By Jeffrey V. Smith
Stage Stop owner Heather Hatwan recently turned an unfortunate situation into the Peak to Peak’s latest fully-equipped, full-service recording studio. With the help of sound engineer Sean Harper, the venue now has an all-new array of live and studio sound equipment and is capable of doing multi-track live performance and studio recording.
According to Hatwan, she had to buy all new sound equipment when her previous sound guy pulled his out of the venue on short notice. “It is really kick ass and sounds amazing,” she said. “The way Sean hung the speakers and placed everything, the sound has improved 150 percent.”
Harper explained that because prices have come way down in recent years, it made sense to purchase digital, multi-track recording equipment as it is about the same as analog equipment that doesn’t do anything except run live performances. “That’s the way everything’s been moving in the music industry, so that’s what we got,” Harper said. “I figured, you might as well.”
Initially Harper thought they could just record a band’s performance and sell it back to them, which would reduce costs for the Stage Stop and the band gets a nice, multi-tracked recording—with up to 24 tracks—that they can mix or overdub onto and make an album to sell. “It’s a cool options to have, if you are a band,” he said. “We have a bunch of microphones, a bunch of out board gear, and we have a giant wooden room that’s empty all day long upstairs.”
After the Stage Stop got the gear, Harper realized they could record bands during the day with ease, and that they were siting in an “outstanding” wooden recording room. “It just so happens the [Stage Stop’s hayloft] is a big giant wooden room that a recording studio would kill for,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better than that. I know Grammy-award winners who would kill for a room like this.”
Harper has been interested in and working in recording studios since he was 18. He is also a former Universal Studios house musician with Shifty-Eyed Dog from Orlando, and still performs in bands on piano, saxophone and vocals. For many years he worked in several Florida studios alongside internationally known musicians like Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, Grammy-winning producers and engineers like Bruce Hensal [Eagles, Stevie Wonder, Boston, Aerosmith] and George Harris [Cheap Trick, Buddy Guy,
Brian Johnson of AC/DC] and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers including Rick Derringer and Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey of Parliament. “I learned a whole lot from those guys,” he said. “I’m not just some weekend warrior pushing record. I’ve made my entire adult life out of it.”
In 2010, after the economy took much of his income away in Florida, Harper moved to Gilpin County in Colorado. He does a lot of work from his home studio, which is easier to do these days thanks to technology and the internet. He’s scored a couple of films and occasionally plays out in a couple of different bands. Now, he’s working sound at the Stage Stop and is looking to book more bands into the Stage Stop’s new recording studio. “Recording is a funny thing. It’s not something bands playing at the bar level have much experience with,” Harper explained. He’s hoping once the word gets out about the services he can offer, at the prices he’s charging, that will change.
Normally, studio time is about $50 an hour or $400 for an eight-hour block and recording studios in Denver can be between $50-$80 an hour according to Harper. “I definitely want to do something cheaper than that,” he said.
Both Hatwan and Harper agree that the amazing recording space should not go to waste. “The space is there, and it should be utilized as often as possible in the winter,” Hatwan said.
For more information, contact Hatwan at the Stage Stop at 303-258-0649 or Harper at 303-618-4338. Visit http://www.stagestoprollinsville.com for more information about the venue and it’s line-up of live music.