Interview with Kyle Fletcher and Sean Enright of JAM Recording Company
Kyle Fletcher and Sean Enright have worked side-by-side as recording engineers for nearly a decade. They met at Shoreline Community College while taking courses in Music Technology. Their first studio – The Barn – was located at Sean’s old house in Duvall, WA. That house sold awhile back, but they now have a brand-new studio with a bigger and better-sounding room, an upgrade on equipment and a few extra years of recording experience under their belts.
I met with Kyle and Sean at their new recording facilities located at a much more convenient Wallingford, WA location. This interview took place using some of the gear in the studio: a R0DE NT2000 microphone (set up in a figure 8 pattern) through an Avalon 737sp preamp into a Mackie Digital X Bus mixer. From there, the outputs of the Digital X Bus went to the Pro Tools HD 2 rig.
Kyle Fletcher Sean Enright
photo by Troy Monteforte
One Louder: Hi guys! So where am I?
Kyle Fletcher and Sean Enright: JAM Recording Company.
OL: What prompted you to build a studio?
KF: To record rock ‘n roll!
SE: We have a passion for recording.
KF: I’ve been playing in bands for years and years and I’ve always liked the recording aspect and nobody else in the band really liked it. But I really had no idea what I was doing, so I figured I might as well go to school for it.
SE: I’ve been screwing around with this stuff since I was 12 or 13. I got my first guitar when I was 12, started jammin’ a little bit and recording myself to start with and developed a passion for it. One day I realized that I wasn’t that good of a guitarist, but that I could do some pretty good recording. So I went that route.
KF: We met at Shoreline in early 2000 or 2001…
SE: …where we were going to school. We were in that Music 101 class where we both decided that we’re idiots.
KF: Yeah, the first year theory class and we decided, “uh oh, we need to enroll in the Music 051 class first!” But we started recording at Sean’s house, The Barn, in Duvall.
OL: When did construction on JAM Recording Company begin?
KF: Well, first we were recording at Sean’s and we had some decent bands and some not-so-decent bands. He was renting the house from some relatives…
SE: …yeah, my wife’s parents…
KF: …and right when they decided they were going to sell the house, my wife and I started looking for another house. I want to say we’ve been here…four years? So the studio took about four years to complete. When we were looking for a house, the only thing I wanted was a basement where I could build a studio. We found this house and started de-construction first.
SE: This room used to be a garage, laundry room and workshop-type area. We knocked out all the walls across this basement and pulled everything out.
KF: But when we started, we thought it might take a year at the most. And neither one of us knows how to build a damn thing and Jerry Mitchell pretty much built this studio. He did all the work, told us what to do.
SE: Yeah, we were the grunts!
KF: He never built a studio before, but he’s a very seasoned construction worker. He runs a crew and all that…he knows what he’s doing. He was here on weekends framing, leveling, building double-walls, semi-floating floors and doing sound treatment. And the name – JAM Recording Company – sounds right because bands jam here, but also because Jerry’s initials happen to be JAM: Jerry Alan Mitchell. So it serves a dual purpose.
SE: Our way of saying “thank you” to him.
OL: So has anyone been in to record yet?
KF: 20 Riverside is our guinea pig band. Here is what we’ve tracked so far with them: drums, bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, trombone, flugelhorns, saxophone, congas, keyboards and vocals. And I think they want to add tambourine or some other kind of shakers or percussion.
OL: So how many tracks have you used so far?
SE: We’ve stopped counting.
KF: 40-something, I think.
SE: We layered a lot of the vocals the other night and these guys have a weird hip-hop trio like thing going on.
KF: I describe them as a 1970’s Sublime.
OL: What would you say is the biggest obstacle you faced during your three to four years of construction?
SE: Just time. We work day jobs still and have only the weekends to get down here. I mean, if we could have dedicated three to six months of time every day it would’ve gotten finished a lot faster.
KF: I think the window was the toughest part.
SE: Oh yeah, that was tough!
KF: Just getting it down here even…it’s 300 pounds, we had to reframe and the window is sitting on two separate, doubled walls.
SE: Also, the floor was difficult and took about two months to complete. We had to re-level the floor since it was off by as much as 2½ inches in some places. A lot of work went into this place.
photo by Troy Monteforte
OL: So do you guys track only here? Track and mix? Track, mix and master?
SE: No mastering. Tracking and mixing.
KF: The engineer that masters his own mix is like the dentist that does his own dental work.
SE: That’s right [laughs]!
KF: There are a couple of people in town that are pretty good at it.
SE: There are some preferred people that we like to use. If someone asked, I could do a quick mastering job on something, but I really don’t like to. I like having someone else’s ears on it, adding a different flavor to it.
OL: Is any artist/band welcome or are you genre-specific?
KF: We welcome anyone although I don’t think we’re really set up for hip-hop.
SE: We can do hip-hop vocals, but beats and things like that are a different type of production. You have to have a different set of skills to do that.
KF: I don’t think they’d be happy with what we turned out.
SE: Their hip-hop album would end up sounding like a rock album [laughs all around]!
OL: You’ve both been in various bands throughout the years. Which side of the glass do you prefer to be on: the band in the studio recording or the engineer recording the band? Sean?
SE: I like engineering. I like the technical side of it. I definitely have an ear for it. I can tune a guitar, I know when a note’s off and I can tell when you’re playing the wrong chord. I have an ear for that type of thing. I really like being on this side of the glass and don’t really like being a performer. I’ve never liked being on a stage or having the spotlight.
SE: I don’t know. I just don’t like having the spotlight on me. I like creating things, but not necessarily being the focal point of attention.
KF: I like both, but I’m just getting older [laughs all around]. I don’t want to go on a crappy tour anymore in a van with six dudes and socks and beer. I’ve always been interested in being on this side of the glass, but have been lazy about it until I turned 30…then I went to school. I remember when I would bring home vinyl, I’d look at the back to see who produced it and I’ve always remembered those names. We’re both in the Grammy Association Engineering Wing and have seen interviews with all these guys who worked on albums that I loved: Bob Ezrin, Mike Clink, Alan Parsons.
SE: Geoff Emerick.
KF: We got to see these guys, shake their hands and say hello.
SE: Seeing these guys is inspiring. You see them after hearing some of the albums they’ve worked on and you’re like, “wow, that’s what I want to be doing.”
OL: What kind of gear do you have in the studio?
SE: We’re running a Pro Tools HD 2 Accel rig with a Mackie Digital X Bus and Mackie HR824 monitors. Our centerpiece and most useful tool is the Avalon preamp. It’s a workhorse.
KF: Our next purchase is another preamp.
SE: We have the board preamps, the Mackie 800R and Art Tube preamps, but I’d really like to build an API rack next with a bunch of API preamps, the API 500-series cards. We have various microphones we’ve been collecting, too.
photo by Troy Monteforte
OL: Most bands have their own equipment that they typically like to use for recording and shows, but I saw a few pieces in your live room, as well. However, I didn’t see it all. Can you tell me what you have on hand in there?
SE: We try to have a large collection of amps.
KF: There’s a Dual Rectifier Tremoverb, a Marshall 4×12, an old-school Marshall JCM900.
SE: We’ve got the Peavey 5150, Ampeg SJ-12T guitar amp, the Ampeg Micro-VR, an 8×10 cabinet and the Ampeg B200R for bass, as well. We have a lot of good things to choose from.
OL: So out of all this gear – mixers, monitors, preamps, amps, etc. – what would you say is your favorite piece of gear; the piece of gear you couldn’t live without?
KF: The Avalon.
SE: I’d say the HD rig.
KF: Yeah, that’s true. We made a significant jump when we went from Pro Tools LE to HD because now we can do 128 tracks if we needed to. It’s an HD system!
SE: It’s ridiculous, the horsepower you get with it. I think you can run 156 reverbs on the DSP that are on those cards.
KF: We overdid it when we first got it. We were recording a band and made them go through the ringer. We had the guitar player play through every amp we had; then we ran it through something like 17 reverbs, auto-tune, sound replace, everything! We had something like 60 tracks on one of the songs and then it became a jumbled mess…
SE: …and we ended up not using half the stuff that was on there. But it was a new toy at the time, so we experimented.
OL: Recording studios may be up and running, but they are never complete. There is always a new this or new that coming out. So what is on your new gear wish list for the studio?
KF: A Neve console!
SE: An API console!
KF: But you’re looking at a hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
OL: How about something reasonably priced?
KF: I’d go with a couple of Royer 121’s.
SE: Those are great mic’s, but I’d probably go with a Universal Audio 2-610.
KF: Yeah, we need to get a preamp next, for sure…or monitors.
SE: Yeah, I want to get another set of monitors. I’ve been looking at Tannoys, Yamaha, Dynaudio…stuff like that.
KF: It’s got to be something we both like.
SE: We’ll go to Pacific Pro Audio and do a shootout.
OL: Ok, now for the million dollar question…what are your rates?
KF: Two hundred bucks an hour…I mean, two hundred bucks a day [laughs all around]! We’d be stylin’ if we could make two hundred bucks an hour [more laughs]!
OL: Last question, guys. How can bands contact you if they’re interested in recording at JAM Recording Company?
OL: And just for fun, the desert island question: if you could take the collected works of five artists, who would the five be?
KF: Iron Maiden, NOFX, The Beatles, Dead Kennedys, Beastie Boys.
SE: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Tool, Primus, The Band.
OL: Who is your guilty listening pleasure?
KF: Abba. It’s the production…it’s insane! And the songs are catchy.
SE: People always give me shit about it, but Billy Joel. Billy Joel’s awesome!