There is a long tradition of musicians starting up recording studios because, well, let's face it: who better than someone who's already familiar with the process? Longtime NYHC scene veteran Andy Guida has been hard at work building up a reputation for his recordings at Six III Studio in Forest Hills, Queens. Having played in Supertouch, Altercation, Running Like Thieves—and currently Absolution, While We Wait, and The Mistaken—Guida knows a thing or two about this kind of music, and is uniquely qualified to document its full sonic range. I recently spoke to Guida about Six III Studio, equipment setup, his current projects, and the new Burn recordings being engineered in good ol' Queens.
Tell me how you got into the recording/mixing business. Are you self-taught, or did you go to school for it?
I got interested in recording when I was 14. I don't remember how I learned it, but I found you could turn a pair of headphones into a microphone by using them in reverse. If you plugged the headphones into the mic jack on an old stereo cassette deck, you could record yourself. It blew my mind, and I started recording me and my friends jamming in my parents' basement. I bet it sucked! I loved it.
In Altercation, I was clueless about recording. We only did one recording. Supertouch started doing demos, and I started asking engineers questions. I wanted to know more about it, but hadn't thought of being a professional engineer or a producer. I loved recording in other people's studios with my band. I also loved having a Tascam 4-track and recording my own songs. But I approached that 4-track cassette like I was recording Electric Ladyland! In 2000/2001 my friend, Mike Ferarra, who owns Fastlane Studios in Flatbush, asked me to partner with him on a recording studio. He had recorded a few of my bands. We also played in a band together, and he thought I would make a good engineer. Another local rehearsal studio was going out of business, so we bought the lease and the gear. We built it out for recording. My role in the business at that stage was to build the studio, with the long-term goal of becoming a full-time engineer. I did the carpentry, electrical, and managed the job. We designed most of it ourselves and got some design from Auralex. It was beautiful, and I'm proud of what we did, but less than a year before the lease expired, the landlord died. The building was sold and we were out of business. There is now a Yeshiva there. Progress.
When we closed, Mike offered to buy me out, but I decided I liked doing it too much to stop. I moved the gear into the basement of my house in Forest Hills. When I combined it with other gear I collected over the years, I decided to make Six III Studio. Now I'm recording bands in my house. I'm wary of investing in a space I don't own again, my partner and I spent enough that one time. I didn't plan to be a professional engineer, so I didn't go to school for it. I worked with Mike a lot at our old place, and ran many sessions there, as well as years of experience being in a studio as a musician. My learning process as an engineer has been trial by fire. I went from paying someone to install software on my first Pro Tools Mac to being able to take apart a computer on my bench and replace parts. My experience as an electrician and watching my dad do electronics repair gave me the ability to understand the wiring of a studio and how to do basic electronic repairs. Many hours listening, asking questions, reading, and experimenting. Stripping a mix down and building it back up. I listen intently to records I love and read what I can find about how they were made.
When I'm interested in something, I will research it until I think I understand it. I read about electronics to understand the recording process better. I read about how our brains process echoes to better apply reverb and delay in a mix. I'm obsessed with sound, how it moves and is captured by a recording system. It's bugged out!
What's the significance of the studio's name?
The name of the studio is Six III Studio, I figured I needed a name. It's a goof, but I liked the way it looked written out. The police precinct I grew up in was the 63rd. It's a nod to where I grew up and started recording. My parents' house was in Midwood/Flatbush and Mike's studio is also in the 63rd. Without both of those places, I would likely not be recording anyone. It's also a joke about low ceilings in my basement. They are higher than 6' 3" but not high enough! Good thing I have a wooden staircase to mic for natural room sound!
"King's Ransom," While We Wait
I know you're an analog head, why do you prefer it as opposed to more modern recording methods?
I'm actually not an analog guy exclusively. My system is computer-based with a lot of outboard analog gear. It's about what will get the job done best for the particular recording and needs of the client. I do mix to a reel-to-reel tape machine sometimes. It's an old Tascam and it sounds great. It gives a nice tape-y-ness. But tape isn't always the right sound for the music. And it's not always in a band's budget. I like the mix recall and automation with Pro Tools. Taking photos of every piece of gear during a mix to hopefully approximate a mix later was a pain in the ass. Also, it didn't always work perfectly. I have a varied selection of vintage and new tube and solid state microphone preamps, EQs, and compressors I can go through—as well as different mics. I don't mix "in the box." I always use analog summing and at least mix down to a CD deck, if not to tape. I think analog summing gives more space and depth to a mix. So, it's still a lot of analog gear that a signal goes through before and after it hits the computer. The While We Wait record doesn't have a single real guitar amp on it. It was recorded as a demo, so we were trying to save time. All the guitars went through different preamps and compressors straight into the computer. Once we found out it would be a 7" release, we liked the sound and decided to leave it as-is. I love the way those guitars sound, or I would have re-recorded them. But I have more fun setting up different amps with mic/preamp combos and moving air.
I would like to find a band that was super tight and wanted to record exclusively to my 4-track reel-to-reel. Limitations can be inspiring. And it's been so long since I had to think in those terms, it would be fun. So few tracks! Ultimately, it's about what's more fun to do. I record bands because it's enjoyable. Putting mics on live drums and amps and hearing it in the control room is still fun for me. It doesn't get old. I don't enjoy using sound replacers, quantization, or auto tune, so I don't. At least, not to cure problems. If someone creates electronic music, that's one thing. I don't like when a record doesn't sound the way instruments played by humans sound, but it's supposed to be a band.
What are some recordings you've done as of late that stand out to you?
I recently mixed a band called Clockmen from Rochester, New York. They're a punk band but a little weird, really cool. They recorded it themselves and I mixed it. I think that record sounds great. I just finished mixing a song called "By Now You Should Know Right From Wrong," by The Mistaken—a band I play in with Matt Warnke. It's for a 7" we're working on. It was one of those songs/recordings where it came out bigger than expected. The music and the production combined to make a sum greater than the parts. Which is always the goal, but sometimes you get lucky.
"By Now You Should Know Right from Wrong," The Mistaken
I did a recording with a band called Counterblast that was special to me. Great songs, players, and attitude. No egos, get it done. They had their shit down when they walked in. Everyone had their parts mapped out and the songs were catchy and heavy. I hope that gets released by a label!
"8 Running Behind," Counterblast
I did a recording with Lenny Bednarz from Fahrenheit 451 on guitar and Lou Medina from Breakdown and Crown of Thornz on bass. I played drums, recorded, and mixed mixed it. Lenny wrote the songs. He's another creative, heavy, catchy songwriter. Both those guys are great players. I knew Lou was a great drummer, I thought so the first time I heard him. I was knocked out by his bass playing! It wasn't hardcore, the songs are incredible. We'd like to get some guest singers on it. That song is called "Davey Crockett."
"Davy Crockett," (Andy Guida, Lenny Bednarz, and Lou Media)
One of the songs Burn recorded called "Libel" came out great. It turns out they aren't using it for Burn after all. But it rips. Great writing, performances, and I think I captured it right. Really powerful but natural.
The new Burn recordings have been done at Six III. Without giving away too much, what are your impressions of the tunes?
So far it's just been demos with Burn. I think they are currently working out the details of a record. Gavin [Van Vlack] writes heavy, catchy, creative music. I love working with him. We bounce ideas quickly and easily. No egos, get it done. Really fun, yet focused and ruthless mockery. The good stuff. The songs are great. I thought there could be some great Burn songs in there. Maybe they stretched too much? But it's not my decision to make. The musicians all have to be completely comfortable with and believe in the songs. If not, it can't work.
Being a Brooklyn native, how does it feel to be operating in what's arguably the cradle of punk rock: Forest Hills, Queens?
I've lived in 13 different places in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan since leaving my parents' house in Brooklyn. This is my favorite. Forest Hills had the Ramones, but I'm not much of a fan. The Who, The Doors, and Janis Joplin all played in Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. Plus, Jimi Hendrix got booed off the stage by fans of The Monkees when he opened for them in Forest Hills Stadium. In fact, he quit the tour after the Forest Hills show. Is that good for us or bad? Hmmm... Simon & Garfunkel were from Forest Hills. There is music history here and I like that. There are concerts at the Tennis Stadium again, and we've seen some good ones. It's a cool place to live and make music.
Do you feel a particular affinity or prefer to record a specific musical genre?
I can't say I have a preference for any style. I get to record a lot of heavy, guitar-based music, which isn't always hardcore. I grew up on it and I love it. If anyone knows my music, they don't think gypsy jazz. It's not that hard for me to be reminded that "Loud fast rules!" But I've done rap, funk, and country recordings I really had fun doing. Even doing production on some. I love to record music. I listen to lots of styles, so I want to record lots of styles. But there's no doubt that most of what I do has a ripping old Marshall or Boogie in there somewhere.
Tell me about some of your own musical projects that have been recorded there. I believe you've done some solo stuff where you play all the instruments as well?
A lot of what I work on is stuff I end up playing some instruments on. So there's cross-talk between my own projects and bands coming out of my studio. My Rifle, Absolution, and While We Wait are all records I played on, produced, recorded, and mixed. There's another Absolution 7" in production, which I also did here. Some of those I was originally scheduled to play on, and some I wasn't. I've been asked last-minute to do a recording when a band member couldn't for whatever reason. I've also been hired up front when someone needs a drummer or other instrumentation filled in.
"In Thought," Absolution
My own music ranges from guitar noise sludge to acoustic or rock, metal, and hardcore. I try to always have a groove on the drums, whatever the style. I play drums, guitar, bass, piano, and I sing. And I do write and record my own songs. That goes back to my old 4-track. But working in a vacuum can be difficult. I think I want to be produced! It's hard to produce yourself when you also play everything on a recording. I've done some music for film. It's fun to write to a scene in a film. It's a different way to approach writing from just writing what comes into your head. Having defined limitations can be inspiring.
"Clear Head, Leaving," Andy Guida
How can musicians find out more about Six III Studio and contact you to book session time?