill — Yeah, and when Ace showed up, it was kind of surreal. He was pretty cool about things and then we all went out to dinner and had Sushi.

We will will continue this interview in another segment that will talk more about Ace Frehley, Dickie Peterson, and the bass guitars he and Bill made. We will also talk about Bill’s involvement with the Misfits, Volbeat, and other good stories. Stay tuned and subscribe to get the latest info on MusicXplorer!

Thanks, Bill — we surely will be talking with you again.

Check out Bill’s Sites:

Check out Bill Baker’s restringing video on YouTube:

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Sebastian LaBar and Custom 1980 Les Paul

Sebastian LaBar-1980 Gibson Les Paul Custom

Sebastian LaBar (Tantric guitarist) talks about his Gibson Les Paul with MusicXplorer

We met up with Sebastian at the Stanhope House earlier this year, where Tantric made a solo stop during the 2019 Muddfest Tour.

Who is Sebastian LaBar?

Sebastian is the guitarist for the band,Tantric, that he joined in 2017.  Previously, he was with the Philadelphia based band, MACH22. Sebastian’s father, Jeff LaBar, was the guitarist for the band, Cinderella.

Seven guitars. One has to be your favorite.

Sebastian has a number of guitars, including the Gibson Les Paul Custom his father gave him. Jeff gave Sebastian a lot of his guitars, but the Les Paul in this interview is his favorite. There are a lot of stories behind the guitar and Sebastian discusses some of them. He gives us a taste of how the Les Paul sounds through a Supro amp.

As mentioned, his favorite guitar is the 1980 Gibson Les Paul Custom that his father used on the Cinderella albums and when he was on tour. The guitar has a lot of history. Unfortunately, it was damaged a few times and even had the head stock sheared off, but still sounds great.


Sebastian’s influences are, of course, his father, Jeff, George Lynch, Randy Rhodes, Zakk Wylde, Angus Young, and Doug Aldrich to name a few.

Check out the full video interview below

Here is the trailer

Full Interview

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Taylor 114CE and 524CE Acoustic-Electric Guitars

Taylor 114CE & 524CE Guitars

Taylor 114CE & 524CE Guitars

Beautiful, natural-sounding acoustic-electric instruments with the “wow” factor

The Taylor 114CE

The 114CE guitar is of the Grand Auditorium shape that has a Venetian cutaway allowing your hand to get to the upper frets. Designed by Bob Taylor in 1994, the shape of a grand auditorium guitar is wider than a dreadnought. (A dreadnought, a large bodied guitar shape, is named after the British battleship HMS Dreadnought). It was developed in 1916 and manufactured by C.F. Martin. The lower bout has a skinnier waist and forward bout that makes it a very comfortable guitar to play. My 114CE is laminated walnut on the back and the sides, with a solid sitka spruce top. The pickup is behind the saddle and has piezo-electric sensors. The guitar is powered by Taylor’s Expression System 2 (ES2).

Overall, with Taylor’s custom-designed pre-amp, the result is a natural acoustic sound with incredible range. The pickup also has a switch for feedback control, which is located on the pre-amp board inside the soundhole.

The Taylor 524CE

Right off the bat, this guitar is just amazingly beautiful. You can’t deny that. The sound quality is amazing, and I will explain how this is a little later. The cost is much higher than the 100 series and for good reason – they start at around $2800 brand new. Look around on EBay as I did, and you can get a great used one for around $1700. I bought mine from a reputable guitar store in Florida who has a great feedback history. I am extremely happy for making this purchase. When it arrived, it was in a beautiful hard case and was even in tune!!

The 524CE is a dark, rich-grained mahogany (a stronger wood) with a Venetian cutaway in the Grand Auditorium style, the same as the 114CE. Because of the fine mahogany wood, combined with the V-class bracing, when playing the 524CE, the sound that emanates from the guitar is unique, long-lasting and more beautiful than the 114CE because of the resonating tone. When you play the 114CE and then play the 524CE, a genuine appreciation for the 524CE will give you the wow factor.

A demonstration of the Taylor 524CE (by Tom Culbertson)

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Egnater Mod 50 Guitar Amp at Daryle's House

Egnater Mod 50

Egnater Mod 50

A rockin’ custom guitar amp with swappable modules for a flexible sound

Who is Bruce Egnater?

Before we begin on the the Egnater Mod 50 amp, let’s get some history on Bruce Egnater, for whom the amp is named.

Bruce is from the Detroit area and was a guitar player in the late 60’s and early 70’s, aspiring to be a rock star influenced by his love for Hendrix and Cream. Things did work out for Bruce to be a rock star, just not as a musician. Instead, he became a rock star in the amp field.

Bruce became more interested in gear and especially amps. He was always tinkering with amps and looking for different tones. Bruce first went to the University of Detroit Engineering School and also worked at Zoppi’s Music on 8 Mile Road in Sterling, Michigan. He was working on amps and set up their service department (Zoppi’s is not far from where I once lived, which is pretty cool). After graduating, he decided to open a repair shop in 1975 fixing and modifying amps. He was playing around with various amps to understand them because amps were a new fad as nobody really had a lot of in-depth knowledge of them. One day, Bruce combined a small Gibson amp with a Marshall head and discovered that he was finally heading in the direction he wanted. Bruce used a load resistor from the Gibson and took the signal from there and put it into the input of the Marshall. Word got out about what he was doing and soon became in demand. To this day, his amps are still a popular item to have.

What is the Egnater Mod 50?

The Mod 50 is a modular, tube guitar amp head that Egnater no longer has in their production line. It is still a popular item in the used market for around $1,400. Unlike most tube amps, what makes this unique is that it has modules that can be swapped out for different tones that the player wants. For this discussion, we will be looking at the TD (Twin Fender Deluxe), COD (California Overdrive), SL (Super Lead), and EG5 modules. There are other modules listed below that can be interchanged. The amp allows you to plug in any two modules at a time. Each module has two channels and its own Master and Gain knobs for each section of the module. They both share bass, middle, and treble. I have provided a link to the manual HERE.

Jimi Alan (Rockslide Studios, Bubba Grouch, and Damn the Torpedoes) helped us to review his Egnater Mod 50 to get a personal perspective of what this amp is all about.

MUSICXPLORER — Jimi, can you give us a run down of the amp?

Jimi — Sure, the Mod 50 is basically a 50 Watt Power Amp. It’s not a metal amp, and as you mentioned, it has interchangeable modules that have some flavor of a circuit from another amp, but they always have the Egnater touch to them, of course. I have the TD (Twin Fender Deluxe), COD (California Overdrive), SL (Marshall Plexi / Super Lead), and the EG 3/4 modules. The amp itself is very dynamic, very touch sensitive, and if you play gently, it cleans up really nice. If you dig in, it gets grittier. I typically don’t even use the full 50 Watts of the amp. I usually run it half power or 10 watts. This allows me to get a little more power tube saturation. The Head has 5881 tubes, which are based on the “American” type amps. The tubes are a little bit more compressed and don’t have as much bite as the smaller EL34 tubes that give you a British-sounding type amp. The amp can also use 6L6 tubes, as well as others. The Pre-amp and the modules use typical 12AX7 type tubes.

Does the amp have any built-in effects?

Jimi — The amp has no effects, and it doesn’t have reverb either. It is dry as a bone, so you need to get a pedal if you want any effects. The amp does have a serial and parallel effects loop.

What are serial and parallel effects loops?

Jimi — The effects loops basically run between the pre-amp and the power amp section. The serial loop breaks the path and inserts something, meaning it breaks the signal path, runs through the effect, and then returns to the circuit. The parallel loop does not mess with your tone as the serial loop does. It sort of splits the signal and it doesn’t break the signal as an insert. The parallel loop allows you to blend in the overall amount of effects, whereas, the serial loop, you need to carefully set the levels.

Getting back to the modules — what do you like about the modules you have?

Jimi — The Fender Twin has a bright, clean sound, while the Deluxe is warmer and breaks up more. What I love about the California Over Drive is the way the notes just sustain, especially when I turn it up. It’s a very “creamy” lead tone based on the Dumble ODS and Mesa Mark IIc. You can get some killer feedback and it’ll go on forever. The SL is based after the Marshall Super Lead. It’s a great sound for rhythm and lead guitar and has great medium gain. It can get pretty hairy too. Very British. The E/G 3/4 module is based off Bruce’s signature, Tone of Life amps, and channels three and four, respectively. It’s not a bright sounding module like the Twin, but a darker sounding module. The EG5 is a super high-gain module, and I relate it to the Soldano. Great gain with clarity.

The other cool thing about the modules is that you can also swap out the tubes, right?

Jimi — Yeah, the modules can be interchanged with different tubes that can give you different feel and tone. For instance, I currently have Groove tubes in the EG5, and for my SL module, I have Chinese 12X7’s. I have JJ’s running in the TD and COD. Bottom line is that you will get something slightly different out of every tube.

Do you like any of the other modules?

Jimi — I definitely want to get the Vox module. It just has “that” sound and gain.

Egnater COD and EG5 Guitar Amp Modules
The COD and EG5 Modules

Inside the Egnater COD Guitar Amp Module
An inside look at the COD Module

How did you come about having the Mod 50 as your main amp?

Jimi — I first had the Egnater Rebel and loved the tone of that amp. I soon as I tested it, I took the money out of my pocket and said, “It’s mine.” I then checked out the Renegade. The Mod 50 I have now was a fairly recent purchase, as I’d been looking for a long time. My Renegade took a shit on me at a gig. It literally caught on fire. Not a real fire, but smoke and fireworks. The area that my amp was in was dark, and I think it had something to do with the power, because the owner was messing with the lights, and all of sudden, I looked on the back wall where my amp was, and saw the flashing. It was like a Christmas Tree, Dude! I noticed a flash of light from the back wall where my amp was. I looked over and saw fireworks, sparks, and smoke everywhere. It was like a Christmas tree all lit up, but it wasn’t on fire. I mean it was smoking, and it was a lot of fireworks, but no actual fire. With that being down, it was motivation to really find and get the Mod 50.

That sounds pretty weird?

Jimi — I know, I’ll never forget it!

What drove you to like the amp?

Jimi — I love the fact the amp is a tinkerer’s amp, and the fact that you change modules and tubes. I also love the Egnater mid-range. There is something there that just really appeals to me.

Is there anything you do not like about the Mod 50?

Jimi — I don’t like that each module has to share the EQ (bass, middle, and treble). I am going to have Jaded Faith in Bordentown modify the modules. For example, for the twin side, maybe they’ll put another bass or boost knob. The other thing I don’t like is that the serial loop runs a hot signal, line level, to the effects. I recently picked up an Ebtech line level shifter to remedy that, though.

Egnater has discontinued making the amp, but it seems to still be popular on the used market?

Jimi — Yeah, they stopped making the amp in the early 2000’s to be more focused on a model that was more commercially viable. Used mod 50’s are hard to get. There is a new company called Synergy that is picking up where Bruce left off, and he had consulted with them when they started out. Synergy is now building new modules and amps and working with guys like Friedman and Metropolous. Some killer sounding stuff that is all compatible with the Mod series.

Other Modules:

  • B’Man (59 Fender Tweed Bassman)
  • SL2 (Hot-Rodded Marshall Super Lead)
  • VX (Vox AC-30)
  • ERect (Mesa-Boogie Dual/Triple Rectifier)

Thanks, Jimi, for helping out with the rundown of the Mod 50.

More Guitar Amp Sites:

The Sweetwater video interview with Bruce Egnater

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Rockslide Studios in Andover, NJ

Jimi Alan — Rockslide Studios

Jimi Alan — Rockslide Studios

A comfortable demo shop in Andover, NJ

Jimi Alan, Owner and Engineer of Rockslide Studios

Jimi Alan, a skilled guitarist and engineer from New Jersey. Jimi’s primary focus is the lead guitarist for an original, favorite local New Jersey band, Bubba Grouch. He is also the lead guitarist for the highly recognized and popular Tom Petty tribute band, Damn the Torpedoes. Notwithstanding, he is also an engineer for his own Rockslide Studios that has been in existence for over 25 years. His high attention and good ear to detail has made him a talented engineer who has worked with a lot of musicians, including Chad Szeliga, a former member of Breaking Benjamin and the band Tantric.

MUSICXPLORER — Jimi, you are well known for being a focused guitar player. How did you come about wanting to be more involved in the engineering and recording side?

Jimi — In the beginning I just wanted to learn how to play songs and be able to play the songs right. As I got older, I became more interested in how the songs were created and to pick them apart. So I decided to look at Van Halen’s first record to try to understand how they got this glorious sound. Really, what better album to start with?

How did you go about starting the desire of recording?

Jimi — When I was 23, my wife bought me a Tascam Porta 01 (A four-track recorder that uses a standard cassette tape). I thought it was amazing, and I knew I really wanted to get into recording and engineering. I was learning how to use it in between doing gigs. I was getting a little more serious as time went on, and I started putting things together in my garage to use as a studio. I was learning this at my own pace and having a great time doing it. There was only so much I could do with Porta 01, so in 1996 I upgraded to the Tascam 6/88.

What is a 6/88?

Jimi — It is an 8 track cassette recorder with a 20 channel built-in mixer—it was was a good tool. I used it at the beginning, but still had the tape hiss thing that you don’t get in digital recording. The 6/88 was a complex machine to me and eventually I learned how to use it.

What did you learn from the Tascams at this point?

Jimi — I was getting better at recording. Both Tascam units gave gave me the ability to learn how to commit instruments to certain tracks. Bringing in instruments to the mixer and committing them to certain tracks, you will always lose something every time you mix, because you can only record so much at one time. You’re limited to only eight tracks to use to record on the 6/88. For example, if I recorded on tracks 1 through 6 and condensed them in stereo to tracks 7 and 8, I now lose two tracks to the committed mixed tracks 7 and 8 (this is called bouncing) and now I only have six tracks available for recording. Now that you have those committed tracks, all the original tracks are lost. One through 6 would be overwritten to record new tracks, and 7 and 8 would be the two mixed, committed tracks that are kept to continue with recording. Both of these Tascam units were my first real experience at multi-tracking.

So you were finally understanding what an engineer meant?

Jimi — Yeah, things were becoming more clear to me. Being an audio engineer is a totally different animal than setting up sound to do a show. An engineer isn’t always about getting the sounds. An engineer is a guy that can overcome the obstacles and rectify situations and make it work. I always had junk gear and wasn’t afraid to take things apart so that I could understand more. I really had the bug at this point and started hanging out with people who knew about recording. I continued to read and started to take some Online courses in studio engineering, and then one day, I decided to go to Showplace Studios and watch Ben Elliott do his magic.

Who is Ben Elliott and how did you meet him?

Jimi — Ben is the chief engineer and producer at Showplace Studios in Dover, NJ. I think I met Ben through an online course I had taken. One day I sort of invited myself into the studio and just watched him.

He had no Issues with that?

Jimi — I guess not. I just sat in the back of the room and watched and listened for about six months. It was fascinating. I watched Ben pick up a lot of the tiniest little things that an ordinary person would not catch.

Sounds like a cool dude? Did he teach you?

Jimi — Yeah, he is very cool. I wouldn’t say that Ben taught me in the normal sense of the word; but it got to the point where he would ask me things as a second person that was there just to ask a trusted ear. I took that real personal and felt that he could trust me. I then started to ask him questions and he asked me “Why don’t you go out and buy a cheap Pro Tools rig?” So I went and bought Pro Tools  (Version 5). I learned a lot over those six months with him.

What is Pro Tools?

Jimi — Pro Tools is a digital audio software program that you are able to use through a PC. It is made by Avid Technologies.

So this was your next step at becoming a better engineer? Were you doing any recording?

Jimi — Yes, I was learning Pro Tools. It was a new animal to me because it was using a computer with a mouse- it was point and click. I was just not used to using a mouse man. It was weird to me- it was digital, no sliders or knobs! I was used to the old-fashioned way of recording and mixing. Back then, Pro Tools was free and you just bought the hardware. I had to learn about routing the signal from the source to its destination and whatever devices it had to go through to get there- being preamps, compression, or an equalizer before it gets to that destination. I was getting pretty good with it after a few months.

I was also going to the open mic thing that Brian Yelinko was doing with Shari and Jenny Spiro around 1999-2000. One night I was watching this dude who was a singer/songwriter/guitarist. He was awesome man. His name was Ceiro Patty. I thought this guy would be great for me to record. I thought to myself, I wonder if I could be friends with this guy.

What happened?

Jimi — I just pitched it to him and said, “Dude, your shit is awesome, and I want to record you. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I’d like to record you,” and he was like, “Cool, sure.” We met at my studio the next week. The studio was a makeshift situation at the time. We even had to use blankets to wrap them around to make it perform like a vocal booth. That was odd! We did a lot of live demos. It was the perfect thing to do as a starting point for recording. It only required two tracks because it was just recording guitar and vocals. It was a great learning experience and my first real stab at recording.

Where did you go from there?

Jimi — I decided I wanted to do more- I wanted to record my own stuff. I wanted to record myself playing all the instruments and learn more at the same time. My goal was for me to record myself doing everything. I upgraded to Pro Tools 7. I also wanted to get back to something physical I can control. I wanted to get back to twisting knobs and sliders- I didn’t want to use a mouse.

What instruments did you have to use?

Jimi — I first started with all my guitars and different amps that I had. I then moved onto the bass, piano, and later I bought a drum kit. I’ve always struggled with the bass. I can’t seem to always get the desired tone.

I know there are a lot of different ways to record guitars and amps. But drums, there are so many different pieces to a kit at any time. What did you do there?

Jimi — Drums are my favorite and the hardest because of the phase relationships. By phase relationship, I mean one microphone will be on, say the snare, and another microphone on the floor tom. It will pick up another different sound off the snare. The problem is, you’ve got a whole bunch of microphones that can pick up a different frequency of the snare; where the waves are also hitting the mic in a different time, where another different sound is coming out. So, you have to make sure where all those microphones are, and that you have all those phases worked out. I spent a lot of time recording with drums and microphones. After a few months, I finally learned what I needed and wanted to record a song.

Have you done demo recordings for other musicians?

Jimi — I have done a lot, and still do demos for people, some have come out really well. One of the last demos I did was for this dude, Casey Honig and his friend Chad Szeliga (Breaking Benjamin, Black Label Society, and Scott Stapp). I also do demos for kids who can’t afford studio time and are intimidated. It’s a real pleasure to see their faces light up after we have finished doing a recording.

How did you hook up with Casey and Chad?

Jimi — I ran into Casey at a gig one night and we talked about recording and then we hooked up at my studio. Casey brought Chad over to play drums. Chad is a phenomenal drummer who had a lot of great ideas. It was an awesome session. I think Chad is now with Black Star Riders. We did Casey’s whole record here. Their stuff was very emotional and powerful. It was real good, but I think they wanted something more edgy than I could do. I’m also old school and don’t use headphones as most engineers do. I go with my ear, and I like the open air in the room.

How is it working with the kids?

Jimi — I love working with them. I usually have them load in on Friday and plan it out. Saturday we record, and if they want to, they can practice. Sunday we go through the mix and make them sound good. The kids are still learning and make mistakes so I clean the tracks up, rerecord parts if we need to, then give them the finished product, and watch their faces light up. I want to give them the best thing I can give them, because they are still learning and it makes them happy.

What do you enjoy the most out of recording?

Jimi — I love recording a full band. The one thing I dislike the most is editing. I’d rather have people record live.

I hear ya, too much editing makes it sound manufactured, and not real or organic.

Jimi — Yeah, it’s not real. I could make a record with me doing all the instruments, but what fun is that? When I’m recording for people, I have a lot of them say, “Hey, you can fix that right? You have Pro Tools. We screwed this part up.” I often tell them, “Yeah, I could I guess, but just play it as if you’re in a live band.”

Do you advertise?

Jimi — I do have my website, but it’s really word of mouth and friends. I never advertise and have never called this a professional studio. The studio is not a real studio. I’d really call it a demo shop.

How did you come up with the name Rockslide Studios?

Jimi — It’s a real cool name isn’t it? We were drinking some beers out in my backyard one day and were looking at the giant rock slide that’s back there and we thought that would be a real cool name for the studio.

How would you descibe your studio in three words?

Jimi — Comfortable Demo Shop, beacuse that is exactly what it is. It’s a great comfortable place for people to come.

Thanks Jimi for taking the time to discuss what it takes to be an engineer and your personal history with it.

We will catch up with Jimi in the Bubba Grouch interview coming soon.

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Audio Gardern, Northern NJ Recording Studio

Audio Garden

Audio Garden

Audio Garden is a recording studio in Northern New Jersey, that has been around since 2000, created by engineer/musician Brian Yelinko.

A studio different from any other

Early in 2018, the studio started receiving a major renovation with the objective of becoming one of the best studios on the East Coast. We met up with Brian to get the history of how it all began, to get some insight on where it is going, and to find out what is going to make the studio different from any other.

MUSICXPLORER — Brian, give us the rundown on how Audio Garden all began.

Brian — In 1997 while working nearby at Showplace Studios I saw what was going on there, and it really amazed me at the awesome vintage gear that they had in their inventory. Most of all, I heard what Ben Elliott’s vintage gear sounded like.  After experiencing that, I really got the bug to dive into vintage audio gear and to learn as much as I could to make my own studio. I started selling off assets of the business I had to acquire as much vintage audio gear as I could get my hands on. When I started Audio Garden back in 2000, I was well in to collecting vintage audio gear and figured it was time to start a studio of my own.  I continued to collect vintage gear and expand Audio Garden through 2012, but we had some setbacks and really didn’t getting moving again until this past year. But the mission of collecting great gear didn’t stop!

How did you come up with the name Audio Garden?

Brian — I was on a skiing vacation in Vermont and the name just popped in my head as I was having a great Vermont beer, Long Trail Ale I believe it was, and then I went and bought every dot com that had anything that had the Audio Garden name in it that I thought we might need. I then trademarked the name since most all of the people I asked really liked the name Audio Garden.

What is going on with Audio Garden right now?

Brian — Audio Garden is currently going through a major renovation and our goal is to be different than other studios. Maybe even be one of the best recording studios on the East Coast, a place Artists should be looking forward to going. We hired John Edwards, a well known designer/builder to help create our studio and it’s looking like it will be pretty special. It should be completed by the fall.

You mentioned you have a lot of vintage gear. Are you going to have state of the art gear as well?

Brian — That’s a great question. We have over 150 really great and obscure vintage amps… Fender, Gibson, Marshall etc. including some newer amps too.  We also have well over 150 vintage microphones like Telefunken, Neumann, AKG, Sennheiser, Coles, and RCA. Also some newer necessities like Royer and Shure, but mostly we have vintage equipment. But to answer your question, we have a pretty good selection of modern processing gear as well. We want the artist to be able to choose from a wide selection of gear to create their recording, utilizing the special gear that was available to artists they may have looked to for inspiration as well as keeping up with the current go-to-pieces.

What kind of recording consoles do you have?

Brian — We have a 32 channel Helios that will be going through a complete restoration and upgrade, and we recently procured Wally Heider’s UA 610 console that was used in his famous Hyde Street, San Francisco Studio C. In our new studio that’s under construction, we’re commissioning a 40 channel Neve 8088 console that Keith Urban and Sheryl Crow were looking at that I managed to get my hands on, as well as a 40 channel Trident A Range, and a tube Altec 250SU. Each of these consoles all made some really fantastic sounding records and we hope to do that and more for our Artists.

How are you going to get your name out there so that people know you have this great studio?

Brian — We prefer to gain attention through word-of-mouth referral, although we already have a lot of interested new and previous clients, so I think it’ll grow from there.

How is Audio Garden going to be different, how will it be a studio artists will want come to? What is your goal with Audio Garden once it’s completed with the renovations?

Brian — For starters, it will be different by not being a studio that is a strictly audio and rate centered, meaning we’re not going to be charging you an hourly rate for “x”, which is typically how average studios work. We want to be a studio that is customer focused, where artists come and get so much more value out of us than just a great recording. Our other main focus is to develop and produce new talent. We want to be a world-class-studio and have clients feel like they can trust us to give them exactly what they want, and and then deliver more. Our employees are going to be top-notch experienced professionals who are going to be as excited with the process and finished product as the artist will be.
We are also going to have great technicians who will be able to not just repair client’s equipment, but be able to correct design flaws, or upgrade their gear, beyond what the manufacturer can do. Terry Wayne is going to be our lead technician. He is basically a scientist in this field with an amazing amount of knowledge regarding audio and studio gear. Dennis D’Amico of I Do Music is our in-house producer partner that has worked many great names. We could talk about Dennis until the sun comes up and probably longer!

What are you going to be offering to the client that’s going to really want them to come to your studio, more than anybody else’s, how will it stand out?

Brian — We will have our own record label at Audio Garden, it will be secured so that no one unauthorized can download the Artist’s music and steal their creative works. Most importantly, we want the Artists to get the revenue they deserve out of their product. Something relatively new we are implementing is having cameras and live switchers in the studio so that the fans can watch the recording while its being made, to help the Artists engage their audience before the product is actually released. Artists will also have the video component for use in other ways if they want. It’s obvious that people want more interaction with the Artists these days so by being able to give them other product they want, be it vinyl records, studio out takes etc., the Artists can have more ways of being profitable and promoting themselves.

Describe Audio Garden in three words.

Brian — Audio Garden in three words, hmmm. I would say Artist Centered Productions or Artist Centered Video and Recordings. I guess that’s more than three words!

Thanks Brian for taking the time to talk to MusicXplorer. We are excited about what Audio Garden is doing. We will catch up with you later in the year after the studio is up and running…

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