When it comes to recording, local engineer and musician Jamey Rogers doesn't like modern-day digital bullshit. At Collective Recording, a newly established recording facility he and colleague Alan Price built in West Ashley, Rogers avoids most of the production clichés and cut-and-paste computer tricks that pervade the pop, rock, and alternative charts. He prefers a raw take and an honest mix over the gloss and gleam.
"I like to hear bands the way they sound," Rogers says. "I like the way Steve Albini [famed Chicago studio engineer, of Big Black and Shellac] and other engineers let the bands sound like themselves without forcing a particular studio 'sound' into the recording. I don't think studios do that enough these days."
A longtime musician who grew up in West Ashley, Rogers picked up the electric guitar in his teens and dove into indie rock, metal, and hardcore. He first got into studio recording on his own a few years ago, learning the technical processes and developing his skills as he went. His first serious engineering endeavors were at his home studio and a rented facility in Summerville.
"I learned a lot by bringing bands into that building in Summerville," Rogers says. "I used to work at Fox Music in the early 2000s, and I encountered a lot of musicians and engineers there. I hung out a lot at Keith Bradshaw's [of PlaneJane] old studio in West Ashley, and that was a really cool spot. Then I hooked up with the guys at Ocean Industries Studio. They taught me a lot."
Ocean Industries is a full-scale, multi-tracking studio designed and run by Eric Bass (of alt-rock band Shinedown) with assistance from engineers and producers Jeff Leonard and Eric Rickert.
"I rented a room upstairs at Ocean, and I did all of my local recording projects up there," Rogers says. "Then we'd do a lot of projects together in the main studio together, too. That's where I really dug into things and picked up production skills."
In early 2010, Rogers started feeling like there was too much happening simultaneously at Ocean Industries to concentrate on his own work. Inspired by all he'd learned and experienced there, he decided to build a place of his own. Rogers devised a business plan and assembled design ideas. As Collective Recording started to take shape, he invited Price to join as a business partner and co-engineer.
"Jamey said, 'Hey, I'm going to do my own thing, and I'd like for you to be a part of it,'" Price says. "I was thrilled to jump in."
Last year, Rogers and Price bought an old building on Jenkins Road, off of Sam Rittenberg Boulevard, and renovated each room with various acoustic characteristics in mind. By the end of 2010, they'd equipped it with digital audio gear, drums, speakers, and industry-standard analog machines. They also brought in an array of vintage and new amps, mics, and effects. It's an attractive and comfortable set-up.
A Charleston native, Price has his own long history of rock band work. He got into music as a teenager growing up on James Island, and he played guitar with a number of touring hard rock acts, including his high school hardcore band Unjust, touring bands Quench and Number One Contender, and, most recently, Souls Harbor and Shinedown. His studio training was as hands-on and informal as Rogers'.
"I was doing double duty and triple duty for a while with different bands," Price says. "I really learned a lot about serious studio work when I was doing the Number One Contender thing. We recorded a full album with Eric [Bass] at Ocean, and I loved being in there and watching people work."
Price's philosophy about recording and his approach to studio work matches well with his partner's. He'd rather serve the band's style with an honest recording than try to mold their music into something superficial or radio-ready.
"I think we fall somewhere between a place like the Jam Room in Columbia and Ocean Industries here in that we don't limit ourselves to working with a particular type of band or aim for a specific studio sound," Price says. "If somebody wants to record a 12-piece mini-orchestra, that's great. If a punk rock band wants to track 10 songs in one day, we want to do that too."
Rogers and Price have already produced and engineered a range of recordings by local artists, including Kevin West, the Louie D. Project, Captain Blackout, and the Shaniqua Brown, among others. On the horizon are sessions with Megan Jean and the KFB, the Royal Tinfoil, Viva Le Vox, and the reunited Children's Choir.
"We have a professional recording studio, but we're more like a team than hot-shot producers or anything," Rogers says. "We want to continue to work with different types of bands as team players."
The lengthy sessions with the Shaniqua Brown went so well earlier this year that Rogers actually joined the band as a second guitarist. Price signed on as the band's manager, too.
"I think the way they approach the producing side of things is really cool," Shaniqua Brown lead singer Rachel Kate Gillon says of the Collective duo. "They know what will sound good, but they handle it more like a suggestion than a command. They lead by example and offer guidance."
These days, Rogers and Price consider Gillon the studio's "spiritual guide" and prime cheerleader. "Rachel is one of those geniuses who can spot when something doesn't sound right," Rogers says. "She might not know the technical method, but she has a great ear."
Gillon laughs about her unofficial role, but she's serious about her support for the studio. "Sometimes it helps to keep things in check and bring things up, like an annoying mother," she says. "Sometimes I'll just lurk, and other times I'll make wild suggestions. It's such a laid-back atmosphere there. It's easy to be creative."
This Thursday, the Collective Recordings team will host the Christmas Hootenanny, a holiday showcase and fundraiser featuring a lineup of local acts who've recently worked with Rogers and Price.
"Jamey and I wanted to put a cool show together featuring some of the great new talent that has graced our studio," Price says. "We're excited that we've had the opportunity to work with these guys."
Local food trucks Hello My Name is BBQ and Strada Cucina will be on hand. All the proceeds collected at the door will benefit the Lowcountry Food Bank.
The studio's limited-release comp — simply titled Collective Christmas 2011 — will be given away to the first 100 attendees. The disc includes seven original songs — one each by Bully Pulpit, Mountains of Earth, John Thomas, the Shaniqua Brown, Grand Kids (formerly Grind Kids), Samuel Johnson and the Remains, and the Channels. There's one U2 cover tune as well by the Collective Crew (the engineers and a few guests).
"We wanted to do an old-school type show with a cheap cover and a lot of cool bands," Rogers says. "It's only two bucks or a canned good to get in. We'll be giving away all sorts of stuff, including Collective Recording collectibles from the studio and free copies of a new compilation. No one's going to make any money on this, but it's going to be a great party."