Coming off a community meet upheld on Tuesday evening at The Chapel to discuss the dire situation of SF’s “dying” music scene…
I felt there was a sense nobody believes the scene is dead. (how could it be when there was a filled up chapel for a community discussion) However, nobody is going to fix any problems we have with this fractured scene other than us, musicians and music fans in SF. It was here where I got the opportunity to introduce myself to John Vanderslice.
(Disclosure…I don’t know much of anything about big-time recording studios. I’ve never really nerded out about where things were recorded. Growing up in Wyoming/Rocky Mountain region, the idea of a studio was they were meant for “big bands”. We always made music at home with what we had and seemed to do fine. The ONLY exception of studios I had ever heard about while living in the middle of nowhere was from my musical Yoda as it were, Levi, and are the following: Inner Ear studios, the mecca for Dischord Records band, Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio because, well its Steve Albini, and Tiny Telephone so I do have a bit of bias towards my affection for Tiny Telephone)
Needless to say, I was floored when after I approached Mr. Vanderslice, a panelist at The Root/WeeklySF forum/local SF musician/owner of Tiny Telephone, that he invited me and my Balanced Breakfast comrades to take a tour of the facility, AND PERSONALLY give us that tour!!!!
There is so much I’d like to say about Tiny Telephone but will try to summarize it all into only a few paragraphs. The history of space is great. It started by being rented out in a sketchy part of SF in 1996 as a way for SF musicians to practice. Mr. Vanderslice convinced the landlord, who was close to renting the property as a parking garage for classic cars, to take a chance on local art instead of a glorified storage space. (Take note current SF musicians! Take initiative, think outside the box. Take a chance and use unique space to your advantage)
Long story short things grew and got bigger over time. Eventually, the practice space became a spot where recording equipment got stored/was on loan from friends and local musicians that needed the space and would rather the equipment be used to its full potential then be collecting dust in a storage unit/collectors home. (A beautiful 1904 grand piano is an example of this. Same with a 50’s era vibraphone/44 channel mixing board/plethora of other toys too many of which for me to remember.) After a few years T.T transformed from a practice space to a studio space because when life hands you great sounding rooms/recording equipment on loan from friends, you make a recording studio!
Tiny Telephone prides itself in giving artists who pay to rent the space every single dime of their hard earned money’s worth! There are NO extra rental fees for in house guitars/amps/dozens of pedals/grand pianos/Rhodes organs/drum kits/anything they have there. T.T takes pride in recording on 2″ tape. (Yes, you have the option to record in HD digital, but close to %95 of musicians that go there don’t feel the need to go digital.) And the fact is, THEY PROVIDE THE TAPE, YOU DON’T HAVE TO PAY FOR IT SEPERATLY! Essentially if you like the way things were recorded in the 70s (you record what you hear in the room you are playing in) this is the spot for you.
I’m sure that this tour wasn’t set up just because John Vanderslice is a nice guy (which, by the way, he is totally a first-rate A+ human being) I know that it is probably designed to get business. (not that T.T is desperately in need of it, they are solidly booked throughout the year) However, the reason why I personally will be saving up to record at Tiny Telephone myself is that this is a first-rate example of an SF musician who started with one idea that blossomed into something I doubt even Mr. Vanderslice could have imagined. And he didn’t hog it and try to be a master gatekeeper, he made a family…
…and it’s evident there is a family at Tiny Telephone. The best thing about that family, they want you to be an extended member.
Thank you Tiny Telephone for existing. Thank you for having the option to, and REFUSING to book larger bands. By doing your best to keep your studio reserved for new and smaller bands. Bands who don’t have all the means at their disposal to fully recognize their creative vision and wanting to help those Bands, before your bottom line! Thank you for establishing a legacy that is not just some myth told to me by a wise Jedi master, but a reality that still finds ways to help those who wish to help themselves. Thank You!