The Audio Department is Taking Things Up a Notch

Terry Tran at The Audio Department. Photo Credit: Penny McKelvie/Centree Photography

Terry Tran, an engineer/producer at The Audio Department, is living the dream. After Damon Studios shut down last year and its space had been available for sale for a month, Kerry McGowan and Terry Tran decided to lease the space and merge their music equipment rental business with the recording studio. With its long history in Edmonton’s music scene – the building spent 23 years as Damon Studios – Edmonton’s music community, and the property’s owners – were glad to see the space retained as a recording studio.

The Audio Department has the largest recording space in Edmonton. The studio currently has two in-house producer/engineers (Terry and Shout Out Out Out Out’s Nik Kozub), and one assistant producer/engineer (Mark Stephens). I ask Terry what the operating philosophy behind The Audio Department is, and he replies, “We have the means here to do some really good work with the gear … I’m seeing that already. I’m mixing the Cygnets right now, and wow! This [sound] board here is really helping me get my recordings to the next level… It seems like the quality of our records are getting higher. Hopefully that, in turn, helps the music scene get better.” I ask if it’s the professionalism of Edmonton’s music scene that they’d like to help increase, Terry replies, “I don’t know if it’s professionalism, and I don’t want to say quality, but the…” I suggest, “contributing to Edmonton’s music scene’s maturity” and he says “yes, that’s it… We’re just trying to do something cool. I think all of us involved are like ‘yeah, this is it. This is where we want to be right now.’ And we’re all very happy with that.”

Since moving into the studio, Terry has found that he has been able to advance his own skill as a producer/engineer and enhance the already great quality of music emerging from Edmonton’s artists. “It’s really cool for me because I came back from Vancouver and all my Red Deer College friends had moved to Edmonton – I was actually just visiting Edmonton – and all my friends asked, ‘hey, can you help us make records?’ I thought ‘oh, but I live in Vancouver,’ but I said yes anyways, and I ended up staying in Edmonton and making these records for a lot of really cool people. I was doing it in my basement… and one band had a budget to go into the studio, and I rented Riverdale Recorders. While I was recording there, Scott Franchuk said, ‘hey, do you want to move into my B-room?’ and I recorded there for 5 years and I learned so much from Scott, and all of his clients that came through. I did a bunch of great records, that I really liked, in that space. I learnt so much – I learnt a ton from Scott, and then I decided to go freelance. At the time, not a lot of people were going freelance in the city, everyone owned their own studios, and then I recorded out of Sound Extractor… and I did a lot of stuff at Turnkey Studios. But scheduling got a little bit difficult, so I needed something of my own. So, I was just waiting and Gary was sick here at Damon, so I came in and did a lot of work here … It was a cool progression to get here. To me, this is probably the best-sounding room in the city. And I’m in it. It’s awesome that I get to work here. It’s exactly where I want to be.”

The Audio Department also houses an audio equipment rental business, which results in synergies with the recording studio. Terry explains, “[the music rental business] actually helped us with the studio at first, when we didn’t have the clientele to keep this place going, it really helped absorb some of those costs… It really comes in handy with how records are made these days, if people can’t afford the studio, or maybe they can just afford it for drums, they can finish their overdubs at home and we can provide them with the gear to match the gear that we’ve been using here, if they did their drums here.” Terry doesn’t have a problem with artists recording in both the studio and their homes. “I think it’s great if a band can come here and focus on a project from start to finish, but … I’m working with a band now where we did the drums and everything, they’re at home right now recording the guitars, and then they’re going to come back and do vocals… It’s a good experience for them too. I think everyone should learn how to record… it just helps you listen back to yourself and critique yourself and get better.”

To hear some of the bands Terry has worked with, Shout Out Out Out Out, Cygnets, and Mass Choir are playing The Big Show at Edmonton Events Centre on October 14. Terry mixed Mass Choir’s recent album Circles, as well as songs on Kaley Bird’s new album. If you’re an artist and you’d like to get in touch with Terry, you can do so through The Audio Department’s website, Twitter, or Facebook.

– Jenna Marynowski

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