The Guy Behind The Curtain

The two inch wide recording tape on the Studer tape machine begins to move, rolling over the record and playback heads. In the sound-proof studio the singer adds an additional lyric line to an existing vocal and music track. The members of "Casual Blue", a New Jersey band, discuss the result. Something's not right.

"His voice is clashing with itself," Dan interjects. No judgment, just a statement of fact. "One of you guys should sing it, give it contrast."

Daniel Goodwin walked into the Clubhouse recording studio one day looking for cheap studio time to record his band. He offered to intern in exchange for the time. Studio owner Paul Antonell took him on and Dan did every menial task around, making coffee, even cleaned the toilets. That was seven years ago.

The Clubhouse, originally an Agway storage depot built in 1912, is located down along the river in Germantown, adjacent to the recently torn down cold storage building. The Clubhouse is no glitzy slick recording studio; this place has character, more character than your favorite pair of broken-in jeans and is twice as comfortable.

Paul Antonell created a studio in 1986 that is especially attractive to musicians looking for a unique sound. The reason behind that sound is that most of the equipment is vintage. The British-made Neve multi-track studio console, dating from the mid-seventies, remains one of the finest ever made. The Clubhouse is practically a museum, filled with electronic devices, limiters, compressors, amplifiers, vintage microphones dating back to the 1940's and assorted audio processing units, most of the tube-type variety. Most rare and unusual are the four "Clouds". They are four large, beautifully curved pieces of wood about 8 feet long and 4 feet wide, hinged and movable allowing intricate adjustments to the studio's acoustics. These prize "Clouds" came from the RCA Studio in New York where Elvis Presley recorded dozens of hit records, including "Hound Dog". There's the latest digital equipment and editing features too, but the older equipment is what produces the distinct sound the Clubhouse is becoming famous for. Natalie Merchant, looking for that unique sound, recently recorded there.

Paul's been hard at work for the past couple years designing and building a new studio from scratch. The new Clubhouse in Rhinebeck plans to open for business in November, a beautiful melding of state of the art and vintage sound recording. The key concern is to preserve the unique sound in the new modern studio.

The Clubhouse magnified Daniel Goodwin's love of electronic equipment. "I'm a gear head," he chuckles. Driven by this love he devoured every morsel of knowledge available at the Clubhouse. Over the past seven years Dan has become one of the most respected recording engineers in the area. "The magic of making music, becoming a part of the record is exciting," Dan explains. "Each session becomes a working family and the best part is; the music's always different and that's a chance to learn."

As a musician Dan's skills have become sought after and he's currently making the transition into being a studio session musician, playing either bass or guitar. His time is now divided 60/40, session musician/recording engineer. He recently played on Australian recording artist Carla Werner's new CD and soon will fly off to Nashville for a session. Dan loves it. It's in his smile when he points out, "Session guys don't have to live in the spotlight."

We talk at length about the double-edged sword of fame. Session musicians make good money and are recognized by their peers for their talent and ability, not image or hype. It's an honest place to be, where the music is what's important. Session guys also get to play with some of the greatest talents in the business. What more could you ask?

Dan says he'd one day like to score films, but for the present the role of session musician/recording engineer fits comfortably. "I love being a session guy." Dan smiles, "I'd rather be the guy behind the curtain." Fact is, Dan's gonna make a great wizard.

We'll talk next time From The Road.

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