The common image of a studio is a warehouse or basement setup in a decent sized city. Or maybe it's a fancy resort styled place in the woods where millionaire rockers can relax and make hit records. One doesn't usually conjure up images of an adobe building 7 miles from the smallest of towns in the high desert of New Mexico, yet that's where we found the MudHive. Dave and Anne Costanza moved out here 10 years ago from San Francisco, where they had been in The Whitefronts, one of that city's most overlooked treasures. All along, they had planned to build a recording studio and a home. Somehow they ended up living in the recording studio, where they've done albums for Granfaloon Bus, Hieronymus Firebrain, Dent, and ten cassettes for their own band, The Lords of Howling. I interviewed Dave while Marila and I were visiting during our "vacation." We had all played music together, and recorded some, the night before (and it was quite fun).
So how did you end up with this recording gear?
We saw an ad in the paper that said, "Wanted wood floors refinished in exchange for recording equipment."
It really said that?
We were like, "This is not for real." We didn't really have any gear. We used to just record direct to cassette; that was cool for live. So we went to this guy's house and he had cases of wine. He had just done recording in exchange for wine. We had this idea that we wanted a Sennheiser mic, that's all we knew, and he was, "What kind of gear do you have?" We had an AKG microphone. We had never heard of old gear. Finally he decided, "You know floors and you don't know shit about recording so I'll just give you stuff." It was like magic beans. We did floors in three different houses and we got two Neumann, KM53, mics. Someone might know about them. If you get the stuff that's harder to sell that's not name brand...
Neumann's a name brand...
Right, but people know KM84s and U47s. These are tube omnis and they're just amazing. Then he gave us two C12As, which we had never heard of. They're little babies of the big C12s, with the exact same diaphragam.
Those little AKG ones?
Yeah, like the grandfather of the 414. The guy who I was working with, Bill, was just like, "Dude, what is going on here?" Then I got the two Big Red monitors that used to belong to Blue Oyster Cult. They're great speakers but people aren't really using big speakers to monitor anymore. They're cool for the room and we can use them as a PA.
What brand are they?
They're Altec, I think. I took them in [to be worked on] and the guy was all, "They're cast magnets!" To be honest, for what the floor would have cost and what I could sell this for now, I could get 20 times [more back]. The money would've been spent. His theory was a good mic, a good preamp and it didn't matter what the deck was. We had an Otari at the time which disappeared. We used a Teac ¼" four track. All our tapes, from one to ten, are all ¼" four track, and now we're gonna start doing the eight track, which definitely sounds better. The difference between the Teac with worn heads and the Otari  is a lot more than I thought it was gonna be. Anyway, he gave us those [mics] and the API preamps that he built into a box for us--I have four of them. I went back and did more work and I got those 2254E Neve compressors. So we got all this amazing shit that we probably shouldn't have and we can't afford to fix. No one in town would even know how to do it. I had to send a cord back because someone twisted it and the wires came out and there was no way to figure it out. I guess I could've gotten a schematic but it's hard to find a schematic for a 50 year old microphone. So that's how the gear showed up. That was ten years ago and it probably took 8 years for me to get any clue on how to use it. We thought, "It's a great microphone, just shove it in a room and record and it'll sound great." But the way they work, they hear so much, as opposed to most mics which are kinda deaf, and they can cancel so much worse.
We record six tracks at once. We kind of know how to work this room, like where to put the vocalists, and we always do that basic setup. That kind of showed us. The deck [Otari 5050] I just bought. That's recent. I got it for $800.
It didn't work when I got it. It had a bad transformer and a bad spindle. It's in a rack and came with a remote, which was a real intrigue. The plate reverb came later.
What kind is that?...