At Home in the Studio with Skylar Adler

Skylar Adler, perhaps best known as the drummer for celebrated acts The Nico Blues and The Sound is Fine. Has quickly, yet somewhat quietly been making a name for himself as one of the go to engineers in a thriving local indie music scene. While I’ve come to know him through his former and present acts, as well as his contributions to The Tiny Giants Collective (R.I.P.) It wasn’t until a chance run in at a local Home Depot last year that we really had the opportunity to engage one another in any substantial way. In co-creating Document Fanzine. I felt the need to not only reach out and support the bands, but to do the same for the ones recording, releasing, documenting and supporting them. For myself, as well as those he’s worked with, Skylar embodies just that. Thanks Buddy. J.D.

James: Most of the recording engineers I come across are older guys who were musicians long before ever making it to the other end of the console. I’m pretty sure you’re the youngest one I know to have the kind of experience you do. Can you give me a little background on your time as a musician and what originally inspired you to get behind the console?

Skylar: I started out on electric guitar when I was 10 years old. Playing in bands took up most of my free time for the next decade and a half. Reed Adler (my older brother/The Nico Blues/The Sound is Fine), Eric Goldberg (TNB/NGHTCRWLRS/All Sensory Void), Dan Goldberg (TNB/ASV), and I used to drive to elementary school together. Reed and Eric are the reason I became obsessed with rock ‘n roll. They used to play Nirvana and Green Day and Oasis on our way to school every day.

I switched over to drums when Reed picked up a guitar and was better than me after a month, even though I’d been playing for a couple years. My interest in recording grew naturally since I was about 13. My parents bought me a shitty digital 8 track. I messed with that for a while. In high school, I convinced myself that I could figure out how to record my current band at the time. I fell down that rabbit hole fast. A decade later, I’m still working every day to learn as much as I can.

James: Have you had any proper training or degree in the field? Or has it been a “learn as you go” baptism?

Skylar: I spent 4 years at SUNY Purchase in the Studio Production program. At the end of one year, I handed in The Nico Blues’ Blame the Boredom, Blame the Basements. At the end of my senior year, I handed in Die Happy. It’s hilarious when what you are doing anyway in your free time fulfills some big “end of semester project”. I think Die Happy was my thesis haha… It was fucking great. Met some good friends there.

Skylar Ross Recording Control Room New

Despite those 4 years, everything I currently know about being a recording engineer is from making mistakes at one time or another. That’s really the only way to learn what works and what doesn’t.

James: How does your experience as a musician help you, if at all, as a an engineer?

Skylar:I think having a bunch of experience playing music and being in bands for most of my life plays a very big role in who I am as an engineer.

I really connect with the passion and life of the bands trying to get their music out there. I’ve had some less than great experiences recording in studios where the engineer absolutely did not give a shit. It’s ridiculous. I just feel honored to have the chance to do this at all. Personal experiences like that have really helped shape the way I interact with the bands I record.

James: Correct me if I’m wrong. (And I often am.) Aren’t you working with           Jungle City Studios? If so, how did the opportunity come about?

Skylar: I worked at Jungle City Studios for a year after I graduated from SUNY Purchase. Prior to Jungle City, I’d just been running my own studio. So, it was a great experience entering the (often bizarre) world of the Top 40 hip-hop and pop game. After a year there, I decided to shift my full focus into my own studio. Jungle City was awesome though. There were a lot of characters there.

James: What made you think and… in the end, decide to build a home studio?     Can you tell me about the building process?

Skylar: The studio has gone through many phases. When I first decided to invest in recording equipment, I purchased a very basic setup. We used to just have band practice where the studio is now. This early recording setup was intended to capture some live practices and new song ideas. But then it developed into me recording and mixing my band’s full length Tall Tales of Tiny Giants (that’s where the name “Tiny Giant” in the Tiny Giant Artist Collective came from) and recording other bands on the cheap.

Skylar Ross Recording Live Room

Early on, I decided to put most of the money I made recording right back into the studio. There have been a bunch of people who have helped me put up walls and doors and acoustic treatment over the years. I’ve spent a crazy amount of time reading and learning as much as I could about recording studio acoustics and equipment. I’ve just taken it one step at a time. About a year ago, we built a second wall and door between my live room and control room to help isolate the noise between the two rooms. We also upgraded all of our acoustic treatment to help balance out the frequency response of those two rooms. All this stuff was done to simply help achieve better quality recordings.

James: While studio time can be expensive. Recording equipment IS quite expensive. What do think are some of the benefits of owning compared to renting?

Skylar: Yeah. Recording equipment is stupidly expensive. I occasionally used to rent some crazy vintage tube microphones and rack gear. Just for a day or two. It’s interesting to hear how a $12,000 microphone from the 60’s performs. We thought Evan Campbell broke one of them once while recording some loud vocal parts at the end of The Nico Blues’ track Sinking or Standing. He almost had to flee the country. But to answer your question, when in the studio nearly every day, renting equipment would cost way, way more than purchasing does.

James: I can’t say, exactly, what I was expecting. But I was really impressed with what you’ve done. The place is very clean and professional looking. 

Skylar Ross Recording Desk Close

Skylar: Thank you so much!

James: What bands / musicians have you worked with thus far?

Skylar: A few include Morning…, Lake Effect, Adam and the Plants, Bloody Your Hands (ex: I Am The Heat), Johanna Samuels, All Sensory Void, La La Lush, Blue Chip Village (now known as Gone Quite Mad), Delicate Flowers, Dad Brother, Tory Anne Daines …

All The Nico Blues albums and The Sound is Fine EP too like I talked about above. Apart from engineering the drums (I played drums for those two bands), the rest was recorded in my studio.

There’re a handful of others, but that’s a pretty good chunk off the top of my head.

James: Is there something special you bring to the table or offer that sets you apart?

Skylar: Hmm. I just really, seriously enjoy working closely with musicians to create the best recordings possible. It’s just totally worth it to me to work insane hours if it will result in an output that is special to people. Even if it’s just the bands themselves.

Skylar Ross Recording Organ

The space I’ve set up here is meant to be completely unintimidating. I use much of the same equipment as the gigantic recording complexes, but I try my best to keep things very relaxed. That’s when the best shit happens.

At the end of the day, I just love seeing bands that feel inspired by and completely excited about the record they’ve created out of thin air and are about to release. That means the world to me.