Lovin'Dog Music, Kevin Barnett

 Here is the story behind the making of the Daylight Moon CD. 


Years ago around 1990 - 199, I was still living in New England. I was stationed at Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire and was with the Air Force Band of New England. The Base was being closed so we moved the band to Hanscom Field just off of the beltway of Boston off of route128.  The name of the band was soon changed to the Air Force Band of Liberty. Shortly after the move, we started a couple of different recording projects featuring all the different groups in the organization.  The band’s in-house studio was yet to be finished so we went to record at Blue Jay Studio.


Blue Jay Studio is located in Carlisle, MA . It is a few miles from Hanscom Field.  The studio is in an earth building built into a hill.  I had driven by there several times not imagining that there could even be a recording studio much less a high quality one.  The out side walls of the studio are very thick.  As a result the people living in the old New England colonial era homes right next to the studio have no idea that bands are coming in at all hours of the day to record. Several famous musicians/singers have recorded there. 


Finding the studio can be tricky. At the edge of the entrance of the driveway there is a carving of a Blue Jay hanging on a post.   Off the entrance of the driveway is a small parking lot that leads to a road/walk way to the right of the building/hill.  This leads you down and around to the front door.  Outside of the front are a few blue jay houses and woods and a pond.  It is a beautiful New England setting that makes you feel like you are deeper in the woods and farther out of Boston than you actually are.  


When I walked in the first time we realized that on the walls was the first gold album they produced and the rest were all platinum albums on the wall.  My thought was that I think they can record us with no problem.


Not only was this a great studio with all the current equipment, it was a relaxing atmosphere with all the comforts of home.  It also had a 9 ft. Falcone piano.  I fell in love with this piano. I could just think that while playing a 5 note chord in one hand, I want to have one of the middle notes pop out and on many pianos you have to really work hard to do this. On this piano, it was like cutting warm butter with a hot knife.  I soon thought, “Boy, I sure would like to record my own material here at some point”. I asked the guy in the band who was in charge of paying the bill, he said the cost averaged between $400.00 to $600 per hour!  I could never figure out why so much.  So as a result the dream of recording on the this 9’ Falcone piano was crushed, I could not afford to pay that. So I put it out of my mind.


Well, I thought I would put it out of my mind, until every time my soon to be wife, Regina (known to many as Gina) would say, “Why don’t you just record at Blue Jay.” [Her side of the story is that I kept saying I wish I could record there or if I ever had the money I would love to.] I would always answer the same thing.  We can’t afford it.  She was thinking, “How could it possibly be that much”.  She had worked at the U. Mass radio station as an audio engineer, so she never believed it was that bad.  I even re-asked the guy who was in charge of paying the bill back then the cost in front of Gina to confirm I was not off my rocker.


Like most married couples there is a subject or two that can come up from time to time, and either one of you gives up or you make a truce or what ever.  Between dating and our marriage this particular banter went on for over 20 years.  


Fast forward to Gina being out in Weymouth, MA, the summer of 2012. She was out helping her Mom with her Dad who was slowly fading away with cancer. Gina and I were talking on the phone and I was going out to meet up with them for a couple of weeks.  Once again the subject of the studio that I could never afford came up and she said, “You’re coming out to Boston why don’t you just call and see what the cost is”  I said, “I bet it is way out of my reach as far as cost,” and she said, “well a lot of musicians like you now have studios in their house, maybe its better now”.  So I hung up with the usual,“Yes, dear, I will call.”  I hung up and thought nothing of it.


The next day she called and said, “ Did you call Blue Jay?” I went, “ah, well ah….They may not even exist any more,” she said, “I checked the web, they do”.  “Yes, dear, I will call today.”


So I make the call to appease Gina. I get a young man named John on the phone:


John: Hello this is Blue Jay Studios.

Kev: Hi this is Kevin Barnett. Years ago I recorded there and I was wondering what your cost per hour was or if you do several hour packages for lower cost.  

John: it is 3 quarters.

Kev: (In my mind I think 3 quarters of what, a billion, 1000!) So I asked 3 quarters of what?

John: 3 quarters of a million.

Kev: (Remembering that Lady Gaga had just recorded there) I say, 3 quarters of a million per hour to record there.

John: Oh no I though you were asking about how much the studio was for sale for.

Kev: I will write a check right now!

John: Let me get you in contact with the owner?

Kev: No, I’m just joking.

John: Well, what do you want?

Kev: How much per hour does it cost to record there?

John: 75.

Kev: (Once again) 75 of what?

John: $75

Kev: What!

John: $75.

Kev:  (I am thinking how could this be, I know there are a lot of home studios now but a place like this)! Are there any other fees attached to this.

John: (In a “Dah!” type of voice) no just $75.

Kev: What if I bring a drummer in to record with me?

John: $75.

Kev: What if I bring in a trio.

John: $75.

Kev: What about a quartet or quintet?

John: (Getting perturbed) $75.

Kev: (Remembering when I was last there on another project, they were recording the music to the Dick Tracy Movie) What if I brought in a 25 piece big band with strings.

John: (Getting more perturbed ) Dude! It's $75, it doesn’t matter how big the group just let us know ahead of time so we can be ready for you.

Kev: (Thinking about the costs years ago I start asking) I am a bit confused.  I recorded here years ago…

John interrupting: Oh I forgot something!

Kev: (Thinking, oh I have to pay a daily fee of a million in addition?) What was that?

John: You have to pay for tuning of the piano.

Kev: How much is that? 

John: 100.

Kev: 100 dollars.

John: (Exasperated) Yes.

Kev: I start laughing.

John: Is that too much?

Kev: I live in Alaska that’s a lot cheaper then here and I am lucky to be in an area that has tuners. We have to book it out in well in advance.  I am still confused about one thing.

John: What is that?

Kev: Years ago when I recorded there it cost us between $400 — $600 per hour and now it’s $75?

John: Yes.

Kev: Why is that

John: Were you part of the Air Force Band then?

Kev: ( I am thinking, “Was it a government rate?”) 

John: The old owner still comes in and does a few jobs, and hangs out and mainly talks old times. He still talks about you guys coming in a few days in a row and just laying out a ton of music and going through reels of tape.  He had to send his assistant into town a few times because he was running out of reels.  The reels cost about $250 because you were syncing 2 machines together.  His studio rates were only $25 per hour back then.

Kev: What! Only $25 per hour?

John: ( In a “Dah!” voice ) Yes!

Kev: Wow!

John: Could I interest you in booking an hour.

Kev: Do you offer any other rates for booking serval hours in a row?

John: No.  Would you like to book an hour.

Kev: No.  I would like to book 5 hours.

John: When?

Kev: Can I book 2 days in a row at 6 hours per day?

John: Yes. When?

Kev: I am coming in around the 4th of July, I bet it’s hard to book that time?

John: Most people are gone then, its pretty wide open around then.


We went back in forth and he let me reserve a few days until I got back with him what 2 days I wanted….


Kev: Do I need to make a deposit? 

John: Why?

Kev: To reserve the time?

John: No.

Kev: I live Alaska.

John: That’s cool, is it nice there?

Kev: Yes,  So do I need to make deposit?

John: Why would you?

Kev: Because I live so far away.

John: Just pay when you record.

So I get of the phone and made the phone call to Gina sucking it up and saying you were right after all these years.  She said, “I told you so.”


I had been in the middle of a different personal recording project and I decided to put that on the back burner.  I though I could do an old Richard Tee style CD along with some of the old time piano players and supply my own base line, record with a long time  drummer friend Dave Long and do any overdubs back at Mirror Studios in Anchorage.  I went on with my day and the next morning I woke up and realized I did not have any new tunes to fit that description so I ended up writing 8 new tunes in 8 days with 2 more not finished from before. The day I am flying out, Dave and I talked.  I was finishing writing the last tune, loaded them up on an FTP sight while taking a shower.  Made sure they were loaded and then left the house for the airport.


I was reviewing the tunes on the plane and realized I had 2 songs in the same key so I decided to move one to the key of G.


The night before the studio session Dave and I got together and talked through the tunes.  The next morning we were slowed down in traffic because of an accident.  I call John and he said no big deal you get here when you get here.  When we showed up he apologized for having the air conditioner so cold, and he was wearing a sweater, I said, “Man I just left Alaska and it was 45 in the morning”.


We had brought an old friend/retired AF band trumpet player/arranger to have someone in the booth to be the hatchet man.  As we are getting ready to record he told John, “I worked with these 2 before, if they say, ‘Lets just run through it’, hit record”.  John asked, “Did they rehearse?” Nick told him there was no time. John said, “When I hit record, I will have to start charging," and Nick replied, “Just hit record, the bill will be covered.”


After the run through on the first tune Nick got on the mic and said, “Get ready for the next tune….” In the end we did 4 or 5 of the tunes in one take and only did 3 takes on a couple of them.  On the one tune I mentioned before I wanted to transpose.  Nick got on the mic and asked if I’d played that in a different key than I wrote it in. I replied that I had. John looked at him and said “He transposed that while recording?”  


The next day John told Nick he had heard about old men coming in, and when he was studying at Berklee School of Music in Boston, they would have a band come in and knock out a few tunes and he had thought they had rehearsed a lot.  He had heard about the old guys being able to go in a read so well.  Apparently he was so used to a lot of young kids taking forever to record their music.  One group was spending over a year on a project.  He even woke up in the middle of the night worrying that he had not backed up our files. I said to him we would just re-record them.


In the end John felt bad for charging us for 6 1/2 hours because he said, “You guys spent more time talking old times than recording”.  He mentioned he really had fun on the project too.


Moral of the story, maybe we should listen to our wives?


Hope  you liked the story.