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The Backdoor Men

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Clifton Beat

Inner Ring Conspiracy

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Recording at Handsome Studio

The Beatles
The Beatles have never recorded at Handsome Studio, but we'd sure
love to have them if they were available.

Handsome Studios is a project recording studio located in Bay Village, Ohio. Its proprietor, Paul Nickels, is a long-time Cleveland musician who has played in a number of original bands, including the Backdoor Men and its descendants, Bomber's Moon and Napoleon in Rags,. He currently drums for The Old Brown Shoe Revue.

Nickels, who served as archivist for the Backdoor Men and is also responsible for the Handsome website, was a tape collector and developed an interest in recording over the course of a number of years. The Backdoor Men had the great fortune of friendship with Mike Docy, an audio engineer who was part of the band's extended family and himself had a keen early interest in recording. Nickels used to enjoy watching him work with his two reel-to-reel four tracks, and Docy was also the very first person Nickels had ever seen who employed MIDI, virtual instruments, and other modern technologies as soon as he could get his hands on them.

Nickels began recording on a Tascam four-track cassette recorder about 20 years ago, graduated through several digital boxes including the Korg D888, and moved fully to computer-based recording about ten years ago.

Handsome Studio

Equipment & Methods

The heart of Handsome Studios is the combination of a 2015 era 27-inch I-Mac and a Focusrite Clarett 8Pre audio interface. These two pieces of excellent technology are augmented by a strong collection of plug-ins to shape and master the raw recordings.  The studio's mic cabinet includes a great selection of dynamic and condenser microphones. The studio has two drum kits: A large and very powerful DW drum kit with Zildjian and Paiste cymbals as well as a smaller Gretch Catalina Club kit.  There are two Fender amplifiers available - a Fender Champ and a Fender Twin Reverb. We tend to DI electric bass, but also have a bass amplifier available.

We use the "Glyn Johns" method for recording drums, which features four mics - two condensers, one directly above the snare and one outboard of the floor tom - along with dynamic mics on the snare and kick. You've heard the Glyn Johns method on records he recorded for, among others, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and the Eagles. Not a bad cohort!! Highly effective - it records the kit as a single musical instrument rather than a series of individual instruments. The drums breathe and sound very natural. Listen to Glyn Johns himself explain the technique to students at Cleveland's Tri-C recording program here.

Loud guitars CAN be played - we have an isolation room for guitar amps, making for easier recording and overdubs.

Our Digital Audio Workstation of choice is Reaper. We like it because it's incredibly powerful, yet because it's an open source coded program made by a bunch of music freaks, it's just 60 bucks and includes continuous updates in that price. Individuals who are new to recording when they come to Handsome often purchase the program for themselves. In addition to recording artists, we try to educate interested recording newbies and encourage them to learn to learn to record themselves. We of course recommend Reaper.

Our Specialty

Handsome Studio is, essentially, a project studio for singer-songwriters, or a great place for a band making its first recordings. It exists primarily to serve the artist who wants to get his, her, or their stuff down on tape.

We're not really a "live" studio in the sense that we have a big "live" room with lots of dividers and maybe even a separate drum room, with a guy staring at you through a glass window. (Not that we'd mind that setup!) We're in a basement - a large, finished, very clean, comfortable basement with good acoustics, but a basement nonetheless.  Bands in more advanced stages of recording would likely look for a larger studio, and a guy like Jim Stewart at Jim Stewart Recording in downtown Cleveland.

A typical Handsome client will start out recording a demo - perhaps just a guitar and a vocal. We'll build on that, layer-cake style, adding additional guitars, bass, keys, and drums. With instruments nailed, we'll do final vocals and harmonies. We can, however, record a basic rhythm section - say, rhythm guitar, bass and drums - live.

Our Range of Services

Handsome Studio can handle your music from the demo phase right through to mastering. We record, mix, and master. This does not mean that we HAVE to do all of it for you - you can mix your own tracks or have someone else mix them, and it's never bad to have a fresh set of ears to do your mastering (we recommend Cauliflower Audio - they're the best in Greater Cleveland). But for the novice, we are prepared to handle the entire project from the first demo to the day we hand you your CD.''

Handsome Chief Engineer Paul Nickels is also an active local drummer, should you need someone to add drum tracks. We do NOT use artificial drums in the studio - just not interested. Other musicians are also available to add to your tracks if needed.

How Much Does Handsome Studio Charge?

Handsome Studio is priced right, particularly for the beginning artist. We don't necessarily have an hourly fee; our preference is to work with a client's budget. If that sounds amorphous, it is; purposefully so. If you've got $100 to spend, we can probably knock out a couple songs for you - especially if we're taken with your material! Nothing brings a bigger smile to our face than to discover fresh young songwriting talent. So don't let cost prevent you from checking us out. We'll work with you to accomplish your goals. In fact, the first guitar-and-vocal demo recording is on us. That gives us a chance to check each other out and see if the situation is right. 

Handsome retains NO proprietary rights over your recordings - we'll not only deliver you your finished master CD; we'll give you your track files on data DVDs. Interested? Shoot an email to Paul Nickels at paul @ handsomeproductions.com (no spaces - we do that just to prevent spam).

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