Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Other Side - Producer Neal Ostrovsky

As a live drummer for The Webb Brothers, The Bon Mots, Tiny Speakers, The Damnwells and more, producer Neal Ostrovsky currently holds court in Chicago at his own multi-faceted recording studio, B-Side Audio. Originally from Massachusetts, Ostrovsky made the move to L.A., and by 1995, he landed in the Windy City. In addition to playing live and numerous session recordings as a drummer, Ostrovsky finds his real home in the studio instead of the road. Recording with the Webb Brothers, Urge Overkill and Local H, Ostrovsky likes to talk about recording gear that is completely alien to me, but I'm sure many of you will be excited at his very mention of Otari MTR90. Meet Neal Ostrovsky, this is his mad scientist/producer look.

1. How would you describe your role as a producer?
My role is to help the artist manage the recording process and to help them capture definitive recordings of their songs. In many cases, my role is of a moderator, especially if there is an abundance of creative ideas within a band. My role is also to be an objective ear. In general, you are paying a producer to make, or help make, decisions. And if you like the producer’s work, it should be easier to trust their decisions.

2. How long have you been producing?
Since the early '90s, but I started to get a lot more serious when I opened my studio in 1997. I started with a tiny 10X17’ control room adjacent to the rehearsal space I shared with the Webb Brothers. We recorded Beyond the Biosphere there on a 2," 16-track Otari MTR90.

3. Who are some of the most noteworthy artists you've produced in the past?
Probably my work with The Webb Brothers, Local H, Urge Overkill, and more recently The Damnwells.

4. What bands are you currently working with?
I’m finishing up records with Jennifer Hall, The Damnwells, The Penthouse Sweets and The Bon Mots. Jennifer Hall ..... (is) one of the most talented artists I’ve ever worked with. She’s just getting started with her career and no one really knows who she is yet. She’s very young, but has a musical maturity that rivals artists much older than her. Her band is fantastic. We’re finishing up her first record, and it is shaping up to be one of my favorite records I’ve worked on. She already has a few songs for the next one so it’s looking like the plan is to keep going.

5. Do you mainly work out of one studio or do you go where a band needs you?
I do most of my work at my own studio (, but lately I’ve been doing some of my tracking sessions at Engine Studios in Bucktown. I have also been doing some location recordings over the last two years. It seems like most of the people I work with come to my studio mainly to work with me, so it’s matters less about where we are tracking.

6. How do you know if you, as a producer, are a good match for a band?
I don’t really see myself as a genre producer, and I’ve worked on many types of recording sessions. I feel I’m a good match for any artist that is open to the contributions and experience I can bring to a project.

7. What's the best piece of advice you'd give a band that thinks they are ready to record?
I would ask them for demos of their songs. I can’t really give advice until I know where they are starting from. It also really depends on what they are trying to accomplish.

8. What kind of inside experience does being a musician yourself help with producing?
Having been on both sides of the glass, I can really understand the artist’s point of view. This is obviously a big advantage when you are guiding musicians through the process. One of the reasons that I started my studio was because of the frustration I sometimes felt when tracking in other studios.

9. What's your favorite thing about producing?
Creating something that is better than what each individual can create on their own. Working with talented and inspiring artists.

10. What's your least favorite thing about producing?
Working with bands that don’t listen. Or working with people that are not open to the unexpected. Trying to fix problems that could have been avoided with better preparation.

11. In addition to the music you are working on, what albums have you been listening to lately?
I was listening to The Bends the other day. The Pretenders' first record and Nada Surf's Let Go. I guess those aren’t current releases...

The Other Side highlights those talented and very important folks behind the scenes of the music that we listen to. The Other Side will feature producers, engineers, booking agents, band photographers, online radio DJs, etc. It's pretty awesome.


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