RIP: Art Snay of Arabellum Studios, 1951-2012

Art Snay (photo by Dave Suarez)
Art Snay

Photograph by Dave Suarez

Art Snay – musician, engineer, producer and owner of Arabellum Studios in Albany – passed away earlier this week.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that without Snay, the Nippertown music scene might look – and certainly sound – radically different. In the late ’70s and early ’80 when the DIY indie rock scene was just beginning to blossom all across the country, Art and his Arabellum Studios – tucked away on Sand Creek Road in Colonie – was the place to go record whatever the hell you had in mind.

Maybe it was radio-friendly pop and rock. Maybe it was go-for-the-throat punk or balls-to-the-wall metal. Maybe it was something just completely off-the-wall. Whatever. Snay was probably your best go-to guy.

Along with the old WQBK-FM radio and such long-defunct live performance venues as J.B. Scott’s and 288 Lark, Art and his Arabellum Studios helped create the perfect storm of opportunity for non-mainstream bands looking to showcase their original music.

*UPDATE (10am Monday, March 19): Here’s info on “For the Love of Art: A Celebration of the Life of Art Snay” to be held on Sunday (March 25)…

*UPDATE (8am Tuesday, March 20): Art Snay’s obituary at The Times Union

*UPDATE (3pm Monday, March 26): Photographs from “For the Love of Art: A Celebration of the Life of Art Snay” at Lynn’s Uptown Tavern, Albany, 3/25/12

Here’s what a few friends, fans, clients and bandmates have to say about Art Snay:

STEVEN “CLYDE” DAVIES: Art Snay was a kind-hearted gentle soul who had impeccable taste in music and a well-developed sense of hearing, which served him well as a music producer and audio engineer. His passing is a major loss for the Capital Region arts community, as he was a seminal force in producing and engineering excellent recordings of some of the most influential and creative bands and solo artists of the local music scene, going as far back as the early 1970s. He also composed some very intriguing electronic music and was a capable visual artist and graphic art designer as well.

Art was a founding member of the Albany-based group called od, which began in 1975. Art was the primary electronic music composer of the band, as well as audio engineer. And yes, he originally established Arabellum as a place to record od. The first rock opera created by od, to which Art made contributions, is known as “Spheres.”

On a more personal note, Art was often affectionately referred to by his bandmates and friends as “R2”, in reference to one of the robot characters in “Star Wars,” and he appreciated well-designed sports cars and speed boats. Art will be missed by all the folks he touched with his creativity and generosity over the years. I will miss him very much.

KEVIN BARTLETT: I met Art around 1973 or 1974. We hit it off immediately, sharing our fondness for Robert Wyatt, Peter Hammill, Crimson, Gong and the other prog-rock oddities of the time, as well as our wrangling of all the Jane Roberts/Seth material we could get our hands on. Art also had a room full of synthesizers and recording gear that made me drool. As he showed and taught me the ins and outs, I began my love affair with these strange and wonderful noise makers. Art was my engineering and sonic guru and soon became my mentor.

In 1976, od was born and Art was in on the ground floor. No way could any self-respecting chaotic, prog, rock opera outfit do without the electronic wizardry and recording expertise of such a pioneer of that time. We actually all chipped in to build Arabellum as a conclave/rehearsal space for our grand undertakings. Thinking back, those days were like my college, and Mr. Snay was certainly the Dean – exploring not only the sonic possibilities and colors of those machines, but educating us all on the importance of fidelity and the care it took to produce stellar recordings.

To this day when I’m asked about my influences, Art Snay is always mentioned. I am so humbled and proud that I can say, “I was in a freakin’ band with him. He was the synth guy.” I will miss him fondly and deeply. I’m sure that’s a sentiment shared by the multitude of musicians he slaved over, crafted, engineered, produced, educated and made sound their best. Thanks my friend, for everything and all the rest.

JIM TEMPLE: Some of the best memories I have is late night recording with Private Plain at Arabellum. Eight-o-clock bean coffee readily available. Art was the best at interpreting whatever language I brought to the session. I once asked for a track to sound like a comet trailing through the sky. (I know, we say silly things when we’ve had a few.) He knew exactly what I was saying. He was the best at that. I’ll really miss him.

I also credit Art and Arabellum with the life I have today. I met my wife there when we were recording.

JOE PUTROCK: He did a recording I played on when I was 12 years old. He fixed all my screw-ups, and he did it without a computer, he did it by splicing tape!! I was only 12, but at the time I thought he was a genius.

JOHN POWHIDA: I felt like I had arrived in the albany music scene recording with someone as cool as the gentle giant Art Snay 26 years ago. Glad I got to know him. R.I.P. Great all night and morning memories of hijinx recording with Rees Shad at Art’s place.

HARVEY KOJAN: I spent countless hours recording, laughing and partying (and quite often crashing on the couch) at his funky palace on Sand Creek Road. He was one of the smartest, funniest and most generous people I’ve ever met … a seminal figure in my life.

PAUL JOSSMAN (aka BOWTIE BLOTTO): So sad to learn of Art’s passing. He was a fixture of the Albany music scene for a long time and helped a lot of people. He stood out, and not just because he was always the tallest person in the room. Hey Art – let’s do one more take, and turn up the click track.

CHARLENE SHORTSLEEVE: Oh, so sad … Spent alot of time at Arabellum – good times, good memories. R.I.P. Art.

SARA AYERS: What I remember most fondly is how totally and completely enthusiastic he was about any project he was working on. It didn’t matter how green you were, or what style of music you played or how weird your music was. He was always happy to help you arrange your songs, happy to teach you about recording and, most importantly, incredibly skillful at making your recording the best it could be. The guy could take a mediocre song and make it sound like a masterwork. His patience and reassurances most likely kept me from giving up in my early music-making days. Art, thank you, and rest in peace.

NOTE: MARY PALEY and some of Art’s other old friends are trying to plan a ceremony for sometime next week. There will also be a post-ceremony gathering to share stories about the big guy. Do you have any photographs or other memorabilia of Art and Arabellum to display during the ceremony? Please contact Mary Paley at [email protected]

Here’s a very short list of the many bands that Art Snay engineered, produced or co-produced during his long tenure at Arabellum Studios. Please feel free to add more below:

The Dronez
Mechanical Servants
Bob Radliff
Bob Van Detta
Johnny Rabb
The Morons
Sue Carpenter
Lethal Lipstick
The Tom Healey Band
The Lustre Kings
Dirty Face
Clay People
Ric Roc Bop
New Shiny Things
Victoria Harper
Diversion Factor

  1. randy would says

    Art once duplicated some sounds that i created in Manhattan,I found him to be honest and generous.Rare qualities in any time.

  2. mark chmielinski says

    i only met him once,but i remember him as being wise and kind.

  3. Jeff Spain says

    I just read all the comments that have been posted. The first band Art was in was back in 1966/67. It was called Brand X. Art played drums. Had a couple of really talented local guys. Vernon Coles( bass) and John Drost( lead guitar). also a couple of other kids including myself who tried to keep up with those guys.. We did a couple of shows with Boom Boom Brannigan. Art was a really great drummer and great guy. We went our separate ways back in 69 or 70 and we would see each other occasionally. He met Evonne and that was it for him. He was in love. Last time I saw Art was at his mothers funeral. Can’t remember how long ago that was, but it was good to see him. Hope he’s playing music wherever he landed.

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