In session: Rob Ignazio | Nipperville
GLENVILLE – While it’s always a great time to chat with singers/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 in it. During the week, I not only had the chance to sit down with Rob Ignazio – some of his resumes absolutely blew me away – but I also got to see his studio! To catch the interview and get an idea of what gearheads like me thrive on, as far as discussions and interests go, keep reading below!
Lucas Garrett: Thank you, Rob, for sitting down to speak 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 lived. And, right away, I got a job at a professional audio company, selling and designing recording studios. In the first, I moved there! I thought it was a music store! It was basically these sales offices.
RI: I worked there for a few years and backed some great engineers – Bruce Hornsby’s recording session was my first session. I would set up microphones and ashtrays and all that. Then I opened my own studio in Cambridge and played guitar in various bands; put me through Harvard Extension. Anyone can go to Harvard Extension – don’t let me fool you.
There’s a big studio in Acton, MA called Wellspring Sound. I worked there for many years. I recorded people from Berklee; celebrities; not-so-famous people, and everyone in between. I also developed the music curriculum for a few Massachusetts community colleges that is still 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 to LA temporarily – for about six months. I worked at Ocean Way. Big studio there – set up microphones for Lyle Lovett sessions…
LG: Oh, nice!
RI: …Brian Setzer sessions… Now Lyle Lovett’s camp and I are friends because his fiddle player, Warren Hood – Warren Hood’s dad was Lyle’s guitar player and I met Warren when he was at Berklee . I met my wife in 2015 at the Adirondack Balloon Festival while visiting my mother. I was free and free from fantasy and moved to the Albany area – to Glenville. Just as we were about to return to Boston, she found this house and, just like the awesome woman she is, said, “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 like! It’s a big drum room; it’s a great room for everything; groups can sit here. What I would really like to do is start something like Live from Daryl’s House – it could be Live from Rob’s House. I like to give people exposure, if I can!
I’m a big gear fan, as you can see! I spent an almost divorceable amount of money on equipment. Not quite, but almost! I’m a big fan of all mic preamps and tube gear – I came into the analog world. I came to splice the tape for the people, then the ADATs came; digital has arrived…
LG: How do you think the digital world stands up to the analog world? What do you think about this?
RI: Recently, five or maybe ten years ago, analog-to-digital converters got pretty good. It really comes down to a good mic preamplifier. A nice mic preamp from a Neve console, or a Focusrite, or a tube. As long as there’s good heat up front, it’s fine. Usually what I do when I’ve finished a project and before mastering – let’s say I’m going to do a mix for someone – is I ship it to Dave Minehan. Dave Minehan was in that band, The Neighborhoods. Back in his studio in Boston – where I still go 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 bit of that “analog glue”, which is what a lot of the big label types do these days.
RI: Do everything digital, but mix analog.
LG: Yes, I had the opportunity to work with analog compressors in the back-end of production. In my opinion, there is nothing better than that…
RI: That’s the problem. The digital EQ is pretty good but they still have no compression which is why one of my favorite compressors of all time – if you can find a used one let me know so I can buy it before you!
RI: … It’s the Demeter VTCL-2. Jim Demeter is a great friend to whom I sold and bought equipment. So, I configured my patchbays. When someone is doing vocals or bass or whatever, they go into the Neve or tube mic preamp, into the tube compressor – for a little kiss of tube-ness – and then they go into Pro Tools. A $1200 tube compressor is still worth it, compared to a $50 plugin.
LG: Some things you can’t beat…
RI: Sometimes it really is, as you know, it all comes down to the band. You can take a great band with a few shitty mics and make them sound great. You can take a bunch of shit and do whatever you can… You know…
I hired some locals for the last project I did.
LG: Let’s talk a bit about this project.
RI: I was recording this very popular blues band in Boston called the One Dime Band. I did all the basic stuff at David Minehan’s studio, The Wooly Mammoth. I hired Donna Tritico to sing the backing vocals. Do you know Donna?
LG: Yes, I know Donna.
Ri: They’re actually coming back to camp for a whole week – starting April 23rd – to record their second album. My band that I formed when I came here, Blue Marroon, is more of a bluesy band – but not too bluesy – with people like Niki Kaos on vocals, Steve Campito on keyboards, Jack Kelle on drums and Lou Alteri on the bass.
LG: You have heavyweights in this group!
RI: It’s a really cool place, you know?
LG: From our conversations, it looks like you’ve done a lot of bullshit! You really feel like you’re a musician’s musician.
RI: It depends on the day! You know?
LG: Ha ha.
RI: I just played, produced, recorded and chatted 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. The old Judas Priest albums were blues; old AC/DC albums – still can’t get that guitar sound!
LG: Ha ha.
RI: I love the blues. When I moved to Boston, I felt like I arrived in my fishbowl. It was blues, blues, blues. I lived just 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 and a voice the size of the Grand Canyon blew my mind! And no one was there! I was trying to get people off the street to see this chick. She needed this bassist to replace some blues-jammy tracks. So, I was playing bass… It was Susan Tedeschi!
LG: Holy shit!
RI:? Lucas, it was like… here I am two weeks after moving there and it was really, really cool. Everyone was really, really nice. I worked with Ronnie Earl; I did sessions with Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds; I worked on J. Geils’ first jazz album. We were all sad when J passed away. I took advantage of the position I thought I was in to not only improve myself, but also to help promote the people around me, because I was surrounded by giants.
LG: You have done so much. There are so many people who think you need to be in the limelight, but you don’t.
LG: As we wrap this up, as someone who’s had a life and career in music, what advice would you give to someone who’s like, “You know what? I want to enter this industry.
RI: Surround yourself with the best possible players. You need to have some strength. It’s a combination response: knowing when to get out of a situation before it’s too late; surround yourself with great players; and practice self-management. Self-management – watch out for outside influences like drugs and alcohol, and stay healthy!
LG: I could talk to you all day about this shit.
RI: One day we will! I appreciate that very much! Thanks for contacting us!
LG: Great, Rob. Good conversation with you today!