Interview: Mitch Gallagher, Editorial Director of Internet Music Giant Sweetwater.com
Longtime readers of PJ Media.com know that many of the first bloggers, myself included, had a background in do-it-yourself music, which helped ease the transition to DIY journalism. Glenn Reynolds explored this theme in 2006 book, An Army of Davids, and I've been writing about DIY music over the past 15 years for Guitar World, Vintage Guitar, England’s Computer Music magazine, Blogcritics, and from time to time, here at the PJ Lifestyle Website, which I launched in 2011 in part to explore a variety of Army of Davids-inspired music and video DIY-themes.
For many musicians and audio producers, including myself, Fort Wayne Indiana’s Sweetwater.com is their go-to source for their tools of the trade. (The interview below was edited and mastered on a Sweetwater "Creation Station" PC.) Founded in the late ‘70s, originally as a recording studio by CEO Chuck Surack, Sweetwater has grown from a four-track mobile recorder in the back of Surack’s 1966 Volkswagen bus, to a giant campus facility in Fort Wayne housing several recording studios (designed by master acoustician Russ Berger), a walk-in retail store, a stage for boot camp presentations by some of the recording industry’s biggest stars, and a giant Raiders of the Lost Ark-sized warehouse, fulfilling the company’s orders from its Website and quarterly “dead tree” catalogs. not to mention a cafeteria where a very unusual daily customer can be spotted waiting for his order to be taken:
In other words, picture the surreal ads promoting ESPN's freewheeling backstage corporate culture and substitute the recording industry, and you get a sense of what a typical day at Sweetwater is like, right down to the slide from the second floor to the lobby. (No, really.)
The man in charge of Sweetwater’s countless how-to videos at YouTube and its daily blog is veteran guitarist Mitch Gallagher, who was also the longtime editor of Keyboard magazine. During my visit last week to Sweetwater’s campus, I spoke with Mitch about Sweetwater’s history, how a musician can best make the jump to recording his or her own productions – whether it’s simply to hear themselves playing guitar or keyboard for practice sake, all the way to professional-quality recordings -- why some guitarists are reluctant to fully delve into the world of electronic music, the disparity between the awesome tools that the “Army of Davids” have at their disposal and why so much contemporary pop music – despite being recorded on the finest technology – sounds so awful. And much more.
The interview runs about 18 minutes; click here to listen:
The interview mentions Mitch’s home studio, which can be seen in a pair of hour-plus YouTube videos, which are an inspiration for anyone who would like to install a similar facility in their spare room or basement: Part One on how Mitch built his studio and Part Two on the gear he equipped it with. He’s also the author of several books on playing and recording music, including Acoustic Design for the Home Studio.
For some of my own DIY music-themed interviews and articles, check out: