Sixteen-year-old Alex Wishart has been recording and mixing hip-hop music for about a year and a half, using a keyboard, a computer, software and all of the other conveniences of modern technology.
But last week, he had a chance to learn how to record and mix music on vintage equipment at K Records’ Dub Narcotic Studio in Olympia. He said the old-school equipment makes recording and mixing a different experience.
“It has a warmer kind of feel to the sound,” Wishart said. “You have to feel the equipment and touch everything, and it kind of forces you to listen.”
The soon-to-be junior at Olympia High School was one of three participants in the studio’s first recording workshop for teens. The five-day camp included a day of recording and mixing a track with a local band, and covered everything from positioning microphones to using the studio’s vintage analog tape deck.
They even had a visit from K’s founder, Calvin Johnson, who talked to the students about the industry and the importance of working collaboratively and respectfully with artists.
“Calvin Johnson is absolutely the coolest guy I’ve ever met in my life,” said participant Gabriel Ybarra, 17, a soon-to-be senior at Capital High School. “He talked to us like peers.”
Dub Narcotic Studio is in a building that once housed Temple Beth Hatfiloh at 802 Jefferson St. SE, Olympia. The studio was created in Johnson’s basement and later the Olympia Knitting Mills building. In 2005, it moved to the former synagogue, which was built in the late 1930s.
“The temple left a lot of positive vibes,” Johnson said. “It’s informed a lot of the work we’ve done.”
Originally, Dub Narcotic Studio was used solely for K Records artists and their friends, including Kimya Dawson, Beck and The Microphones.
But now it’s offering studio time for the community, said studio manager Sam Gray.
“This studio’s been active in one way or another for 30 years, and I feel it’s a resource for the community,” he added. “And that’s why we wanted to offer the camp.”
Artists can rent the studio for $450 a day, and that includes the space, equipment and an engineer. There’s also a half-day rate.
“A lot of studios just do digital now, but we can do both analog and digital,” Gray said.
Ybarra said he wanted to take the workshop so he could pick up skills that will help him pursue a career in music.
“I wanted to learn how to do it myself so I can make the art the full effect of how I want it to be,” he said.
The first day was extremely technical, but by the end of the week, Ybarra said he felt like he definitely had enough hands-on experience in the studio to be creative and collaborate on some great music in the future.