Published May 22, 2007Of all the recording facilities hiding in residential houses in Guelph, Ontario, none is as much of a home as Pipe Street Studio. Fostered by folk artist James Gordon, Pipe Street is now a full-on family business, as his two young sons, Evan and Geordie, have translated their passion for making music into working together as a dynamic production duo. Raised on a steady diet of folk and rocknroll, with a recording studio for a playground, the Gordon boys self-taught ingenuity on multiple instruments is matched by their daring to try any idea that pops into their heads, both in the studio with customers, and on-stage in bands like the Barmitzvah Brothers and the Sad Clowns. And while it might not be readily apparent, their gung-ho outlook really stems from their old man.
When James Gordon first explored music engineering, he did so out of necessity, teaching himself to record his own songs to avoid expensive studios. As he collected more recording gear, other musicians took note and Gordon had a busy home studio on his hands.
"Ive produced a lot of albums now but I still dont really think of myself as an engineer more than a guy with ears for certain kinds of music, he explains. "Im in the same business as the customers that come here, so I understand what theyre trying to get and I have enough of a grasp of the technology that I can get it for them. After he and his wife moved their family to a corner house on Pipe Street ten years ago, Gordon still viewed studio work as a secondary pursuit to his own career, as an established, touring singer-songwriter. The converted coach house on his property became a favourite locale for folk artists though, and he understands why.
"Theres something about this building, he says, sitting in the control room. "Theres something thats very organic about it; its just this space that people seem to feel comfortable in.
Pipe Street was certainly inviting enough for Evan and Geordie Gordon who, at 25 and 20 years old respectively, are two of the weirdest, most extraordinary young men in Guelph. With little prodding from his father, a five-year-old Evan performed at one of the earliest Hillside Festivals, assembling a tin can drum kit and accompanying his dad. His younger brother Geordie insisted on violin lessons at six years old, after observing one of his fathers productions of a story by childrens author Robert Munsch.
While he influenced his boys musical interests, James was sensitive about cramping their style. Even if your dad is a guitar-slinging road warrior, no kids ever going to think hes a cool guy, right? "It was borderline when I was at a certain age and hanging out with all these metal dudes, Evan recalls. "I wasnt really swayed by that because all of my friends thought it was totally cool that there was a recording studio in the house. So I always felt pretty proud and that, for sure, my dad was cool.
"Maybe sometimes we wouldnt give our friends his record but we were happy to have a musician father, Geordie agrees.
With free reign to explore a vast array of instruments, the boys moved onto figuring out how to make records. It was Evan who found the process particularly fascinating.
"My dad had the first phase of the home studio and, when everyone else was four-tracking, I was on the next level, he recalls. "Before long, I was teaching my dad how to use things he was buying when I was 12 or 13. Producing came from making my own tracks after thinking and talking a lot about music. When someone comes in the studio, its sort of the same process.
Pipe Street is essentially computer-based now, recording with both Nuendo and Logic software. The two main rooms are small but the Gordons make them work well for solo artists and larger bands. Aside from tracking, Geordie maintains lots of used, vintage amps and instruments (discoveries made during a part-time job at unusual indie venue/retailer, the Family Thrift Store). "Im more of the bossy producer; I try to get these big ideas and jump in on it, Geordie says excitedly. "We both are like, Who wants to play that part we just thought of?
"Weve started working together in that sense and its more than producing, adds Evan. "Its like orchestrating and we get carried away. Besides two generations of expertise, theres a definite sense of play mingling within the pride of honest craftsmen at Pipe Street.
"I think its more the personnel than the facility, Evan concludes. "My dad works with a lot of folk artists and he knows how to direct them with their playing and is used to engineering those things. I have my style too and I think thats what we have to offer us.