An out-of-the-way Weehawken recording studio is working with some pretty big industry names. And that’s just the way owner Gene “Machine” Freeman wants it. With an intimate songwriting-oriented approach, the 600-square-foot studio, tucked between the Willow and Park Avenue bridges, caters to chart-topping bands like Grammy-nominated Fall Out Boy and Cobra Starship.
The main recording room, known as the Machine Shop, is a 400-square foot recording space with a balcony and a loft that lets bands sprawl out on the top level, while still being part of the creative process below. Unlike most recording rooms, the sound engineer and the producer are in the same room as the band, not isolated by soundproof walls and a pane of glass.
“I don’t like to talk through a talk-back button,” Freeman said. Likening the process to talking through a walkie-talkie, the producer said that face-to-face contact is an integral part of the recording process.
“Dave Grohl stopped mid-interview and introduced himself.” – Gene Freeman
“The director of a movie is right on the scene,” Freeman said. “He’s not in another room, and there’s a reason for that.”
The smaller side room, called the Opium Den, is a hideaway for the creative. Adorned with tapestries and soft, plush wall treatments, an acoustic guitar is often kept on a leather couch opposite the mixing board.
Freeman’s work with the death-metal band Lamb of God on their hit single “Redneck” took the East Brunswick resident all the way to a Grammy nomination of his own. Freeman was even fortunate enough to meet famed member of alternative rock band Nirvana and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.
“There were a hundred photographers and probably 50 interviewers all snapping pictures and talking to celebrities,” Freeman said. “We get out of the limo with these bearded, scary, longhaired metal dudes – needless to say, no one was talking to us. But, all of the sudden, Dave Grohl stopped mid-interview and introduced himself to the band. It made my year.”
In addition to Dave Grohl, Freeman was able to rub shoulders with American Idol winner Carrie Underwood and finalist Chris Daughtry.
New space in the Shades
Although the studio has over 600 square feet, with recent success, the four-man crew at Machine Shop Productions is getting a little bit claustrophobic.
“We don’t know what to do anymore,” Freeman said. “We’re like busting out of the seams of this room.” The upgrade, although still in the planning phase, will most likely welcome a brand new off-site drum room that Freeman said would probably be in the Shades section of Weehawken.
With new technology, the studio can access music files from any building with an internet connection through the Machine Shop’s cloud, a wireless server.
“All the rooms are connected through a server,” Freeman said. “It’s our hard drive in the sky.”
Although the main obstacle for creating a new drum recording space is the cost of real estate (especially in Hudson County), the studio is adamant on keeping the project “all in the family.”
“This building is the bomb,” Freeman said of the 1801 Willow Ave. space. “We love it here. But there’s just no more space. So staying somewhere else in Weehawken is the next best thing.”
The studio owner is looking to expand to a 1,000-square-foot space, where a more ambient room can produce more versatile drum sounds.
Instead of burning through college-student interns, all of Freeman’s producers started as interns and have stayed onboard, working their way up the music industry ladder.
“I sponsor young producers,” he said. “It’s a win-win situation. The interns get a chance to work on interesting projects, and I get their help making a great record.” According to Freeman, a record used to take him up to four or five months, which is just impossible in this day and age.
Producer Will Putney has worked at Machine Shop Productions for only three years, but has several prominent producing credits under his belt. Two classes away from a degree in biomedical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology, Putney dropped out of school to pursue his love of music. He flourished.
He recorded pertinent artists like For Today, who landed 40th on the independent chart and 15th on the Christian charts in June, according to billboard.com.
Two other young interns, Jay Sakong and Sean McCabe, are new recruits that are steadily learning the production process.
For more information on Machine Shop Productions family, visit: www.machineshopproductions.org.
Sean Allocca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org