The Smart Studios Story

Wendy Schneider, director

At this point, Butch Vig [Tape Op #11] and Smart Studios are the stuff of legend. From the album that destroyed music’s status quo (Nirvana’s Nevermind), to Smashing Pumpkin's Gish [#115]all the way back to fledgling ‘80s midwest bands, Smart Studios' Butch Vig and Steve Marker were at the center of a pivotal point in rock music. The story, which I will not recount in detail – you need to see this movie – has a familiar ring to it. It starts in a small town with a couple of friends. Butch gets fired from his hospital job for stealing scrubs. After beers in the pub, the friends decide (after recording elsewhere) that they could record themselves instead. Hard work, collaboration, and little regard for money ensue. Amazingly, eventually massive success follows. For as much as Butch and Steve talk about having no idea how to run a business, and their lack of a business model, it was very clear that they had a lot of passion and drive. Anyone that knows anything about anything will tell you that ingredients one and two for success in the music business are passion and drive. Beyond Butch, the bands, and Smart Studios, director Wendy Schneider [#21] tells a great story about how studios and record stores can be the epicenter of a music scene. Record stores were where you found out about new music, could find musicians to play with, and where people gathered. The scene in Madison, Wisconsin, was all about community. There is a ton of great archival footage of The Replacements, Tar Babies, Die Kreuzen, MDC, Killdozer, and of course Butch’s old band, Spooner. Fans of music and studios in general will enjoy this documentary and find themselves longing for the sights, sounds, and smells of the record stores of their youth. That is if you were old enough to remember a world without iTunes, which is of course where you will find this film available for download.


Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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