Recording studios are just as important to the lifeblood of music as the music venues, the instruments and the musicians themselves. Without the studio, there would be no avenue for the artist to put their work on a sonic canvas. There are still other ways to record music, but outside of the studio it definitely won’t sound as good and that’s a fact. Based out of West Greenwich on 200 Mishnock Road, Lakewest Recording has been a haven for songs to be recorded and sounding their best since 1989. Owner and operator Jack Gauthier has been behind the board for numerous local and national acts since the recording studio’s inception.
Gauthier and I had a talk about how he got into his craft, the serendipitous way the studio came to be, his favorite recording experiences and what he’s been up to lately at Lakewest.
Rob Duguay: How did you get into recording, producing and engineering music? Did you go to school for it, did someone teach you or did you teach yourself?
Jack Gauthier: I’ve always loved music, but when I was growing up I certainly never thought I could make a living at it. What I did was that I always had it in the back of my mind. I got sidetracked by going to school for health education and working as a social worker as well as teaching, so I’d done a lot of things in the past. What it came down to was I got to a certain point in my mid-20s, I thought about what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life and I wanted to pursue music. When I started out in the early ‘80s, I had already spent six years in college as I was getting my degree and I was like “Do I really want to go back to school for this?”.
I knew that I was going to have to apprentice anyways so that’s basically what I did for a couple years. I apprenticed under Steve Rizzo down at Stable Sound in Portsmouth during the mid-80s, I worked with him as well as working other jobs at the time. I was practicing down there for a couple years and then I teached myself how to use one of the first home four-tracks that came out during the early ‘80s. Just by doing it is what it came down to as far as getting started in it.
RD: When you started building the studio, did you have a specific vision going into it for the dynamics and acoustics or did it all come together as the building process went along?
JG: It’s interesting, you know. Like anything, some things are just serendipitous with how they happen. After apprenticing for a few years with Steve and then working at a studio in Wakefield for a year that isn’t around anymore that was called Making Waves Studio, I started to build my own clientele and I figured that I would put something up. I guess the first thought that came to mind was to find a strip mall somewhere to just get started there. Then somebody told me about a studio they weren’t even sure was still running in West Greenwich and Coventry, they gave me the name while saying they possibly had some equipment I could buy.
I figured it would be worth taking a look and the long & short of it is that I walked into this studio, it wasn’t running at that point but it did have a run under the name Pyramid Sound. When I walked into the room it was completely done and it was designed by Phil Greene, who was a legendary recording engineer & producer at Normandy Sound, back in the early ‘80s. After talking to the owner of the property, we got friendly enough to where he was down to consider me renting the place and that’s basically how it started. I was very fortunate because the grooves, although they needed some updating, were completely built and they were built well.
Non-parallel walls, tongue and groove wood, the whole bit with high ceilings. That was a great run of luck actually.
RD: It sounds like it and it sounds like it worked out for the best, that’s great. When it comes to recording technology, digital has a big presence but people are still using analog gear from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and even earlier than then. What do you think has grown the most with that over the past three decades since you started running Lakewest? Do you think analog and digital can co-exist?
JG: Of course, growing up with analog, vinyl and that technology certainly has that richness of sound that I’m always going for. Even when I work in the digital realm, basically I’m trying to re-create what were the original sounds that come from analog and vinyl recordings. That’s kind of how I approach digital but I still have a two inch twenty four track machine that I use for certain projects for basic tracking. I do a combination of the analog recording and then I transfer it to Pro Tools, that’s where we do a lot of overdubs and certainly the editing & mixing capabilities within that program is a great advancement. Quite honestly, it all comes in cycles with the analog recording.
I have amps from years ago that at one point were considered old and now they’re of high value now. The same goes for the two inch tracking, that’s back and more people have been asking me about it whereas twenty years ago it wasn’t a big deal.
RD: You’ve produced numerous bands and musicians at Lakewest including The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Dispatch, Barefoot Truth, Annie and The Beekeepers, The Low Anthem and many others. What would you say are your favorite recording sessions you’ve ever had at the studio?
JG: Honestly, that is difficult to say. Certainly there’s been a plethora of recordings from working with Duke Robillard over the years. Through his recordings I’ve been able to work with people like John Hammond and Jay McShann and I was fortunate enough to be part of a couple Grammy nominations. It’s opened up opportunities for me to work with bands from Latvia, Finland and other parts of Europe. A couple years ago we worked on a record that just came out due to delays caused by the pandemic from a guy from England named Todd Sharpville, so those have all been great recordings.
Of course, those years working with Dispatch and their recordings was a great door opener for not only working with them, one of their records even went gold, but the people that followed. I’ve worked with many bands that are fans of them and they wanted to record at the same place.
RD: You kind of alluded to it with some projects you’ve been working on, but what are some releases you have coming out in the near future through LakeWest?
JG: I’m also in a band with my son Jesse under the name The Jesse Liam Band, we’ve been playing together for the last 15 years and we have six albums out. We just put out the digital release of a single called “Elite” and the other people I’ve been working with recently is Al Basile, we just finished the 10th album I’ve done with him through the years and it’s a blues album. There’s Michael Corey, I’ve actually been working on a recording with him these days and he’s a singer-songwriter. I’ve been working with Jeffrey Dilorio on his album and there’s Bradley Schmidt who’s a musician based out of the University Of Rhode Island and I’m starting a second album with him this month. There’s some other projects in the works, but that’s what I can think of off the top of my head.
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