Tucked away in a basement in Brooklyn, NY, is a sweet little studio known as Marlborough Farms. It's also the residence of Gary Olson, the driving force behind The Ladybug Transistor. In this studio Gary and his pal Bill Wells have made a number of amazing sounding albums for Ladybug, Saturnine and the Essex Green. And it was all done in a small room with no isolation. How? Let's see...
Where did all your gear come from?
Gary: I've kind of amassed a lot of stuff. I've been doing it for about 5 or 6 years. Bill owns a lot of the recording equipment and I own a lot of the musical stuff... a lot of the amps and keyboards.
When did the studio get up and running at the house?
Gary: I moved in here about 6 years ago. We started off with a Teac 80-8 and an Allen & Heath System 8.
Bill: ...16 input. Then I decided that I needed to do something and I bought a [Soundcraft] Ghost. I did a lot of research as to what I should buy and I didn't have a huge amount of money to spend. I decided, at the time, that I didn't want to get a console, an old console and have to re-cap it and have a lot of maintenance problems throughout time. The Ghost is a good sounding console, it has great EQ and effects sends.
Have you had any trouble with it though?
Bill: Very little, actually.
How did you guys meet and how did that work into getting a studio together?
Gary: I was interning at a radio station when I was in high school and Bill was working there and I wound up working for him over there and that's how we met. I wound up doing a lot of work at the radio station, like splicing interviews together. I got interested in recording live bands and I sort of roped Bill into all of it. We used to go out and record bands for the radio stations every now and then.
What were you using then for that set-up?
Gary: It was a pretty crude set-up. Well, we had a digital set-up that we used to use.
Bill: The PCM-F1. Of course in those days, it was pre-DAT.
Is that a Sony?
Bill: Yeah, we probably had a JVC VCR and a Nakamichi F1. I think whatever we could borrow from WBAI (where I worked). There was an old Tapco mixer that we used.
Gary: I think we used to take a board feed and throw up a couple of [Neumann] KM84s.
Bill: To fill it out.
Board tapes are horrible, especially in smaller clubs.
Gary: Really dry board tapes are so awful.
Bill: Our first album credit was Psychic TV Live at the Pyramid.
Gary: We did some other interesting stuff. We did Sonic Youth once, around the Daydream Nation time, which was cool.
Bill: That was my first attempt at multi-tracking live. We later edited it down for broadcasting and had it broadcasted. We recorded two nights at Maxwell's. That was a really interesting experience.
Gary: So that's pretty much how we got started recording, just doing live radio things. I think shortly after that we got a hold of an 8-track.
Bill: I dragged him over to a studio sale and I decided to by a 1/2" 8-track. I didn't even have a console yet. I borrowed a friend's console, which I ended up buying, and that was the beginning of Marlborough Farms.
Did you have the space already?
Was Ladybug forming around then?
Gary: A little later on. I was sort of tinkering around with things, but Ladybug started more around '94. When you got the 8-track, did you start working on your own things? Gary: We had some friends that we would record, but mostly it was our own stuff that we were working on for a while.
This is the basement of your house, and you and your friends live on the floor above it, but your landlord lives upstairs and that hasn't really created a problem?
Gary: Right. He's been pretty tolerant and our neighbors haven't said a word to us.
That's kind of amazing.
Bill: Yeah. Some time we would like to upgrade and move out of here.
Gary: I saw a nice Elk's Lodge a few blocks away from here that's for rent.
It seems like this is kind of a word- of-mouth kind of studio. It's not a full time job for anybody?
Gary: It's hard to...