Checking in at The Audio Department

About one year ago, The Audio Department opened up in the space formerly known as Damon Records. In my interview with Terry Tran, one of The Audio Department’s producer/engineers and the studio manager, I learned a bit about what The Audio Department’s goals were (to make really good records, obviously) and how they were going about that (high quality equipment, a great sounding recording space, and an audio rental business, among other things). I thought it would be really neat to check in with Terry one year later to see what The Audio Department has been up to in the last year, and where they’re going from here.

Last year, Terry said the equipment he now has access through to The Audio Department was helping him make even better records, so my first question was, of course – has he noticed a difference in the records he’s making now, versus before moving into TAD? Terry replies, “For sure. First of all, the room – the sound is amazing! The previous rooms I’ve recorded in, you couldn’t fit that amount of people all playing in the room at the same time. We just did a recording workshop with Duplekita. They have like, 15 people in the band, or something like that, and we fit all those people in there. Nik Kozub was teaching it and we had students in the room as well, so it’s cool to be able to do that. To get a sort of “vibe” of people playing together…  Sonically, the records have been getting better. I know mine have, and the other people who record at the studio, I know theirs have been getting better as well. It’s kind of exciting to see everyone get better.”

One of the most exciting things happening at The Audio Department, according to Terry, is the workshop series that’s just been announced. The suite of workshops taught at The Audio Department span most aspects of creating music. Terry explains, “we started by doing the recording workshops – Nik Kozub’s been teaching it. It’s a weekend workshop where he brings in a band and the students get to record a band for a weekend and mix it. But we’ve added some other ones like ProTools Software Workshops, Logic Pro Workshops, songwriting workshops, and studio acoustics workshops.”

The workshops – which are unprecedented in Edmonton – are receiving a warm welcome so far.  What’s different about these workshops? “We’re trying to do it a bit differently so that, number one, it’s cheaper for people – they can still have a fulltime job and take these classes in the evening or on the weekends – and they can take them over and over again. The workshop will be different every time – it’ll be a different band every time. Last time it was kind of an electronic band with some live instruments – sax and bass – but the next one could be a really folk-y act with all acoustic instruments and more vocals.”

Next up on the workshop schedule? A songwriting workshop on November 8 taught by Wilf Kozub, who also teaches composition at Grant MacEwan University. The format of the workshop is a bit different than you might expect, says Terry, “Students submit songs – we’ll have 4 or 5 students per workshop. They submit songs, [Wilf] reviews them ahead of time, then they come to the workshop and he talks about songwriting in general and then goes through each song and gives suggestions on how to make it better.”

While the workshops are the focus right now, Terry tells me about some of the highlights of the past year. “The Shout Outs released an album this summer, and that record is pretty awesome… They locked down [the studio] the whole month of January and just did the whole record. And that’s awesome that they could just camp there and be creative. There’s other stuff that’s not released yet. Wool on Wolves, I think their album is going to be released in November…  Nik mixed a couple songs and produced a couple songs on the Whitehorse album. What happened is e(this happened twice this year!) Whitehorse was touring through and they stopped by and did a session. It’s pretty cool when people do that. Tyga – a hip hop artist – he’s label-mates with Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne – his manager called me and Tyga was playing at Edmonton Event Centre that night and wanted to get in the studio for the day and do some tracks.”

For my final question, I want to find out what Terry sees happening in the music scene that has him excited. His answer ranges from the exciting opportunities that more widely available (and cheaper) technology offer – from seeing an increase in people recording music at home to being able to collaborate on projects with other studios from a distance – to telling me about the new option to master music specifically for iTunes (look for the ‘mastered for iTunes’ symbol in the iTunes store). Terry also added, “locally, I’m interested in what Alberta Music will do with Chris Wynters as the new Executive Director… Kennedy Jenson stepped down this summer and she ran it for quite a few years. So, Chris in charge now and I think there’ll be a lot of changes…. He’s done a lot, he was in Captain Tractor, founded The Norwood Studio… I think he’ll bring something different to the table. I loved Kennedy, but he seems fresh. I heard him speak at the AGM a couple weeks ago and he was energized.”

The Audio Department will also be hosting free, monthly community nights – each month will feature a different topic and an opportunity to network within Edmonton’s music scene. The first community night is October 29 at 7:00 pm and will feature information for home studio recorders.

Find out more about The Audio Department at theaudiodepartment.ca.

–          Jenna Marynowski

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