Brooklyn-based producer, mixer and engineer Alex Newport finds himself in an unfamiliar position right now—taking a break. A small one, mind you – and more “enforced rest” than break, actually. After working “stupidly hard for, about, the past eight years,” Newport is doing some remodeling in his mixing studio, Future Shock, a job that never seems finished. “It’s a labor of love so it’s continually morphing into other things. The thing about New York is that you’ve got a place, but you’re always looking for something better. It’s kind of a never-ending search,” Newport said.
It’s been four years since Newport first moved to New York, and about one since he moved his studio to Bushwick (this studio is a mixing studio only, sans the live recording room). Previously he operated a studio in the Pencil Factory in Greenpoint. Newport is best known for his ‘80s and ‘90s band Fudge Tunnel, and for working with heavy hitters such as Death Cab for Cutie, the Mars Volta, the Melvins, and most recently, City and Colour. But Newport swears that “for every one of those bands, there are also lots of bands people haven’t heard of yet that are just as amazing.”
Newport does not want to come across as a Luddite, but maintains an affinity for recording on analog tape. “I clearly see the whole convenience of digital recording, but seeing that my job is to make bands sound the best they possibly can, I just haven’t been able to do that with digital recording,” he said. “I really think it’s a medium that’s been designed from day one to be convenient rather than top quality.” Newport learned his way around a recording studio in the mid-‘80s in the UK where he grew up, and there, nothing was done on computers; it was all tape. “There really weren’t that many studios. There certainly were no recording schools; it was such a different time,” he said.
Newport, who first learned his trade by bribing some of his band’s producers with “large amounts of beer,” came up through the “live hard/work hard” mentality of his mentors, a work ethic that took a long time to shake. While Newport still doesn’t have anything that resembles a nine to five schedule, long over are his days working through all hours of the night. He recalls a time when he worked with rock band At the Drive In, mixing their entire record over twenty-eight hours straight. “We worked through the day, through the night and then into the next day. At my age now, I can’t really do that. And I don’t know that that’s very productive to do that on a regular basis—in fact, I know it’s not,” Newport said.
On the heels of Newport’s rare time off is a series of projects, some so top secret (or so new, their details are still being worked out) that they cannot even be revealed. One project, less clandestine, is with some members of Bloc Party next month. Another is a record with Philly-based Pissed Jeans, who recorded their last album with Newport in his old Greenpoint studio. (Since Newport’s spot in Bushwick is a mixing room only, they will be recording in Philly and then mixing the tapes in Brooklyn.)
“I’ve been really lucky. Most of the bands that come to me are bands I’m really, really excited about, so, it’s a good time at the moment!” Newport said. Oh, and if anyone hears of a cool studio space in Greenpoint, please let Newport know as he would love to get back to the neighborhood. He can be found here: www.alexnewport.com.
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