Between 2013 and 2019, I ran a modest project studio in Central, PA. It was eventually dubbed “Pepperhead Studios” after my love of hot peppers and the expanding garden I eventually built outside.
The studio space itself was 1200 square feet, in the basement of a church that had previously been converted into a home. I had a control room area and live space with drums/amps always ready to go. The space was complete with dedicated kitchen, bathroom and workshop. It was quite an “interesting” space.
When the structure was built, the church was on solid ground. The basement was dug out afterward in the 60s or 70s by jacking up the structure. So in many ways, the basement didn’t really belong there, and the grading of the land was not suited to what would eventually come down the pike… like the fact that there was an underground spring nearby.
Severe ice melt and runoff in 2015 caused some minor flooding that required a major investment in repair and remediation. Thankfully, no gear was impacted, but this meant that I had to temporarily relocate to another floor to keep things going musically. Things really didn’t get going in this space until late 2015.
The space wasn’t a purpose-built studio, but I made it work as best I could. Noise pollution from outside was almost non-existent. Sound carrying from within the studio to the street was minimal. In six years of being there, we only had one, polite, sound complaint.
Additional investment in making a “proper” space with isolation rooms and other treatments was not sensible given the potential for future water issues (even after remediation). My style of recording – then and now – tends to lean more toward documentation of the moment rather than over-producing the band/artist. I encouraged musicians to play together and listen, and came up with creative ways to deal with mic bleed.
The community that developed among the acts was very satisfying, and there was a lot of creative cross-pollination. While we had some good time there, I would never want a basement studio again, and would not recommend a basement space for folks thinking about creating one. If it’s all you have, then that’s what you need to do I guess, but given other choices, there are definitely better options.
How It Ended
How the studio came to a close really had nothing to do with music. I was getting more clients, doing more interesting projects, and the water issues seemed under control.
Unfortunately, during 2018-2019, my wife faced a number of drastic changes with her job. New management and backstabbing from people we thought were friends made a mess of what was an idyllic workplace. Heart-breaking, abusive situations caused my wife to leave the job before things got worse. Many of her colleagues also faced the same issues, and shared in the pain.
After much consideration, in April 2019, I closed the studio, and we pulled up roots to relocate to a two-bedroom apartment in West Philly. We were basically starting over, both in terms of jobs, but in terms of community and connections. It was one of the most difficult things we’ve ever had to do. It meant leaving behind the community that I built up around the studio, and it meant putting most of the studio into storage, except for a small, portable setup.
So now it’s all just a memory. Below are a few photo glimpses from 2015 – 2018. This is a good selection featuring Tanner Bingaman, Paul Loomis, Michael Hickey, Safa Saracoglu, Joe Alex, Urie Kline, Ed Zuber and Susquehanna Sunset, a cover band that formed out of members of a client band that came to record. Lot’s of good memories there.
The COVID pandemic further changed the way that I work. My current work space is much different, but I am still available to assist on a number of different projects. See my services page for more info.