In Session: Rob Ignazio
GLENVILLE – While it’s always a good time chatting with singer/songwriters and bands, sometimes – especially for this author – it’s great to get a behind-the-scenes view of the production side of the music industry, and the people involved therein. Over the week, I not only had a chance to sit down with Rob Ignazio – some of his resume absolutely blew me away – but I also got to catch a glimpse of his studio! To catch the interview, and get a feel for what gear-heads such as myself thrive on, as far as discussions and interests, continue reading below!
Lucas Garrett: Thank you, Rob, for sitting down to talk today! Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?
Rob Ignazio: Well, I grew up in South Glens Falls. In 1990, I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where a few other friends of mine were living. And, right away I got a job at a pro audio company, selling and designing recording studios. Within the first I moved there! I thought it was a music store! It was basically these sales offices.
RI: I worked there a few years and would tag along with some awesome engineers – Bruce Hornsby’s recording session was my first session. I’d set up microphones and ash trays and stuff. Then I opened up my own studio in Cambridge and played guitar in various bands; put myself through Harvard Extension. Anyone can go to Harvard Extension – don’t let me fool ya.
There’s a big studio out in Acton, Massachusetts called Wellspring Sound. I worked there for many, many years. I recorded Berklee people; famous people; not so famous people, and everyone in between. I also developed the music program for a couple of Massachusetts community colleges that is still being taught today.
When the recession hit, I closed my personal studio, sold all my gear and continued to work for the other two. Then, I moved out to L.A. temporarily – for about six months. I was working at Ocean Way. Big studio there – setting up microphones for Lyle Lovett sessions…
LG: Oh, nice!
RI: …Brian Setzer sessions… Now, the Lyle Lovett camp and I are friends because his fiddle player, Warren Hood – Warren Hood’s dad used to be Lyle’s guitar player and I met Warren when he was going to Berklee. I met my wife in 2015 at the Adirondack Balloon Festival when I was visiting my mom. I was footloose and fancy-free and I moved to the Albany area – to Glenville. Just as we were about to move back to Boston, she found this house and just like the awesome woman that she is, says, “Honey, I think you can build a studio here!”
So, people come from… I have clients in Boston and New York; they can stay here while they record. I really love it! It’s a great drum room; it’s a great room for anything; bands can set up here. What I’d really love to do is start something like Live from Daryl’s House – it could be Live from Rob’s House. I love giving people exposure, if I can!
I’m a big fan of gear, as you can tell! I’ve spent almost divorceable amount of money on gear. Not quite, but almost! I’m a big fan of all mic pre’s and tube gear – I came up in the analog world. I came up splicing tape for people, then the ADATs came along; the digital came along…
LG: How do you feel the digital world is holding up against the analog world? What are your thoughts on that?
RI: Recently, I the five or maybe ten years, the analog to digital converters have gotten pretty good. It really boils down to a good mic pre-amplifier. A nice mic pre from a Neve console, or a Focusrite, or a tube. As long as you get some nice warmth into the front end it’s fine. Usually what I do when I get done with a project and before the mastering – say I’ll do a mix for someone – is I’ll ship it off to Dave Minehan. Dave Minehan was in that band, The Neighborhoods. Back in his studio in Boston – which I still go to a lot – he’ll take the final mix and put it on tape for me. If you put it on half-inch tape you get a little bit of that “analog glue” which is what a lot of major label type people will do these days.
RI: Do it all digital, but mix to analog.
LG: Yeah, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some analog compressors on the back-end of the production. In my opinion, there’s nothing that beats that…
RI: Right, that’s the thing. Digital EQ is pretty good but they still quite haven’t gotten compression, which is why one of my favorite all-time compressors – if you can find one used, tell me so I can buy it before you do!
RI: …Is the Demeter VTCL-2. Jim Demeter is a great friend of mine who I used to sell and buy gear from. So, I’ve got my patchbays set up. When someone’s doing vocals, bass, or anything, it goes into the Neve or tube mic pre, into the tube compressor – for a little kiss of tube-ness – and then it goes into Pro Tools. A $1200 tube compressor is still definitely worth it, compared to a $50 plugin.
LG: Some things you can’t beat…
RI: Sometimes it really does, as you know, all boil down to the band. You can take a great band with a couple of crappy microphones and make them sound great. You can take a crappy band and do whatever you can… You know…
I hired some local people for the last project I did.
LG: Let’s talk about that project a little bit.
RI: I was recording this very popular blues-band in Boston called the One Dime Band. I did all the basic tracks at David Minehan’s studio, The Wooly Mammoth. I hired Donna Tritico to sing backup vocals. Do you know Donna?
LG: Yeah, I know Donna.
Ri: They’re actually coming back to camp out a whole week – starting April 23rd – to record their second album. My band that I formed when I got here, Blue Marroon, is kind of a bluesy – but not too bluesy – band with people like Niki Kaos on vocals, Steve Campito on keyboards, Jack Kelle on drums, and Lou Alteri on bass.
LG: You got some heavy hitters in that band!
RI: It’s a really cool area, you know?
LG: From our conversations, it seems like you’ve done a lot of shit! It really feels like you’re a musician’s musician.
RI: It depends on the day! You know?
RI: I’ve been just playing, and producing, and recording, and schmoozing for many years.
LG: What are some of your favorite influences?
RI: My influences are, for early influences: Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones; great blues-based rock and roll. Even with the heavy metal guys, I preferred Cinderella and the Scorpions, as opposed to the heavy, heavy stuff. Old Judas Priest albums were blues; old AC/DC albums – I still can’t get that guitar sound!
RI: I love the blues. When I moved to Boston, I felt like I arrived at my fish bowl. It was blues, blues, blues. I lived right down the street from this club called Johnny D’s. I walked into a blues jam on a Sunday; three or four people were there. This girl in a pink dress with a blue guitar with a voice the size of Grand Canyon just blew me away! And no one was there! I was trying to get people off the street to see this chick. She needed this bass player to fill in for a few blues-jammy things. So, I played bass… It was Susan Tedeschi!
LG: Holy shit!
RI: Right? Lucas, it was like… here I am two weeks after moving there and that was really, really cool. Everyone was really, really nice. I’ve worked with Ronnie Earl; I’ve done sessions with Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds; I’ve worked on J. Geils’ first jazz album. We were all sad when J passed away. I took advantage of whatever position I thought I was in to not only better myself but to help promote people that were around me, ‘cause I was surrounded by giants.
LG: You’ve done so much. There’re so much people that think you need to be in the limelight, but, that’s not the case.
LG: As we wrap this up, as someone that’s had a lifetime and career of music, what is one piece of advice that you’d have for anyone that says, “You know what? I want to go into that industry.”
RI: Surround yourself with the best players you can. You have to have a little bit of strength. It’s a combination answer: know when to get out of a situation before it’s too late; surround yourself with great players; and practice self-management. Self-management – be careful of outside influences like drugs and alcohol, and keep yourself healthy!
LG: I could talk to you all day about this shit.
RI: Someday we’re going to! I really appreciate this! Thanks for reaching out!
LG: Awesome, Rob. Good talking to you today!