Reminder to all our UK friends: BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME will have its World Premiere on October 20th & 21st at the BFI London Film Festival! Tickets are on sale now. Filmmakers Drew DeNicola, Danielle McCarthy, Olivia Mori and the legendary John Fry will all be in attendance. Hope to see some of you there! And there’s more festival news to come soon so stay tuned!
Ardent Studios is in the news again! This time, we’re on the cover of the most recent ProSoundNews issue, which was distributed heavily at this year’s InfoComm Convention in Las Vegas. The spot highlights our new ISDN capabilities, which you can read more about here in Mix Magazine.
With everyone from the Ardent camp back home and the dust settling, let’s take a look back at all things Big Star at SXSW.
From the press:
“…with the presentation of a Big Star documentary and a symphonic concert celebrating the band’s music. Playing opposite much-anticipated festival sets by Bruce Springsteen, and various other big names, the Big Star event managed to pack the city’s Paramount Theatre, and generate a rare buzz amid the din and clatter of this massive industry gathering.
“…Such labyrinthine twists provide the ballast for “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.” The 93-minute documentary, by New York filmmakers Drew DeNicola, Olivia Mori, and Danielle McCarthy, was screened as a “work in-progress” version at the Paramount. Still, the film was a powerfully evocative piece, eliciting a standing ovation at its conclusion.”
“Ambitious in scope, Nothing Can Hurt Me digs into deeper contexts than the average music doc, encompassing Chilton’s pre-Big Star musical pedigree as the face and voice of the Box Tops; the mentoring influence of engineer-producers John Fry and Jim Dickinson; the clubhouse atmosphere at Fry’s Ardent Studios; the band’s connection to photographer William Eggleston and other artists; Ardent’s historic 1973 promotional stunt, the first-and-last Annual National Association of Rock Writers Convention; the decline of Big Star’s would-be distributor, Stax Records; the post-Big Star solo careers; and a busy culture of reissues, reunions, and homages.”
“The movie is brilliant—a boon to Big Star fans, as well as an indispensible primer for anyone who ever has wondered what artists such as the dB’s, R.E.M., Matthew Sweet, the Bangles, the Replacements, Teenage Fanclub, This Mortal Coil, the Posies and literally thousands of others found so inspiring.
“The second half of Big Star Tribute Night was just as fulfilling as the band’s last surviving member, drummer Jody Stephens, and long-time fans Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter led a large ensemble complete with Mellotron, horns, string section and a parade of guest vocalists through a rendition of Big Star Third/Sister Lovers in all of its soul-wrenching sloppiness and haphazard perfection.
“The procession of cameos included some big names—R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, the Replacements’ Tommy Stinson, Wilco’s Pat Sansone, M. Ward and of course Posies and latter-day Big Star members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer—but just as valuable were the contributions of many younger and lesser-known musicians who’ve passed through Stamey’s recording studio in Chapel Hill, N.C. All of them clearly loved the album and poured all they had into songs beloved by fans who never thought they’d get to hear them live: the rousing ‘O, Dana’ and the despondent ‘Holocaust,’ the frightening ‘Kangaroo’ and the furious ‘Kizza Me,’ all building up to a ‘We Are the World’ sing-along on the perfect tune to stand as the band’s epitaph, ‘Thank You Friends.’”
Ardent is proud to announce that we are featured on the cover of this month’s Mix Magazine! The article, which highlights our 45th Anniversary and the renovations to Studio C, can be viewed here.
From the article (written by Tom Kenny):
Wow—45 years and counting. That’s not easy to do in any industry, let alone one that is dependent on the forces of technological change and the whims of a record-buying public. But Ardent Studios, under the leadership of John Fry and a dedicated, loyal team of creatives, has weathered the ups and downs, branched into new markets over the years, added and dropped studio services, and continually kept an eye on the future. To commemorate its 45th anniversary this month, Ardent has undergone a complete acoustical makeover of its flagship Studio C and dropped in an SSL Duality console.
The history of Ardent Studios has been written before—Fry in his garage in 1966, the move to National and then Madison Avenues; the association with Stax, Al Green, Sam and Dave, Big Star, ZZ Top, R.E.M., Steve Earle, Huey Lewis and a slew of local talent—so we won’t go into that here, except to note that the past does inform the future, and the commitment to technical and creative excellence has never wavered. If you talk to the people in and around Ardent, that’s attributed to Fry; if you talk to Fry, that’s attributed to the people he surrounds himself with.
“Ardent is unique because of one individual, and that’s John Fry,” says Jody Stephens, Big Star drummer and studio manager at Ardent since 1987. “He’s the captain, and he fosters that spirit of innovation and creativity. Look at some of the talent that has called Ardent home—Jim Dickinson, Terry Manning, John Hampton, Joe Hardy. All have helped keep the doors open because John has always emphasized that individuals come first. But then he provides the tools, too, and brings in someone like Chris Jackson, a chief engineer that we are just lucky to have. He’s amazing. But it starts with John Fry.”
Then you talk to Fry, and he humbly states how pleased he is to just have been a part of “all things Memphis, to have so many good friends and clients be a part of our lives for these 45 years. From around the world and from right down the street.”
There are any number of reasons why some large commercial studios survive and others do not. For Ardent, besides the obvious assemblage of Talent and Tools, the team has always been about the music and offering services that can launch or boost a career.
“We’ve always been involved in artist development,” Fry says. “We’ve always had a production company, a record label or both. We’ve always had publishing interests. So we’ve always been more than a fee-for-service studio, and I think those aspects of our business cause talent to gravitate to the facility. Jody Stephens has spent a lot of time developing relationships in the A&R and label world, music supervisors, too—people who can help with exposure for local artists and music coming out of the area.”
Those local artists have included Big Star, most notably, but in later years John Kilzer, Tora Tora, 36 Mafia (an Oscar!), Skillet, Star & Micey and many others. It extends to the visual arts, where after a few years’ hiatus, a film department has reopened, headed by returning Memphian Jonathan Pekar, son of Ron Pekar, who designed the neon star for the first Big Star album cover.
KEEPING IT FRESH
Still, Fry, Stephens and Jackson realized that to stay a player in today’s changing production market they had to stay current with technology. A couple of years ago, they started thinking about the aging Neve V Series in Studio C. Fine for tracking, couldn’t mix on it, and it was proving a maintenance headache. “Everybody liked the sound of it, but it was getting problematic,” Stephens confesses. “It was getting long in the tooth,” adds Fry. They decided to put in an SSL Duality and tear back the walls to ready the room for 5.1.
“We wanted to retain superior analog performance,” Fry says, “and we liked the design features that give it high reliability. They removed most of the electrolytic capacitors, and with digital control, they’ve removed over 1,000 switches, both of which can be a maintenance headache. The other thing is it speeds up your workflow by enabling you to control your DAW from the worksurface. It’s really efficient.”
“The interface with Pro Tools is definitely a plus,” adds Stephens. “But the selections of mic pre’s and EQs is excellent. And you can track and mix on it! Imagine that!”
Chris Jackson, chief technical engineer, supervised much of the deconstruction and reconstruction of the control room, working hand-in-hand with engineer Curry Weber. “For the past six years, I’ve been looking at Studio C and trying to figure out what to do about the low end,” Jackson says. “The measurements confirmed our issues at some very specific frequencies. So when this opportunity came up, we went back into the walls, starting with the back wall. We put in some bass traps on resonating panels, tuned to those frequencies, and then put in this dense mineral wool, up to 18 inches thick in some points. Then we added back a tiny bit of RPG diffusion right behind the mix position; it had been there before, and it works. Then we also added some traps on the side walls so that we now have a sweet stereo image that also works great for 5.1 work.”
Memphis is truly a special place. I’m often reminded by my friend Rick Clark, producer, musicologist and semi-regular contributor to Mix. It’s a sentiment echoed by Fry and Stephens. While they are quick to point out that their success is not unique to a geography, they do exhibit a fondness for their hometown and its rich musical legacy. The birthplace of rock ’n’ roll…does it get any bigger than that? Beale Street, the Peabody, the pawnshops. Stephens recalls the Battle of the Bands at the Orpheum, George Klein and his band at The Place, Goldsmiths and the rise of Stax. He walked into record at Ardent for the first time in 1969 and says he felt like an imposter.
But being part of a community is being a part of the community. And Ardent has always been conscious of being a good neighbor, whether it’s the current run of PSAs for health care, hosting a Grammy GPS event on a Road Map for the Music Business or putting on “16 Over 48,” a two-day recording marathon with 16 local bands in three-hour studio slots (produced by Mike Wilson). “This is a tight community,” Stephens says. “It’s a real, living music community, and we’re real happy to be a part of that.”
They are sure doing something right down there on Madison Avenue in Memphis, and they show no signs of slowing down. “In many ways we’ve come full circle,” Fry says. “In the mid-’60s, when we started, independent labels and independent artists were so important. Then it became a business. But we’ve seen a decline in the dominance of the majors and a new ascendancy in the role of the independent.
“Not everybody needs a studio environment for everything they do, but some want to do ensemble playing and need the services of a studio. Others are missing the sense of community and the kind of assistance they get from a staff and the interaction they get with other musicians by being in a studio environment. We’ve been having fun here for 45 years, so we’re going to keep on with it!”
Rock for Love 5, the fifth-annual benefit concert for the Church Health Center, is set for Aug. 18-21 at the Hi-Tone, 1913 Poplar Ave. There will also be a free early evening party from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 19 at Goner Records, 2152 Young Ave. And a free day party from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20 at Shangri-La Records, 1916 Madison Ave.
Since its founding in 2007, Rock for Love has been produced in partnership with Makeshift Music as a way to raise money for the Center and celebrate the diversity of Memphis music with performances by some of the city’s best bands and artists.
Thursday, Aug. 18 at the Hi Tone
$5. 9 p.m. 18+
Star & Micey, the Near Reaches, Brian Hartley Industries, Grace Askew, DJ Lady Problems
(emcee: Billie Worley)
Friday, Aug. 19 at Goner Records Gazebo
FREE. 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. All-ages.
Richard James and the Special Riders, Sharp Balloons
(emcee: Jeff Hulett)
Friday, Aug. 19 at the Hi Tone
$10. 9 p.m. 18+
Pezz, the Angel Sluts, Glorie, Cities Aviv, Arma Secreta, DJ Lady Problems
(emcee: Dr. Harold Toboggans)
Saturday, Aug. 20 at Shangri-La Records– Rock for Love 5 Day Party
FREE. Noon to 5 p.m. All-ages.
Bake Sale, the Wuvbirds, the Perfect Vessels, Silver Seeds
(emcee: J.D. Reager)
Saturday, Aug. 20 at the Hi Tone.
$10. 9 p.m. 18+
Oracle and the Mountain, the Subteens, the Burning Sands, Kruxe, Tiger High
(emcees: Chris Vernon and Gary Parrish)
Sunday, Aug. 21 at the Hi Tone
$10. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The Bo-Keys w/ Wayne Jackson, John Kilzer, Susan Marshall
(emcee: Marvin Stockwell)
Tickets are available online at HiToneMemphis.com or at the door, if available. Shangri-La will donate 20 percent of store sales from the day party to the Church Health Center, and donations will be accepted.
Edit: After reviewing the awesome videos that we’ve received so far, we’ve decided to extend the contest for another 6 weeks! Videos are now due on or before November 15th at 11:59 PM. Please see the other date/time changes in bold below.
Ardent Studios is very excited to announce our first ever video submission contest!!!! Enter the competition for your chance to win 2 whole days in our very brand new, completely fantastic and state-of-the-art (not to toot our own horn) Studio C!
Prize: Submit a video for the chance to be one of the first bands to record in Ardent’s newly renovated Studio C – with free studio time! Studio C is being completely remodeled, and now features a state-of-the-art Duality console from Solid State Logic.
Submission Guidelines: Submit a video of 60 seconds or less describing your band’s music and why Ardent and the newly renovated Studio C are the perfect place for you to record. We’ll narrow the entries down to the top 5 based on:
1) Music – How you sound! We want the best of the best to win this studio time, so prove it to us. Showcase what makes you special!
2) Desire and reason to record in the new Studio C – Tell us why you think you deserve to be one of the first people to record in the new Studio C. Tell us how much you want it, and why!
3) Creativity – Get goofy, get serious, get artsy fartsy.. anything goes (…almost anything…), but show us how creative you can be!
The Small Print: Here lie the gory details.
- Please upload your video (60 seconds or less) to YouTube, and then email the link to Booking Manager Daniel Russo at firstname.lastname@example.org. The subject of the email should be “Studio C Video Submission Contest.”
- Entries must be submitted no later than November 15th, 2011 at 11:59 PM.
- Entries with profanity or any other potentially offensive remarks/symbols will be disqualified. Come on now, this is a family business!
- We’ll post the top 5 finalists to our website/facebook/twitter on November 31, 2011, at which point we will notify the finalists. At this stage, the public voting will begin.
- Public voting will end on December 15, 2011 and the winner will be contacted within 48 hours of the end of the voting period.
- The winning band will receive two 10-hour days of studio time in the new Studio C at Ardent Studios. An engineer will be provided as well. The session must take place by the end of March 2011, and must be used a full day at a time.
The Memphis Music Foundation in connection with Launch Memphis is proud to present an exciting new city-wide collaborative project - Memphis Music Launch. Presented by Archer Malmo, this innovative experiment will be the first ever of its kind, and will bring together songwriters, singers, rappers, musicians, engineers, producers, marketing representatives, graphic designers and volunteer entertainment attorneys, among others, whose only previous connection might have been sharing an area code.
Imagine it: an intensely focused weekend during which you and a team of creative-minded individuals work together around the clock to take a music concept from hair-brained idea to a full-fledged single — written, performed, and recorded — in just 48 hours. On Friday, April 8, all Memphis Music Launch participants will gather at the Emerge Memphis building before breaking into small groups to begin work on the top ideas selected by a group vote at the pre-event pitch day (Saturday, April 2nd). 48 hours later, the songs must be completely written and a “first draft” recording made.
Over the course of the 90 days following the weekend of April 8-10, groups will work to create polished recordings in four of the top studios in Memphis (Ardent Studios, Archer’s Music + Arts Studio, Young Avenue Sound, and The Grove), leading up to a July showcase with a ton of prizes awarded based on votes from the audience and a panel of judges. Among the prizes are a pressing and distribution deal with Audiographics Masterworks and Select-O-Hits, a photo shoot by Joey Miller, logo and branding assistance from SACHË, designed merchandise from Bluff City Sports, a paid performance at the Peabody Rooftop Party booked by REG, and a bonus cash prize.
The event will literally be an around-the-clock undertaking, with food and drinks provided throughout the Memphis Music Launch weekend by the Beale Street Merchants Association. Other event sponsors making this undertaking possible are Independent Bank, Center City Commission, Burch, Porter, and Johnson PLLC, Downtowner, and Memphis Flyer.
Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to launch that song, band, or big music idea you’ve wanted to release but lacked the time or resources to do so. Early bird tickets are discounted and will be available through April 2, so reserve yours today and spread the word.
For detailed answers to questions you may have, visit www.memphismeansmusic.com/MML
If you have additional questions, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Help us celebrate Record Store Day as we discuss the resurgence of vinyl in today’s marketplace. Topics that will be covered include recording, mixing, and mastering for vinyl as well as using vinyl as a medium to push marketing. Our expert panelists will go through the production process from mastering to self-marketing and selling at the indie retail level.
SUBMIT YOUR VINYL RECORD FOR THE LISTENING SESSION WHEN YOU REGISTER!
Panelists to include:
John Fry – vinyl cutter, owner and founder at Ardent Studios
Larry Nix – mastering engineer and vinyl cutter at L. Nix Mastering
Scott Hull – mastering engineer and vinyl cutter at Masterdisk NYC
Eric Astor – vinyl manufacturing and distribution at Furnace Manufacturing
Jeff Powell – independent producer/engineer and vinyl cutter at Take Out Vinyl
Recording Academy Members: Complimentary admission
SPACE IS LIMITED. PLEASE RSVP HERE:
Wednesday, February 16th
Downtown Marriott in Memphis, TN
Doors at 7 PM
$15 wristbands for 2nd floor shows on sale at Bluff City Coffee, Java Cabana, or online at www.romanceofloneliness.com/folkalliance
Paul Thorn, Over the Rhine, Amy LeVere, Abigail Washburn, Bo-Keys, and more.
More info at
Thursday, February 17th – Saturday, February 19th
Downtown Crown Plaza
Doors at 8 PM (Donations accepted)
Dr. Burt, Calvin Cok, Del Grace & More
More information at www.folk.org
Huey Lewis & The News w/ The City Champs @ Minglewood Hall
Thursday Jan 27, 2011 8:00 PM
Bring your Minglewood Hall Huey Lewis and the News concert ticket stub to the Stax Museum Jan 27th through July 31st and receive:
• Two for one admission to the Stax Museum
• $20 autographed Huey Lewis and the News “Soulsville” CD for $15 while supply lasts
• Special price on autographed Steve Roberts photo of Huey Lewis (more details to come)
Huey Lewis and The News have been defying the rock oddsmakers for three decades. 2009 marked the group’s 30th anniversary. Formed from two rival Bay Area bands in 1979, their contagious brand of straight-ahead rock n’ roll has outlasted countless trends, selling over 20 million albums worldwide in the process. Huey Lewis & The News have carried the banner as the quintessential American rock band, endearing them to millions of fans and earning them the right to mark their place on the pop history map.
These Grammy Award winners have written and performed such classic Top Ten Hits as “Heart of Rock & Roll”, “Stuck With You”, “I Want A New Drug”, “If This Is It”, “Hip To Be Square” and “Workin’ For A Livin’”. The group also wrote and performed “The Power of Love” and “Back in Time” for the hit film Back To The Future. “The Power of Love”, which was nominated for an Academy Award, went all the way to #1 on Billboard’s singles chart.
Huey Lewis and The News have released their first album in nine years on W.O.W. Records titled Soulsville. Recorded at historic Ardent Studios in Memphis, the album features 14 classic songs from the vault of Stax Records. The CD pays tribute to the rich Stax legacy of the 1960’s & 70’s. The band, joined by their long time horn section, capture the energy and excitement of this important era.
As great a recording career as the band has had, it’s their live performances that remain the stuff of legend. They have toured worldwide continuously for more than 30 years. Huey Lewis & The News incorporate a variety of musical influences, including R&B and soul, to create their own unique sound. One of the highlights of their show is their a cappella rendition of early rock n’ roll classics such as “Sixty Minute Man”, “Under The Boardwalk” and “It’s Alright.”