Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Other Side with Badman Recording Co. Founder Dylan Magierek

Originally a Chicago native, Dylan Magierek lived, rocked, and recorded in Albuquerque, Honolulu, and San Francisco, until the dust settled in his most recent home of Portland, Oregon. While traveling around the country, playing bass in a handful of “bands with terrible names,” including Trampled Under Foot, Travesty, Jet Pilots, and Cinderblock, Magierek was inspired to start his own independent record label and production company in 1997, coined Badman Recording Co. Over the years, Badman has released the records of a number of once-independent artists, including My Morning Jacket, Patrick Park, Red House PaintersMark Kozelek, The Mother Hips, and Starf*cker, as well as Magierek’s own project, Misc., which took him over a decade to record and produce. Aside from being the founder and head honcho over at Badman, Dylan Magierek is also involved as a partner with Portland’s Type Foundry Studio and Scenic Burrows, where he records, produces, and mixes music with several local engineers.

We managed to track down
Badman Recording Co.’s Dylan Magierek (who you can see pictured here in the studio) in between recording sessions to find out what it’s like to be on the other side:

Green Light Go: How long have been producing music and what inspired you to become a producer?

Dylan Magierek: In the past I was always kind of a backup guy and a co-songwriter. Then, I started getting excited to record other folks’ ideas and concepts. In 1997, I recorded a band called The Cherries in a Haight-Ashbury Flat (on ¼” 8 track) and it somehow came out better than the demo they were using to get gigs. That experience began to give me a good sense of what a pair of outside ears could contribute in the studio.

Some of my previous experience includes working in record stores, being a college radio DJ, and working for Universal Music Distribution. I think that background gave me a lot of insight to understand the music business and how to make music. I love recording and helping folks make albums they are excited about.

GLG: How would you describe your role as a producer?

DM: Well, I enjoy the process of preparing to make an album, so finding out what a band wants to achieve is my first question. We’ve all got to be on the same page, or at least writing the same book. I enjoy going to rehearsals and hearing what a band has put together before they come in to make the album. Pre-production is an important step to take care of before heading to the studio. During pre-production, I usually give an artist feedback on song structures, how to select songs with the most immediate impact, where extra instruments or dynamics could be added, you name it. If a band isn’t getting what they expected out of themselves while in the studio, then not enough work went into preparing.

Creating a positive vibe through encouragement and praise can add to a positive atmosphere in the studio. We all need to trust each other and feel comfortable to be able to make a powerful album.

I’m big on adding vocal and instrumental harmonies to songs, especially in choruses and bridges. Incorporating new instruments and sounds as a song develops can be exciting. Albums can be made deeper and more unique by switching around positions of instruments in the mix from song to song. For me, it is important to create an album that captures the dynamics and flow of the band's live set.

GLG: As a producer, do you also set goals for yourself while recording?

DM: My goal is to have a band or artist leave with an album that is beyond their expectations. Getting energy and the live, original feel of the songs onto tape is essential. I'm a big believer in spending time with the band before they get into the studio (if they are looking for that) and bouncing ideas around that may add a little something stronger to the songs. This can get everyone on the same wavelength, help shave time off the clock in the studio, and assist the band with going in with a roadmap of what they want to accomplish. In the end, it's all about artists feeling excited about their album.

GLG: How does being a musician yourself help to hone your production skills?

DM: Being a musician assists in the songwriting process with chord suggestions and how instruments can interact with each other. You can start with a single note and build on it, harmonize with it, repeat it, or modulate it. Suddenly, you have created a soundscape. If you are missing a certain audio frequency, then we’ll try an instrument that mainly plays in that area.

I occasionally play drums, guitar or percussion on some of the albums I am working on. I do wish I had a background in playing piano and could read and write music. That can be helpful aspect when bringing in outside players to sessions. However, humming a part or playing it on another instrument can work as well.

GLG: What are some of the most noteworthy artists you've produced in the past?

DM: Well, the album I am most proud of working on early in my recording days is Mark Kozelek’s What’s Next to the Moon. He and I both still feel that it is a magical album. We recorded that in my bedroom in that Haight-Ashbury flat. Mark would call me in the morning and say, “I got a new one figured out. Can I come over?” Of course, I said yes every time. He’d sit on the edge of my bed and I’d be in the same room with him just trying to be quiet and observe. It was pretty amazing.

I loved recording and producing
The Mother HipsKiss the Crystal Flake. They are great guys and this album was their comeback after having been broken up for a number of years. So, it took special care from the start to make sure the atmosphere was conducive to getting good sounds, as well as getting magic captured right from the start. We documented the studio sessions on DVD and it has some hilarious moments.

Douglas Jenkins from Portland Cello Project brought me in to work on recording and mixing their second CD. Those sessions allowed me to record Thao Nguyen, who is an incredible writer and performer.

I’m sure I could go on and on but I’ll end with having some other stand out artists from Portland:
Weinland and Starf*cker. I co-produced Weinland’s La Lamentor and Breaks in the Sun with my studio mate, Adam Selzer. Soon afterward, I co-produced Starf*cker’s self-titled album and their Jupiter EP. Weinland and Starf*cker are both superb Portland-based bands that gave me a lot of freedom to make suggestions and push them. We all were very open to throwing ideas around. Starf*cker’s albums were quite successful and they had a number of major commercial and TV placements, which will help keep them in music full time.

GLG: What bands are you currently working with?

DM: I recently recorded The Builders and the Butchers’ upcoming album with my studio mate, Adam Selzer. We did that at Type Foundry and got it down live to capture their big, dynamic sound. I was already a fan of the band and working with Adam was great.

Strangled Darlings are a two-piece (guitar and cello) with a sound that reminds me of something from New Orleans circa 1920. The album is an operetta and seemed like a challenge.

GLG: As a producer, how do you know that you are a good match for a band? What things do you have to keep in mind before agreeing to work with an artist?

DM: If I like a band’s songwriting and personalities, then I’m interested in working with them. I need to make sure I can assist with arrangements and instrumentation, emphasizing the strengths of the songs and getting powerful performances out of the artist(s).

GLG: What is the best piece of advice you’d give a band that thinks they are ready to record?

DM: Have your guitars intonated and make sure your amps and drums sound great before coming in. If you want to save some time and money, be well rehearsed.

GLG: What is your favorite thing about producing music?

DM: Having a band feel excited about the sessions. I love when a text or e-mail shows up during the process, or afterwards, about how happy a band is with what we’ve created. Mark Kozelek used to call me up and leave me a positive message after every recording day, that was a great feeling.

GLG: What’s your least favorite thing about being a producer?

DM: When there is tension in the studio. An individual can feel frustrated if they’ve had to play their part multiple times and we’re still not digging it. I try to get the best performance I think the artist is capable of at the time.

GLG: In addition to the music you are working on, what current albums have you been listening to lately?

DM: The National’s High Violet and Fake Drugs’ forthcoming debut.

GLG: What is one record you didn’t produce yourself that you consider to be a masterpiece? From your standpoint as a producer, what makes this album so special?

DM: Led Zeppelin’s IV. The songwriting, performances, and sounds they captured are powerful as hell. This record is a classic and it still stands strong today.

The Other Side highlights the talented folks behind the scenes of the music we listen to. The Other Side features producers, engineers, booking agents, photographers, radio DJs, management teams, and label representatives.

This week’s The Other Side is brought to you by: Lauren Roberts


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