A First Look at Mad Oak Studios

I believe in the same rule that Alton Brown has for homebrew supply stores: If it looks slick and well-decorated, you probably don’t want to be there.
An Unassuming Place
Mad Oak Studios just moved to a new building in Allston, MA, so when I headed there to scope the place out in person, it took me twenty minutes to find the place. Not only was the Mad Oak sign not up yet, but a construction crew had completely blocked the driveway. I had to park two blocks away and walk past an asphalt machine to get inside.
Once inside, though, it was everything I had hoped for. You see, I’ve recorded (for myself and as a side man) at a wide variety of studios. From the big-and-impressive, like Omni Sound in Nashville, to the more humble-looking sound holes like this one. The truth is that, no matter what the place looks like, all that counts is who’s behind the desk.
Benny Grotto
In this case, it’s Benny Grotto. You’ve probably never heard of him, but you probably don’t know any of the engineers or producers that made the albums you listen to. Dave Matthews would (probably) be nothing without Steve Lillywhite shaping his early albums. Benny here has worked with a lot of bands both great (Aerosmith) and small (me), but I got his name through mutual acquaintance Amanda Palmer.

She and Brian Viglione relied on Mad Oak for the Dresden Dolls album No, Virginia…
No, Virginia
…in fact, he’s still got the creepy Santa-thing watching over the recording room. (Don’t tell Runtt, this thing might try to eat him while he’s recording.)
The best I can describe the vibe of this place: relaxed. And that’s precisely what you want in a studio, not new hardwood or a hot tub or a well-stocked bar. This is in Allston, if you want a bar there are plenty to be had just down the street. If you want a room where there’s no pressure, no menacing red light to suck the life out of your performance, this place is certainly it.

And on October 28, Runtt, four guests, a photographer, and I will be there making an album.

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