Q & A: Don Fury is master at producing ‘real’ sound in studio
While Don Fury may be a newcomer to the Capital Region’s music scene, he’s certainly not new to the recording business.
Fury’s producing and recording résumé reads like a who’s who of the New York City and, indeed, national punk rock scenes — Agnostic Front, Blanks 77, Civ, Helmet, Madball, Sick of it All and many more have recorded albums at his many studios in the Manhattan and Brooklyn areas since the 1980s, back when hard-core punk was in its embryonic stages.
In 2008, Fury opened Don Fury Studio in Troy — the first studio where he has actually owned the building. His hybrid digital and analog environment, which still utilizes ADAT recording technology instead of computer programs such as ProTools, is sought after by bands looking for a more “real” sound. Most recently, Fury has worked with local band Aficionado on their debut EP “When it Comes to Creation,” which helped land the band a contract with No Sleep Records.
In addition to recording full bands, Fury also masters albums. His latest venture is live two-track recording, which he only offers to small bands featuring drums, bass, one guitarist and one vocalist. More information on recording rates can be found at www.donfury.com.
Q: How did you end up in Troy after spending most of your career in New York City?
A: I was doing commercial leases down in Manhattan and Brooklyn for most of my career, and I got tired of being under the thumb of another owner of the building, deciding whether I could stay or go or how much I had to pay next year because there was no limit. And New York was getting very, very expensive, and indie music doesn’t make any more money for me year to year. So it just got to be kind of a problem.
So I started looking around, and in 2007 I saw this building, and it had a 14-foot ceiling. And I was like, holy crap. . . . It was an empty idea, a completely blank slate. Pretty much the place that you’re looking at, I designed and built alone, by myself.
So I went through the whole process, went to the town elders, and went in front of the planning board, the zoning board, and they asked me what the heck I was doing in Troy. They were kind of thrilled that I was coming up, which I thought was nice, and they were very helpful. And then we put this together, and I built the space in 2007 and 2008, and we opened in November of 2008.
Q: What was your first studio?
A: The first, well the first studio was a rehearsal studio, way back in the day, on 17th Street. My second client was Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and they basically took up residence in the studio four afternoons a week. It was quite an experience, because they were at the height of their game. We were a block and a half from Max’s Kansas City on 17th Street, and I met a lot of very cool bands at that moment in time. We had James White [Chance] in there. . . . The Bush Tetras began their band in my studio.
Q: When and how did you first become interested in recording and owning your own recording studio?
A: I moved down to Little Italy, and that was at 18 Spring St. Yeah, in Manhattan. Once I had gotten into the idea of having a studio, the idea of having a recording studio was a really interesting idea to me. The concept was, I wanted a little studio like Sun Studio down in Memphis, something that would cater to what was beginning to happen in New York City, because I saw it all around me. I was part of it, I was playing at that time, and I really wanted to have that.
I didn’t really have particularly the means to make it happen, but I knew if I just sort of went and did it that something good might happen.
And I had a base of rehearsal clients. They followed me downtown, which was nice, and then eventually — probably about a year into the studio on 18 Spring St. — we switched over into a recording environment. And right after that was when the hard-core scene started in New York, and I got involved with that from day one, basically.
Q: You’re one of the few studios in the area that doesn’t use Pro-Tools or some other computer-based recording software. Why is that?
A: People understand that the further you get into the machine, the less human it is. They get it, most musicians get it, and the type of music that I work with — for instance, if I was working with pop or maybe hip-hop or dance or anything like that, people would look at me like I was crazy, but I don’t.
I work with bands. I work with guitar players and drummers and singers, and they don’t want to sound like machines. They understand it right off the bat. We usually have that part of the conversation within the first 15 minutes of the band meeting, and everybody uniformly gets that idea — that they want to sound more human, that they want to sound more vital, that they want to sound more vivid, that they want to sound more real, and that they don’t want to sound fake. So they get that right away.
Q: How does working with hard-core and punk bands compare to some of the more complicated bands you’ve worked with, such as World Inferno Friendship Society or Albany’s own Aficionado?
A: There’s all kinds of thickness in music. When I first started, I got really well-known for doing very aggressive music, New York hard-core. To capture that music was something that other people didn’t know how to do at that time. It’s fast, it’s loud, it’s shouted, it’s distorted. How do you get this onto a record and capture that? And I had an affinity for it from the very beginning, so I understood how to capture those dynamics, and if you can capture the best hard-core in the world, then you’re pretty good at capturing dynamics, because it’s hard to get those dynamics.
So working with something completely different, like Aficionado or World Inferno Friendship Society, where the musical dynamic is just so thick, was just really a pleasure. It was like the flip side of a coin. You go from like one guitar, bass, drums and a screaming vocal, to like nine people playing everything all at once. It’s very interesting and very rewarding to be putting that together in a way that reads nice, reads well.
So that’s really why this studio is here. This studio is here so that people can make those things happen. They have the idea, they just need to make it happen. There’s lots of places where you can go and record whatever, your rehearsal, or get something that’s not 1,000 percent of what you wanted.
We want to get you 1,000 percent there. Not we, I, I want to get you 1,000 percent there. I say we because it’s always me and the band. I can’t produce without the band. I have to have the band. Some guys shut the band out of the studio, shut the band out of the control room, shut the band out of the mix. I can’t work like that.