Whatever happened to musical artists that paint a picture and evoke drama and heart palpitations when you listen? Well…I found a few at Raw Recording in Patterson, NY. (http://www.rawrecording.com/)
Thankfully, Producer/Engineer, Jean-Christophe Santalis (J.C.), Raw Recording’s owner brought together the young and talented Bond Villain (aka Robert Roche) and former “American Idol,” Kimberley Locke.
Anyway, Kimberley competed on “Idol” in the second season when the show was at its height. She came in third behind Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken although that was probably the one season when the top 3 were equally talented. She went on to release the hit “8th World Wonder” and most recently she has created a cooking show for YouTube, “What’s Cooking with Kimberley”.
So how, in God’s name, did J.C. think to introduce Bond Villain and Kimberley? “I’ve known Kimberley for a while, she comes in doing all kinds of things. Sometimes her own stuff, sometimes she brings in students. I played her Robert’s stuff because he told me he needed somebody with a big voice. I didn’t think she would be interested since it is totally different, but she loved it. She sang on a couple of tracks.”
It is a godsend to have a producer/engineer with that kind of ear. That comes from a long history of recording and loving music. J.C. started playing guitar in 7th grade. Very soon after that he got into recording. “There was a kid in the neighborhood who had a lot of money, he wanted to be in a band, I told him to buy a four-track recorder. Then, a month or two later he said, ‘I don’t know what to do with this thing, you take it!’ That’s where the obsession started. I was constantly recording. I was a one-man band. It was fantastic! And, I was the only kid in the neighborhood who could record, so all of the bands wanted me to record them!”
J.C. had a recording studio in his parents’ basement through high school. He left to go to Berklee College and brought his studio with him. “I set it up in the dorm. By then I had an eight-track reel to reel. It is a great school, but the problem I had was that I wanted to get into production and engineering. It just wasn’t right for me.” So, he headed to New York City’s Baruch College which had a degree in management for musical enterprises. “Music is fun, but at some point, you have to realize that if you want to make a living, it is a business like any other business.”
When J.C. was at Baruch, an internship opportunity arose with the new Almo Sounds. This was the record label started up by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss after they sold A&M Records to Polygram. The intent of the label was to recreate the initial concept of A&M Records as a small, boutique label.
“Music is all I did; all I thought about. While I was at Baruch, I was commuting from Patterson in Putnam County, NY, about an hour and a half north of NYC. I had my studio in Patterson, and I was making money. I was slowly upgrading, following the trends, getting what other people were doing. I had nothing else to spend my money on, so when I made money, I upgraded my equipment.”
J.C. was offered me a job before he even finished college. Almo’s head of A&R, Howard Thompson, had worked at Elektra and had signed so many of the bands J.C. grew up listening to, such as The Psychedelic Furs, 10,000 Maniacs and Motorhead. “He noticed that I was recording all these bands every week. So, he thought I should be scouting bands. He made me an A&R scout. I was out all of the time checking out bands, getting to know scouts and lawyers. I would go to conferences like South by Southwest. But, I never quite got the schmoozing aspect of the job. It was hard for me to network.”
That job lasted about six years. When the label was sold. “I had the option to try and get a job on another label, but decided that I liked working with the bands, creating, working in the studio. I still had my studio. With the money I had saved up and with a little severance for Almo, I decided to build a better studio.” And, the rest, as they say, is history. “My entire life has been word of mouth. I never advertise. I have enough going on. I am working all of the time.” He says he owes that success to being fearless. “I am never afraid to try anything. Who cares if it doesn’t work?”
In a time, when there is talk about big studios closing, that they are too costly to run, J.C. says there is still plenty of room for larger studios. “With technology now, it is very easy to get a really good recording in a bedroom, but there is still a market for real musicians and bands and people playing together in a room. Some of the best musicians in the world are showing up here. They are not going to sit home in a small studio.”
All of this brings me to Bond Villain. A couple of years ago, Robert was with a hardcore punk band. When the band broke up, the singer sent J.C. some music that he was doing. “I said, where did this come from? It’s very big and cinematic. I thought it was too cool. He asked me if I knew a female singer. So, I played it for Kimberly. One thing lead to another and now we are working with him.”
The first single by Bond Villain featuring Kimberley Locke was “Dying Star”.
And the story goes on…..Since, there is a lot to write about here, I thought the article should be in multiple parts. Stay tuned tomorrow for more on Bond Villain and later this month, more from Kimberley Locke who is recording her new album!!