Published Sep 24, 2012Nestled in the back of a series of studio loft spaces, you'd be hard pressed to find a better location for Candle Studios. Minutes from busy Bloor West, the area is flanked by industrial land to the south and train tracks to the east. Then there's the axe-throwing league across the alley. "The guy that owns the axe throwing league, his band recorded here," says producer Leon Taheny, who along with Josh Korody co-owns the Toronto studio. "I'm waiting for that session where someone goes, 'Fuuucckk! Okay, let's go throw some axes, let off a little steam.'"
Although Candle has only been in business for a little over six months, it's already seen the likes of Ohbijou's Jamie Bunton, Tokyo Police Club and Fucked Up producer Jon Drew and the Fembots' Dave McKinnon come through. It's a testament not just to the space Taheny (who made his name recording Final Fantasy's first two albums), and Korody (a member of Elk and Beliefs) created, but to the circle of friends they've built around them. "I was extremely lucky," says Taheny. "Right when I first started recording to not only have Owen Pallett as my first thing, but all these other great musicians that were my close friends."
Taheny, now 29, emigrated with his parents from Ireland to Toronto in 1988. Both his mother and his father were musicians ― dad could play "anything with strings" while his mom could play "all the winds stuff." He attended Cawthra Park in Mississauga, a school for the arts where he fell in with a group five years his senior that would eventually expand to include Pallett and future Death From Above 1979 producer and MSTRKRFT member Al-P, with whom Taheny played in an early version of Girlsareshort.
At the same time, both he and his father, who had his own studio in Ireland shortly before they left, discovered early digital recording software like Nuendo and Impulse Tracker. "I was really into computers and programming," he says. "It was that mix of music and technology."
His interest piqued, Taheny started hanging out with Al-P at Chemical Sound, helping out on records like the Sick Lipstick's Sting, Sting, Sting and Death From Above 1979's You're A Woman, I'm a Machine. He also helped build MSTRKFT Studio after DFA 1979 blew up. But his big break came when Pallett approached him at a party about recording his debut. "The next day, I woke up and thought, 'I've never recorded anyone else before.'" Undeterred, he called his dad. "His advice was get him to play the violin and move your ear around until it sounds the best and put a mic right there," he says. "That's basically how I did that entire record and that's what I do every time someone comes in."
Taheny operated out of rented studios for a number of years, knocking out records by Ohbijou and the Wooden Sky. Then his friend Paul Shepherd bought a house and, in lieu of finding a tenant to help pay the mortgage, offered Taheny the garage. The space, less than one-third the size of his current studio served him well for four-and-a-half years, with Korody occasionally renting it out in the final 12 months.
When the lease came up, Taheny started looking for new digs. "At first I was looking at spaces with Owen Pallett. The two of us were going to do this partnership thing." They found the room that's now Candle, but both parties realized that Pallett wouldn't be around enough to make such an endeavour worthwhile. Two days later, Taheny and Korody were signing papers together, naming their new business after a song by their favourite band, Sonic Youth.
They spent two months renovating, converting the downstairs kitchen into a free-floating guitar and vocal room, with plans to add a second room on the main floor. Instruments fill the rest of the downstairs (there's even an effects pedal sitting on top of the toilet), including a piano that's on long term loan from a friend, and a Wurlitzer Taheny and Korody found in the back of Toronto music store Paul's Boutique. The upstairs loft now serves as the booth, and houses his Mac, where he mixes using ProTools, perched on top of a Studer console that once belonged to Andy Magoffin at the House of Miracles.
Asked whether he thinks bands seek him out for a particular sound, Taheny says that's something he's been thinking about a lot lately. "In the last year I've been more consciousness of maintaining my own kind of sound," he says, "and I think it has this lushness. A lot of engineers are really concerned that it all looks good on paper, I actually prefer to have… a rub and a blend happening. You can't always hear tons of clarity in what I mix. It's how you get that lushness."