An Interview with James from Bad Racket Cleveland
Who thought of the name? Why Bad Racket?
We started Bad Racket as a recording studio in 2009. Thomas and Adam were working at Go Media, a design firm in Ohio City, what started as a few speakers in the first floor of the warehouse soon became a full on construction project. First a small acoustically treated room was constructed. With concrete floors and a few DIY acoustic panels, then a small control room with mixer, a stage and a bar area, soon became a vibrant cultural oasis of different types of talent. On the second floor was an industrial and commercial design for furniture and industrial design called 2nd Shift. We were the noisy neighbors on the first floor. Loud drums. Loud guitars. Everything was very loud. Beer was spilled. Bad Racket became a concert venue and part art installation and a center for all things Cleveland. So why move? A fiend of a friend got a hold of me and mentioned that a legendary recording facility in cleveland that died a long time ago was going to be available. I had already looked at the space in 2008, when we first were starting the dirty beer spilling rock and roll studio, and the brothers that were living there had all their old tape machines and analog gear all very nicely set up and the idea of having hundreds of artists and parties and studio traffic in and out 24/7 was not appealing because they were living with these cats and not interested in the loud drums and raging guitars all the time. But they were moving, and this awesome world class recording space where we could fit all our stuff (pool table and 8ft gold pyramid art installation included non-exclusively) So it was a no brainer. Bad Racket 2.0 reborn.
What is the best thing about your job?
Getting to meet all the different people is what really makes it for me. You never know who’s going to walk through that door and what they’re going to bring to the table creatively. It could be awful, or maybe it will be awesome. You really don’t know until you hear it. But maybe, we can experience something we have never heard before. Making new sounds is exiting. Its even more exciting when the song has never been recorded before and you realize that you are the catalyst for perhaps millions of listeners to hear something for the first time.
What’s the most difficult part about your job?
Being so awesome. just kidding. probably coming up with responses to interview questions. it can be so terrible sometimes.
How has the Cleveland music scene influenced you?
It’s been inspiring to be part of a community which has so much talent and strength. If LA is where your dreams go to die, Cleveland is where they come to be reborn. Anything you’re doing in NY or LA you can do in Cleveland for a little bit cheaper in Cleveland; and thanks to the internet, the world can see it.
What are some of the most memorable times that you’ve had at Bad Racket?
Some of the epic parties we had were probably some of the best times i do not remember much. Great Lakes Brewery used to get us kegs of beer and Tommy would spend hundreds on booze and wine. Fireworks on the roof fourth of July. Smoking tobacco pipes on the roof. Listening to new jams after late night sessions where something magic was captured on tape. Riding our bikes to the Happy Dog.
Has anyone in particular influenced you while working there?
Bill Beachy and Kathy Blackman/Simkoff have both taught me a thing or two about being successful in Cleveland as a business owner, but I wouldn’t consider myself close with either one. There’s a lot of folks (and not just music people) who have been doing what they do for years here in Cleveland with little to no recognition. Its those people who do something for 10 years with no end in site, just working day in day out to a relatively unknown goal, and under less than ideal circumstances, making it happen for Cleveland that are really inspiring.
What are some of your favorite musicians that have recorded in your studio?
All of them .
What do you think separates you from other recording studios?
Recording studios typically fall into one of two categories, slick corporate production centers financed by deep pockets and all the latest gear, and sort of working class vibey places. We are a weird hybrid of the two. On one hand, we don’t operate out of someone’s house or in a garage or storage unit somewhere. We’re a real studio suitable for almost any band or group imaginable, but on the other hand we offer a homey relaxed environment away from the bright lights and distractions from your day to day life, where you can concentrate on listening and making something you can really be proud of.
What is the process involved with recording a song from beginning to end?
Write. Practice. Record. Mix. Master. Repeat.
What advice would you have for people who want to pursue music?
Do what you want to do.. Expect to spend a lot of time perfecting your craft. Expect to work hard and make mistakes. Learn from those mistakes. Music is something that sounds really cool, but a lot of people don’t ever make much money doing.
What’s something you’ve learned about the industry (or anything else) while working here?
Its a balance between caring only about art and caring only about money. If you spend all day painting paintings, but never sell any of your paintings, you might not be a painter for very long. You have to charge something for your work if you are going to do this professionally. What that is is somewhat a matter of opinion. At first everyone will tell you your time is worth nothing. Then sometimes people don’t understand why it doesn’t cost more. There’s a huge link between the amount of money spent and the amount of value you perceive. “Well if it costs more it must be better” is the american spending mantra. The truth is there is value to all human expression. A 5 year old can draw a picture with a crayon and it can be worth more to someone than anything else. People will just promise you the world and just take your money. Look at all the for profit colleges out there. They actually have a legal obligation in some cases to maximize profits to benefit the shareholders on the backs of the next generation. We charge what we need to keep the studio alive and us alive operating it and more. By undercutting the top and sharing the rewards with our clients we aim to establish a branding and company that can grow and be an asset for the community.