Batcave Recording Studio

January 30, 2011

Q10 Batcave

Sam Malaj —photo Michael Timm

1.Who is Batcave Recording Studio and what do you do?
The studio is me, Sam Malaj, and the bevy of session musicians I’ve known over the years. The studio’s capabilities are flexible to suit live band recordings as well as detailed post-production, songwriting, and collaboration. I approach studio operation from the perspective of a “street smart” musician with a tactile sensibility.

2. What is your professional, musical, and/or technical background?

Gigging musician for 22 years—bass, vocal, guitar—locally, on the road, live, studio, hired gun, collaborator, Swiss Army knife, etc. Recordist for 18 years. Instructor, guitar tech, instrument builder, soundman, electronics nerd.

3. How did you come to operate in the Hide House? When? Where were you before?

My main band, Fire on Your Sleeve, was acquainted with local artist/guitar wiz/snicklefriss Brian “Beanz” Grinwald when our need for a spot coincided with a vacancy he had here in ’06. Previously the studio was located in an East Side basement.

4. How do you compete/cooperate with other recording studios? What makes you unique?

Maybe all the odd-ball, home-made rigs? (Now that’s a band name!) I also offer services uncommon to most studios like songwriting/rendering, part writing/recording, backup vocal production, in-studio vocal coaching, in-studio guitar setups, pre/post-editing, creative editing, and a bunch of tech stuff I’m sure I’m forgetting.

I specialize in esoteric aspects of vocal production and delivery, and I believe a producer needs to have a certain grasp of language to explain what “needs to happen” at any step. Usually it can be accomplished by example and mimicking, but a simple, cleanly-stated explanation can go a long way. I set a steady, productive working pace.

I offer the option of pricing hourly or flat-rate (per song) and bulk rates for longer projects.

5. Describe some work you’ve recently done with some local clients.

Last month Bay View local Drew Ingle (formerly of Spirit Creek) and I wrapped up a Springsteen-esque production of a bunch of his open-mic originals with the help of my secret-weapon, hired-gun drummer and friend Chad Clausen. Production fell together without a hitch and the legendary Trevor Sadler is slated to master it.

6. What advice would you give to a local band that is looking to create an album?

Play dynamically and “mix yourself” as you record your part. Structure steps when possible. Less is more. Don’t be scared of the click track. Don’t clip. Study math and physics if you’re going to do it yourself.

7. Your website says you’ve added a local didgeridoo player to a live act. For whom? What was that like? How much is Batcave involved in your clients’ production process?

I’m the didgeridooist. I overdub them when desired. I build and tune them. PVC works best and is easiest to tune. I have them in B, E, C#, and an adjustable “slide” didgeridoo in PVC. The wooden one here is likely tuned to H-minus. I devised two new methods of making a didge. One became my current drum overhead rig. The other wound up becoming my trade secret technique. I’ve said too much already.

Depth of involvement fluxes based on needs. Sometimes I’ll “be” and/or hire the backup band for a project. Other times it’s reconstruction on an existing song or beat track. I do a lot of backup vocal “stacking,” especially on hip hop productions. Sometimes operations require a creative nudge and sometimes all I have to do is simply be the engineer.

8. What is the most rewarding part of your work? What is the most challenging?

Many younger players who come through get better at their instruments after a finished project because we’ll have spent time going over things like techniques for following a click track or alternate picking or a breathing technique or whatever.

Challenges can come from song composition and interpretation. It can flow or be tedium. That said, those types of speed bumps are overcome once everyone is speaking the same language and after the right “color” is found.

9. Who are some big-name or special/memorable clients you’ve recorded in Bay View?

Currently, my wheelhouse is wrapped up in Jason Loveall’s (of The Danglers) new project. It’s forming into an otherworldly experience. It spans wide going from snarling country/punk to old-timey gypsy to swirling, atmospheric, alien-induced dreamscapes. I’m giddy like a schoolgirl.

10. How would you describe Bay View’s vibe for business and for music?

Thankfully there is a scene with a lot of talent and venues. We’re so lucky to have a wide range of venues like Frank’s, Cactus, Lulu, and the Brew Haus. There’s a lot of good energy on and near KK for art and independent business to be further cultivated and I don’t ever want to see it go through a McConversion to chain stores and strip malls.

The Hide House complex itself is a nerve center of artistic activity. I’m blessed to be here amid the constant bustle of pro artists of many walks. Shout out to Gibson Bathrick, yo!

Batcave Recording Studio
2625 S. Greeley St.
Sam Malaj (414) 839-8680

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