Perhaps I should set the context here. After all, a recording studio exists to record sound, and here I am writing about the studio. What about the sound? What, in the end, am I producing?
I’ve always found it difficult to describe my music. I can say a lot more about what it isn’t than what it is. I produce songs, but rarely in a usual pop verse-chorus-bridge style. I like creating soundscapes, but not in a classical/orchestral style, nor in a purely ambient way.
I’m definitely not a singer-songwriter; I rarely write a song as an entity to be performed or recorded. Nor am I at all skilled in learning others’ songs and recording them.
What I seem to be, primarily, is what I’ll term a studiast. That is, I treat the studio itself as an instrument to be played. I do play traditional music instruments — mostly guitar and bass, and I’d like to learn pedal-steel guitar and concertina — but I most enjoy processing the sounds of those instruments into a sonic field. Sampling and synthesis bores me; far more interesting to me is modifying sounds that are originally acoustic. A guitar becoming a sound more like a jet engine is fascinating to me. With layers (not loops!), dynamics, and (hopefully) emotions, based in time, the field becomes a song.
I’m certainly not alone in all this. I look (very far) up to folks like Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, plus a lot of folks far more obscure.
So when I think of what I want in a studio, I visualize being inside this “instrument,” and the kind of control and sound it produces. Overall, I want intuitive interfaces and interesting sound. The specifics may vary — digital recording or tape? tube preamps or opamp chips? stereo or surround sound? — but the generalities remain. If something adds an interesting texture, or opens up a creative avenue, then I move closer to it; if it’s a hassle, sounds crappy, or limits creativity, I move away from it.