If you’re from the Western New York area and you’re in a functional band of any kind, you’ve probably heard of Doug White. Doug’s been on the front lines since 1995, recording bands at his home away from home- the legendary, Watchmen Studios of Lockport, NY. Earlier this week, I asked him to answer some questions about his day to day life in the studio, but more importantly, about some of his more standout experiences with the 1,000,000+ bands (Seriously, the fucking walls are completely covered with band stickers) he’s recorded over the last two decades. Having worked with Doug myself a handful of times, I more or less got the answers I was expecting, but at the same time, I ran into a few eye-openers as well. Young, aspiring bands looking to enter the studio environment anytime soon could really benefit from reading this interview. And if you’re already in an established band that’s recorded demos, EPs and full lengths time and time again, it probably wouldn’t hurt to check out Doug’s views on music, audio engineering, creativity and band drama. As every hardworking musician should know- getting 4 to 5 guys on the same page in a creative environment can be a real pain in the ass. But if the final product is up to spec, the butthurt is always worth it.
Mike Marlinski: How many bands (roughly) have recorded at Watchmen to date?
Doug White: 4300 is my best count after looking through the calendar years and doing some math…
MM: When did you open the studio?
DW: December 1995 the studio officially opened, before that I had a little set up in my parents house doing demos from 1991-1995.
MM: How long have you been a sound engineer and what made you want to get involved in that career?
DW: I think it’s safe to say about 20 years+ now. I was in bands as a kid like many people and thought it would be great to be around music everyday. Audio engineering wasn’t as available in schools as it is now. I eventually found a two year associates degree at The Art Institute of Atlanta. Didn’t learn too much there about the real day to day happenings in a studio but it did give me a little head start and jumping off point.
MM: What were some of your favorite recording sessions?
DW: After so many bands every scenario you can think of has played out in front of me that’s for sure. There has however been many times when you can feel real magic being tracked down. Not cookie cutter stuff I have heard many times before but musicians on a new level or in a new direction that gives you goose bumps because of the fresh direction. Those are always my favorite and I am happy to say there has been quite a few moments like that. Some people find comfort in hearing music that is very familiar to them. Many people when they hear a new band immediately start searching their memory to say “oh sounds like?” I have even seen people annoyed when they can’t relate it to something they have heard before. Myself I like music that catches me by surprise and goes directions I never would have imagined.
MM: What is your favorite genre to record?
DW: My job is totally a people job. It is all about the people I work with. I have many “favorite people” I love to work with but no real favorites with genres. Each genre has it’s plus’s and minus’s in the studio process. Some of the worst most unprepared bands can be having so much fun and the time of their life making music in the studio so I am right there with them having a ball. Some very good bands who are very well prepared can be having all kinds of creative differences or inner turmoil and I am right in the thick of it with them so that’s not fun. Confident people who know what they want in general are the best sessions. Indecisiveness is the clock killer and the point of contention with most bands.
MM: What are your plans for the future? Any thoughts of expansion?
DW: Just maintaining exactly what I do now is the real goal. Keeping a great work flow going strong and making the best recordings I can with the many different size budgets given to me is my highest priority. The real trick to the whole things is an adjustable work pace. It is a complicated equation of, (how much material) + (how much time) + (how much talent) + (how well prepared) + (how confident) = My work pace for a band to keep things on track and get it done for them the best way I can.
Well, there you have it. It doesn’t sound like too shabby of a life to me. Then again, I’m no audio aficionado, so I might be getting ahead of myself with that assumption. Either way, I’m excited for my next Watchmen visit and I’d recommend Doug’s domain to anyone looking for a reasonably priced, easy going, fun studio session.
In addition to making WNY’s metal acts sound tough as rusty nails, Doug can also put together a mean music video. Check out his latest for Buffalo’s “deliverers of doom”, Darkapathy:
Well, alas, it’s been fun but I must skedaddle. Hopefully, this was an informative, stimulating read, blah blah blah. Ready for some more talk about band gimmicks? In our next gimmicks piece, I’m going to talk about bands like Alestorm, Sabaton, Powerglove and HORSE the band and how predetermined themes have really helped some bands stand out in a crowd of cookie cutters. I’ll also be doing a profile or two on some WNY venues and reviewing Jungle Rot’s visit to Buffalo this Tuesday. Take care, all.
– Mike Marlinski