Chron Goblin and Throne of Vengance find inspiration and opportinuty in Oregon
There are plenty of stages in Calgary where live music can be seen on a nightly basis. From the creaky floorboards of the Palomino to the fluorescent dance floor at the Nite Owl, across the bridge to the Ironwood with its enormous acoustics and back to Broken City, or Republik; the list goes on.
However, when it comes time to record a new album, two hard rock headliners from Calgary have recently chosen to record their music in cities with more established roots in the music industry. And while that means the inconvenience of packing their bags and hitting the road, Chron Goblin and Throne of Vengeance insist it’s worth it.
On the surface, the journey to record an album might seem like a vacation. Guitarist Devin Purdy of Chron Goblin views their trip to Portland, Ore. as more of a business venture. To him, it’s a chance to spend two distraction free weeks in the studio strumming a guitar long into the night, talking shop with other musicians in the Portland scene and working with local photographers to further the group’s image.
“Our goal for this album was to remove ourselves from Calgary and just immerse ourselves in a situation where everyone is fully committed to making this album,” Purdy said. “We can’t just go home and hang out with our friends or girlfriends; we’re going to live and breathe this album. We’re on a mission.”
Photo by Jodi Brak
That mission — which often involves working with other musicians or producers — is an important step to furthering an artist’s career and can lead to opportunities they would never find at home.
For Chron Goblin, the roots of that opportunity sprouted from a chance meeting during their performance at Stumpfest, a music festival in Portland, which introduced them to Adam Pike, founder of Toadhouse Recording. Through his work as producer and sound manager for hard rock powerhouse Red Fang, Pike has proven that he can craft a raw and heavy sound.
Brett Whittingham, drummer for Chron Goblin, said that Pike came highly recommended to the group by professionals inside the music industry. And according to Asher Media, Portland has one of the most rapidly expanding music scenes in North America. The combination of working with a talented young producer in a city with an explosive music scene was a combination that proved hard to resist.
“It’s not to say that there isn’t great studios in Calgary, we did our last three recordings in Calgary.” Whittingham said, “but Adam has skills and a technique and style we kind of want to tap into. Portland is well known for having such a big scene for heavy music like ours.”
For a recording artist, the right producer can be as important to an album as the musicians playing on it. The person making adjustments to the dials and sliders behind the soundboard has enormous influence on the overall sound of the recording. If a group has a certain producer in mind, it’s easier to bring the musicians to the studio than to bring the studio to the musicians.
There’s always an exception to that rule, though. Throne of Vengeance, another metal group from Calgary, have been fortunate enough to work at the Ontario Institute of Recording with Kirill Telichev, and with legendary album producer Paul Sabu right here in Calgary at Slaughterhouse Studios.
Sabu has produced albums for the likes of David Bowie, and the Ontario Institute of Recording is one of the most advanced studios in Canada, so it’s easy to see why Throne of Vengeance would be willing to put in the extra effort — whether it’s flying Paul into the city or driving themselves out to Ontario.
In the latter case, Riley Cobb, bass player in Throne of Vengeance, agrees with Chron Goblin when they say that traveling to record music is a serious undertaking.
“We can’t just go home and hang out with our friends or girlfriends; we’re going to live and breathe this album. We’re on a mission.”
– Devin Purdy
“Recording in Calgary has a nice homey vibe,” Cobb said. “But when we drove 3000 km across the country to record an album we were on a mission.”
The nature of the music business might devolve things into a party when the lights go down, but there is still a lot of pressure riding on musicians to make the best use of their time. Over and above that, every moment spent on the road costs real money and that puts a whole other level of pressure on artists looking for a return on their investments.
In any case, working with the right people, in the right place and at the right time can have a significant impact, not only on an album, but also on an artist’s career as a whole. Chris Wynters, executive director of the Alberta Music Industry Association, believes that the decision to expand their reach and work outside of their comfort zone can be very important for an artist’s career.
“I think bands that go outside of the province to make records are doing it kind of as a new step forward, trying to break into a new market,” Wynters said. “They see it as them setting up shop while they make a record and get to know some of the people in the industry there.”
And the fact is that if Albertan artists have an incentive to work outside of the province, other artists have an incentive to fly into Alberta and set up shop in an effort to break into the local market. Dan Owen, owner and founder of OCL Studios, says that over the last few months they have worked with everything from local artists, to bands out of Saskatchewan, to a group called Jetty Road from just across the Pacific Ocean in Australia.
Photo by Jodi Brak
However, Owen also notes that some parts of the music industry in Alberta still need to flourish before the province can develop and sustain a scene like Nashville, Toronto or St. John’s.
“The studios, the bricks and mortar and equipment are here,” Owen said. “But there needs to be more of a development of the scene here, and all of the things you need in place for that. The producers, the engineers, the studio musicians who can come in and read a chart and play.”
Any development of Calgary’s music scene, or of the Alberta scene at large, requires a fine balance of commitment from local artists and studios, coupled with incentives for out of province musicians to work here. Reuben Bullock, frontman of Calgary’s indie rock powerhouse Reuben and the Dark, acknowledges this balance from the perspective of an artist who found international success and brought it back to Alberta.
“I think it is important for bands to emerge themselves in bigger scenes and bigger networks. That is why you see so many groups heading out to studios in big cities, or working with producers from the U.S.” Bullock said, “but if everyone leaves Calgary because the industry isn’t there, then the industry never grows. Artists finding international success, and bringing it back home and keeping it there, that is what is going to build the scene.”
Editors note: This is an updated version of the original story. Additional content has been added by the reporter.