Boston, MA (May 9, 2006)–It may have taken a bit longer than initially planned, but Squid Hell Studio in Boston will soon live again, and in a larger dedicated studio facility anchored by a new API Vision surround sound mixing console joined by a rack of API 500 Series modules.
The Squid Hell Studio “construction crew” standing in what will soon be the completed control room. Pictured (l-r) are: Front row–John Deneen, Squid and John Cole. Back row–Dave Giangarra, Mitch, Olga Falu, Mike Stande, Dicky Spears, Geoff Abramczyk and Lenny Maillet.This is the vision of Dicky Spears and a cast of committed people who have patiently worked over the past decade to take Squid Hell from its roots as a thriving home studio, into a first-class studio located in a warehouse space in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. “Our goal is to be one of the best studio environments in Boston–a place where creative people want to work,” he explained.
Like many in the recording field, Spears began as a musician and translated that passion to the engineering/production side. He’s done a wide range of freelance engineering with independent bands, as well as corporate clients. He has also engineered the Cosmic Muffin Radio Show syndicated on stations such as WBCN in Boston and KLOS in Los Angeles.
A variety of home studios were built along the way, as Spears and a growing group of music and engineering friends sought to attain a suitable creative environment for their work. This eventually resulted in a 24-track studio in a one-bedroom apartment designed by Bob Alach of Alactronics, and built around an API Legacy mixing console.
“I had previously worked with several of the API modules and really liked those experiences. It culminated with an API Legacy, serial number 006, by the way,” Spears said. “We began tracking bands on this console and it got a very big response. All of a sudden, we had a lot of area engineers that jumped on wanting to use that board.”
But the good times were coming to a close, with the city eventually requesting that Squid Hell stop operating as a home studio at that location. Anticipating this scenario, Spears had already been working on rudimentary plans with Alach for a new studio to be carved out of the Jamaica Plain warehouse, where he was “seeking to replicate what we already had–a home studio environment we loved, and with an API in it.”
After going through a series of plans that either weren’t quite true to that “home-environment” mission or were “way too big for our wildest dreams,” Spears settled on a general direction. Along the way, he got some help from an “angel” building contractor who did the lion’s share of constructing the facility’s interior shell. In the five-plus years since, a cast of musicians, interested neighbors and other “benevolent” people in the construction trade have worked to complete the plan and bring it to life. And now, it looks like the end game is in sight, with the new Squid Hell Studio expected to officially open later this year.
“We’ve looked at this room from so many different angles. A lot of the original people involved were into the alternative rock scene, and now, we have some younger people who are into everything from hard-core punk to DJ/remixing, plus we’ve kept the corporate angle feasible as well,” Spears explained. “The one tenet that remained a constant was building the control room around an API console.
“For me personally, it’s a simple board to operate and it’s great sounding,” Spears said. “The new API Vision console extends this capability, which is great those who have more encompassing musical and engineering goals.”
He concedes to being a bit concerned about giving up the comfort zone of his API Legacy console. “I felt I would regret giving it up, so I was hesitant. Sometimes when you change, you violate the golden rule of ‘first, do no harm.’ But when Dan Zimbelman of API provided me with the full scope of the Vision console and when I could see that it would offer everything I already loved for working in stereo, plus the added surround capabilities, I didn’t hesitate to go forward with it.”
Early on, the 5.1-outfitted control room at Squid Hell had been planned to accommodate surround applications, so the Vision console fit the bill with that aspect as well. “Even though surround was a bit sketchy at that earlier time, the format still met our primary objective, which is to foster creativity to the highest degree possible,” he said. “We’ve had several engineers who are ahead on the surround curve, such as those who work with classical music, already expressing interest in using our room when it’s ready. And we have booked a surround mix for Nashville bluegrass act, Van Heffer.”
Spears concluded: “This studio will accommodate every-day mixing, surround, post-production, you name it. No matter what, it’s about getting the best-sounding tracks down, and within a good-sounding room. The project has moved slower than most, but it truly is built by the folks that will be using it. Our work is as much avocation as business, where folks are trying to make great music and are interested in helping others to do the same.”
While not quite complete, Squid Hell’s studio space and API racks stuffed with API 500 Series modules have already been used to track drum, turntables and strings for a release by Mystique Quintet on Koch Records. And the buzzing of power tools also stopped long enough for the 500 Series modules to be used for Boston hardcore group Cheech recording basic tracks for the follow-up to their NGS Records release, Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong.