So many of the people we talk to have had a similar story to tell. You know, they were in a band, built a studio, started recording local artists and made a few records people noticed. The story of Todd Perlmutter might start out in a similar way, drumming in bands in Boston, but somehow he ended up the Creative Director of Music and Sound for Blue Man Productions, Inc., the company behind the worldwide "creative organization" known as the Blue Man Group. BMG is known mostly for their theatrical performances featuring music, comedy and multimedia playback, but the company has also recorded scores for television and film, albums of their own music, DVDs of their shows and even designed a children's museum exhibit. I had visited Todd before at BMG's Third Street warehouse location in New York City, but when I returned for this interview the Music and Sound division had just purchased and moved into the former LoHo Studios space. Eddie and Victor Luke's former studio had a rich history of artists working there, but now the space will be devoted to the work of Blue Man Group. I sat down with Todd in April of 2008, days after they'd moved in and tried to figure out how the heck he ended up with such unusual employment.
How did you end up with this job?
I was in a band called Orangutang and we signed to Imago Records, which was sort of a failed major label experiment. We toured — we were big in Boston. Don Zientara did our first record, Sean [Slade] and Paul [Kolderie] mixed it. Sean and Paul produced our second record.
When I was 22 I was wondering who was going to produce our record. We were listening to Fugazi and we were like, "We're going to Inner Ear!" [laughter] Anyway, the band broke up and the label was crappy. I knew I had to figure out what to do. I had been in a bunch of bands, but that was the best one by far that I had been in. I knew I had to figure out how to be more in control of my destiny. So, I started producing records.
How do you just start producing records?
Right out of college I worked at a place called Anything Audio, which was Dave Malekpour's pro audio business before Pro Audio Design. I was a horrible, horrible employee. I didn't sell anything! [laughter] One day I just stopped going to work, but I worked there long enough to know how to put a studio together from the vendor's perspective. I worked on a few projects brokering studio gear. I'd taken a couple of audio classes in college — I was always interested in recording. When we were making records I was always very interested in the process. When the band I was in after Orangutang, Jocobono decided to do a record in Boston, we did it at a studio called New Alliance. Do you know Mudrock [Andrew "Mudrock" Murdock]? It was his studio and Billy [O'Malley, the singer from Jocobono] helped him out with building some stuff. He handed us the keys and said to come in when no one was around and finish our record. Billy and I would go in at 2 a.m. and wait for people to leave. We'd drink a bunch of vodka and then figure things out.
You could sit there for hours trying to figure out how to get a headphone sound. [laughter]
Yeah. Andrew helped us out a lot. He was a mentor. He put the studio together himself and he knew how to do everything. By the time that was finished I felt like I could make a record — even though we did everything wrong! [laughter] I started working at New Alliance as an engineer. Andrew made a Godsmack record, and he went out to L.A. and started doing the heavy-duty thing out there. He still owned half of the business, but his partner helped run things. I was the engineer there for a while. Then I left and Andrew Schneider [Tape Op #89] took over engineering at New Alliance. I started playing drums for Blue Man Group. After playing in Blue Man Group for a while and being in Boston and my bands drying up, I figured that I wanted to move to New York. I told the guys that had founded the show that I could help them make a record. They had made a couple of attempts to make records before and it hadn't worked out. I came to New York and I helped them do a couple of projects. One was directing sound, designing things — they liked it and said, "Okay, you're going to move to New York next week and you are going to produce the record." I packed my bags and was there the next week. We built the original studio at Third Street to make the first record, Audio. That's when I finally got Dave Malekpour back — I bought the gear from him. [laughter]
It all comes around!
I called Carl Plaster, the drum master, to come down from Boston and help tune the drums — there are so many drums! Andrew Schneider from New Alliance engineered the record. It was the first time the founders of the show focused on music and recording — really concentrated for that period...