Cottage Recording Industry

Grizzly Bare

By Charles McDermid

IT’S NOT UNCOMMON to find a disheveled Roger Tschann working behind the mixing desk at his Grizzly Studio in a bathrobe and slippers. Tschann’s commute consists of rolling out of bed at his Petaluma home/studio, so his disheveled ‘bedhead’ has become somewhat legendary.

The Grizzly Studio experience is what studio owner and Flying Harald Records chief Tschann, 28, describes as ‘the seedy underbelly’ of the recording industry. Yet one cannot argue with his success. Having engineered CDs for such local bands as the Conspiracy, Cropduster, Eric Lindell & the Reds, the Burdens, Dieselhead, Little Tin Frog, and most recently Royal Pine, Grizzly ranks as the pre-eminent studio for a wide range of local talent.

“Roger’s methods are a little unorthodox, but the bottom line is the job,” says Michael Houghton, managing editor of a local music magazine. “The truth is that every local band in the know goes to Roger. He’s someone you relate to.”

It’s no problem relating to Tschann’s equable manner and grassroots bohemianism. After all, Grizzly has recorded everything from gangsta rap to country.

“My studio is a party, so I’ve got no problem with bands that do whatever they need to get their groove on,” explains Tschann. “Part of what a recording studio is about is going to somebody who knows how the band sounds. We’re going to have to rock if we want to find what puts a band in its best light.”

Self-taught, Tschann began recording bands in 1993 as a Santa Rosa Junior College student. The Conspiracy’s “Too Far Gone” became Grizzly Studio’s first finalized product later the same year.

“I got into it by buying one of the first ADATs [Alesis Digital Audio Tape, a professional and affordable VCR-sized recording device that democratized the industry] and building a one-room studio in my mom’s garage. It even had some closets to stick amps in,” Tschann recalls. “It was cramped and stinky, hot and miserable. It’s amazing that anyone would put themselves through that. It was pretty rock ‘n’ roll, though.”

Tschann ultimately left the confines of mom’s garage for The Ranch, a converted farmhouse, now a multiroom facility with several isolation booths and, most important, air conditioning. “A large part of what I do is technical, but it is equally creative as well,” Tschann says. “[Making a record] is like directing a film: you must bring certain things into focus and know what to leave in the background.”

From the February 18-24, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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