Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Blade Studios Story for FilmingLouisiana Magazine, Poster Children!
how incentives brought these guys together.
Written by : D. Wade Shemwell
One summer in the mid 80’s, I was sitting on the floor of my room in my mother’s Broadmoor Shreveport home, my Japanese Strat in my lap, ear to an old vinyl record player, doing my best to get my beginner guitarist fingers to play something close to what Alex Lifeson was doing, when a friend bursts into the room and, talking over Rush’s 2112, starts telling me about a drummer he’d seen several days before. “This guy is incredible. His name is Brady Blade, Jr., and you are definitely going to hear more about him,” he announced, and then proceeded to rifle through my new albums.
Several months later, I finally met Brady through some mutual friends, and after hanging out and talking with him for a while, I thought that he was a personable and sincere guy. He didn’t have the attitude of the drummers I’d known to that point in my life, so how good could this guy really be? Then I heard him play.
While Shreveport has a long and prestigious history of musicians and artists who either: got their start here, resided here, or honed their craft here, Brady Blade Jr. is among those rare artists who have risen to a professional and artistic level equaled by very few in the area. The Blade brothers were already well known to any aspiring musician or music fan who kept abreast of the local eighties music scene, but no one could have predicted that they would rise to such high levels of fame. The older brother, Brady went on to become a platinum producer, Grammy winning performer, and one of the most sought after drummers in the business. He’s spent the last fifteen years playing all over the world with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Jewel, Bob Dylan, The Indigo Girls, Dave Mathews, and many others.
Blade was barely twelve years old when he first started to feel a true passion for music, and he recalls countless hours of watching and learning from the drummers that played for his father’s church, the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Shreveport. He would often sit in with the band on drums between services and remembers it as a time of inspiration and learning. A truly defining moment in his youthful development as a musician occurred a year later when the Reverend Al Green arrived to perform at his father’s television show, The Hallelujah Train without a drummer. The search for a replacement was fruitless, and knowing they couldn’t go on without a drummer, the Pastor Brady Blade Sr. spoke up for his adolescent son Brady. Al Green agreed.
“I got to play on TV with Al Green,” recalls Blade. “He paid me, like 200 bucks, which at that time, was a hell of a lot of money. I was a thirteen year old kid… and I was like, I think I need to go down this path. ”
This inspirational event occurred during a period of time when his younger brother, Brian, was starting to fall in love with Jazz, so Blade was literally surrounded by a variety of musical influences. “Then, of course, my brother, Brian…He started playing drums around the age of 7, but you could tell that even at that age, he had something going on. He would stay camped out in his room listening to John Coltrane and Chic Corea records... but for him to actually grow up and play with Chic Correa…you know man. Cool stuff.” Cool stuff reserved for a select few talented individuals like the Blade brothers. I’m still waiting for a phone call from Rush.
Cut to a few years later, as a student at Shreveport Magnet High School, Blade says he honed his skills in the school’s award-winning jazz band, directed by Dorsey Summerfield Jr. He also played in Summerfield’s professional jazz group, The Polyphonics, which gave him the opportunity to play with some older, more experienced musicians. Blade cites this experience as being one of the most influential and rewarding periods of his developing musical career.
It wasn’t long before Blade got his first big international break: he was recruited by Miki Honneycutt to play drums on a German tour. The teenage musician met a girl while there and opted to stay in Europe for the remainder of the summer after the tour was finished.
“They (the band) weren’t sure if they should leave me alone without supervision, but I said ‘I’ll be fine. Just give me my money and I’ll see you when I get back,’” Blade laughs.
Blade spent the next couple of years at college, a period of time that he describes as “rather mundane.” All this changed when he received a call from the funk/soul/rock band, The Killer Bees. Some older music scene aficionados will remember The Killer Bees, co-founded by Shreveport native Papa Mali, as a regular on the local bar scene.
“I went and auditioned for the band and ended up moving out to Texas,” says Blade. “I started touring a lot with those guys, all over the States.”
After several years on the road, Blade became more involved in the business side of the music industry and was traveling more often as a manager than a performer, when an offer from a top act brought him back to the drums for his first major tour. “I was traveling a lot as a manager, but as a player, I got my first big tour in 1995 with Emmylou Harris, and it just went nuts for the next eight, nine, ten years, with constant touring around the world… numerous times.”
Blade became a permanent member of Harris’ touring band, Spyboy, and still credits his time with the artist as some of the best experiences as a musician. “I would have to say that the person who took the biggest chance on me ever, was Emmylou Harris… she became not only a mentor, but a great friend as well. She’s the sweetest, nicest lady I’ve ever met… She’s so talented and creative. She’s had a series of bands, but we were the most radical band she’s had, a bunch of crazy guys looking like the freakin’ Fat Albert Cosby kids, but I think that’s what made the music work . . . and we were the smallest band -- a three piece band sounding like ten guys or something . . . and it’s safe to say that we never played the same set twice in those nine years.”
In 1998, Blade got a phone call from Jewel’s management, asking him to come out to L.A. for an audition, and after a few months of rehearsal, the band embarked on the “Spirit” tour. Jewel was at the height of her popularity, and the tour was one of the most successful of the year, but the show they played at Woodstock ’99, in front of 250,000 people, was undoubtedly one of the highlights. “That was a hot summer for her, very hot…We flew in (to Woodstock), because we were on tour, and we were back stage hanging with the (Red Hot) Chili Peppers, and that was the first time we got to meet those guys. I mean we’d seen them around L.A., but … And then we had to leave for another show, but after we left, all hell broke loose. I’m kind of glad we had to go to that next show.”(Soon after Blade and the band left, some rowdy concert goers started numerous fires which eventually led to massive destruction of property and large scale looting. The scene became so chaotic and dangerous, that a large force of New York State Troopers, local police, and various other law enforcement agencies were eventually called in to restore order.)
Blade’s next opportunity to collaborate with a major artist occurred while he was playing an outdoor ‘summer series’ show with Emmylou Harris and Spyboy in Seattle. Dave Mathews walked on stage, picked up a guitar, and sat in with Emmylou and the band for a few songs. Backstage after the gig, Mathews approached Blade and told him, “I really like the way you play…We have some plans for you.” Blade remembers thinking to himself, “Oh yeah, you have the best drummer in the world (referring to Carter Beauford of the Dave Mathews Band) and you’re going to call me? Right! ”
Almost two years later, Mathews did call, and a few days later, he and producer Stephen Harris flew Blade out to Seattle to work on some rough sketches of about five or six songs. Bassist Tony Hall was soon added to the mix and the three musicians jammed and collaborated to develop the new material. Blade then had to leave for New Zealand to honor a previous production engagement, unsure whether the project would continue. Then several months later, soon after arriving back in the States, he received another call from Mathews asking him to come back to Seattle. The songs they had been working on earlier had really developed into something special. They eventually became Dave Mathews and friends’ platinum debut solo album, Some Devil. The band made its public debut as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live in November of 2003, and then continued on a twelve-stop tour in the winter of 2003 and 2004 including Bonnaroo.
For the past decade, Blade has continued to build an impressive resume, traveling and playing with various artists and celebrities around the world. He recalls the first time he played with Bob Dylan as one of the few times that he may have been star-struck. “I was flying from Stockholm to Frankfurt for the job, and I’ve never really been freaked out about a gig before, but after thinking of all of the songs that Bob Dylan has written…and then I thought, what am I going to wear?” laughs Blade.
Blade has also appeared on television several times, true to his father’s legacy. His drums have been heard with various artists on some of America’s most popular entertainment hours, playing for shows such as Saturday Night Live, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and most frequently, on The Late Show with David Letterman.
“I’ve gotten to know the (Late Show) band over the years. Will Lee, Paul Shaffer, Anton Fig and those guys are my friends now after all of these years. Paul Shaffer calls me the biggest whore in the business.”
Such a back-handed compliment from a friend can only be a testament to the prolific and wide-ranging experiences Blade has had over his career. It would seem like such a busy performance schedule would leave little time for other business ventures, but Blade has managed to continue and excel in his work as a producer and writer. He has largely been focused on working with new acts, developing their song-writing and ultimately producing and recording with them. He has had a number of major successes, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, where his work has featured prominently in their national music charts.
While he resides primarily with his family in Stockholm, when he isn’t traveling, performing or recording around the globe, Blade spends time at his home in Shreveport. He has never forgotten his roots, and when he was recently given an opportunity to bring the connections he’s made in the music, television, and movie industries back to his home town, he decided to act. He entered into a business venture with partner Scott Crompton, to open a professional recording facility in Shreveport. “We both recognized that if Shreveport can do what they’ve done with film, with little or no film history, then there’s going to be something going on with music. We define the Shreveport music scene as inertia, and inertia is just energy that doesn’t move, but once you push inertia, it becomes energy in motion”.
While Blade is a native of Shreveport, Crompton has made it his adopted home. Born in Montgomery Alabama after both parents immigrated from England, Crompton was six years old when he scored his first paying gig, playing an organ outside one of the old organ stores for a mall opening. The next few years, Crompton started playing a variety of weddings, and eventually ended up playing the theater pipe organ all over the country. “I was OK at it, but I think it was more of a novelty…”, he recalls, “I mean, here’s this nine year old kid playing the organ…and I used to have to stand on the pedals and play at the same time.”
For the next decade, Crompton gave up music altogether and focused on motorcycles instead. It wasn’t until he was a high school senior that his musical passion was reignited, when he saw a friend playing guitar and harmonica. He asked to borrow the guitar and was soon busy learning how to play. “The music part was easy, but I had to learn how to become a guitar player…and being a guitar player in college is pretty cool.”
This time he stuck with music and soon formed a new band called Blues Old Stand, which is still together today. The band, named for a small town in their native Alabama, has toured nationally and played in Europe. Crompton and the band have been playing the regional scene long enough to have witnessed a great deal of change in the music world.
“I remember playing gigs with Dave Mathews, when he just Dave Mathews by himself with a guitar… back in the late ‘80s”, recalls Crompton.
Shortly after moving to Shreveport to work in the film business in June 2008, Crompton began to network around town and shares his interest and vision with new friends. Once he mentioned that he was a musician, they suggested that he seek out Brady Blade. Crompton was aware of Blade’s extensive background as a drummer, but had no idea that Shreveport was his home town, or that he had just recently returned. Crompton finally caught up with Blade at the Robinson Film Center and introduced himself, but was taken by surprise when he was met with a giant bear hug and a smile. “I wasn’t just meeting Brady Blade ‘the drummer’, I just knew right away that I had just met such a good, loving, solid guy.”
The two discussed their shared interest in music, production, and tax incentive opportunities and ultimately decided to open a state of the art studio here in Shreveport. With Blade’s musical knowledge and connections combined with Crompton’s extensive understanding of Louisiana tax incentives and business savvy, they hope to repeat the incredible success that the movie industry has experienced in Shreveport -- this time with music.
Blade Studios is currently under construction, and will be located inside the Biospace 1 building at the Intertech Science Park in Shreveport. “Music has always been my passion, big time. So, it’s been my dream to have a business, within the music business. At one point, I got a job offer working at a record label, and I was so excited until I went up and spent a couple of days with the people. Then I realized that was exactly what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to be in the (business side of the) music business, I wanted to be in the music business with artists. …and that’s a tough thing to get in to. But it’s all worked out now.”
Blade’s experience has afforded him the knowledge of what works, and what does not, so the idea was to provide a facility with all of the tools that would allow the artist and producer to be productive and creative. Blade will be heading up the creative side of things and will be working both as an artist and a producer to bring people here to Louisiana. Crompton will essentially handle the business side of the facility, make the deals with local businesses, and provide Blade with a facility to implement his experience and talent as a producer. There will be some degree of job crossover from time to time, and both are capable of handling either side of the operation. Crompton also looks forward to producing the occasional project, and plans to stay actively involved in the creative side of things.
Both partners acknowledge that the Louisiana tax incentive program has been a major factor in the decision to invest in the local community. The tax incentives not only help bring in the initial investment, but will allow the studio to present national, and international recording artist with a compelling reason to bring their business to Shreveport. This is money that would certainly be spent somewhere else, because until now, there has been no local facility able to accommodate and attract artist on this level.
“My family and I are the poster children for the Louisiana tax incentives. We are invested in this community. We live and own property in this community, and now we are starting a business here. This never would have happened if it were not for the incredible tax incentives offered for the film and music industry. It’s a feature of our state, and it ultimately ends up benefiting the artist” says Crompton.
One of Blade’s concepts, that truly elevate this facility from others, is that it be a full service production company that caters to the artist’s every need. If an artist decides that Blade Studios is place they want to record, then the company will provide every possible amenity and convenience. This includes everything from airfare, hotels, meals, and transportation, to musicians, equipment, entertainment, and even day care. “We’ll provide anything they could possibly want,” says Crompton.
When an artist concludes the recording process, they will write just a single check for all services that have been provided, so there will be no need to keep up with receipts or micromanage any aspect of the project. The studio will also make the application with the state for the tax incentive and the balance will be returned to the client in the most convenient manner for the individual. (The state offers a 25% production credit on any recordings made in the state of Louisiana as long as they spend over the threshold of $15,000.) The artist is free from any inconvenient details that might hinder the creative process, and they are free to concentrate on the music.
There is also no shortage of talent on the local level here in Shreveport, but unfortunately, few of the artists that actually make it out of the local and regional scene continue to live and contribute to the community. Now Blade is bringing his success and experience back home.
“All of this (local) talent is moving away…And I’ve been thinking about the ‘Shreveport Beatdown” (the concept of not being able to succeed and make a living in the arts locally), and why is that so? … I mean we live in a great place and the grass is always greener…We have everything we could possibly need here and we do want to instill some more pride (in the community), and we want to start with the musicians,” says Blade.
“In addition to the national and international acts that we’ll be trying to attract, it will be fun to work with the local input as well… and we’ll be offering deals to our local constituents so we can assist them…Collectively as a team, hopefully we can provide some sort of guidance for all of us. Because that’s what this scene’s been missing for a long time.”
A cohesive unit of Shreveport musicians could work together to build a stronger, more collaborative music scene, which would not only help more local bands get noticed, but would ultimately be beneficial to the entire artistic community.
Blade Studios was designed by renowned studio architect Russ Berger, head of the Russ Berger Design group, who is responsible for some of the best rooms in the country. The group has completed over 2500 projects from coast to coast, including NFL Network, Sweetwater Sound, UNLV broadcast facilities, World Wrestling Entertainment Studios, and many others.
The facility features two large volume studios each complete with world-class, ambient spaces in order to provide the best possible acoustic properties for a variety of projects. The client areas offer an assortment of professional amenities, including lounges, kitchens, private office suites, conference rooms, work stations, private restrooms, showers, and even a dark room. Every service is designed to provide the highest levels of productivity and creativity, in a comfortable and relaxed environment.
Studio A features a 1350 square foot live room, with four isolation booths, and a 500 square foot control room. The main console is a Solid State Logic Duality, and the control room is well stocked with various pieces of both vintage and cutting-edge gear. Studio B is a state of the art ADR room, featuring 400 square foot live room, one isolation booth, and a 525 square foot control room. This room features the only commercially licensed Digidesign ICON console in Louisiana and is also filled with various outboard gear.
The spaces were designed to meld comfortable, creative surroundings with superior sound quality. The facility was designed with all of the anticipated needs of the film and television industry in mind. Both studios are wired for video, so a production team could theoretically score, record and mix both the soundtrack and effects for a project in studio a, concurrently while ADR and editing were underway in studio B. The facility will also incorporate high-speed net interconnectivity to ensure that even if a director, actor, or any member of the production team can’t physically be present for a session, work will proceed on schedule. The addition of a professionally designed, full service audio complex, will give film production companies a viable option to moving all post-production back to the west coast.
The facility’s projected opening date is slated for Early 2011 but the team has already started booking, and the first major talent to record at the new studio is slated to be Universal recording artist and Shreveport native, Brian Blade. Crompton and Blade hope that the realization of this studio will be the key to making Shreveport an internationally recognized hub for both the film and music industries.
2031 Kings Highway
Shreveport, Louisiana 71103 USA