Twenty-one-year-old songwriter and producer Oliver Ignatius officially opened his Cobble Hill based basement-recording studio, Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen, in an announcement made on Tuesday the 14th of December 2010. Over the following six months the recording space has flourished, silently overseeing Oliver’s production of many new independent acts as well as the well-deserved rise in interest in his own band Ghost Pal. “I invested about $5000 into the initial set up” Oliver explains. “It's one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, total liberation on both fronts.”
The newly established studio space is accommodating: the set up is home to pre-amps, microphones (over 20 - both dynamic and condenser), an upright piano, a drum kit, an Australian Shepherd called Michael Jackson, a couple of guitar amps (one Fender, one VOX), an Ibanez bass amp, a dachshund named Ollie, and of course Mama Coco herself. “It's named in honor of my gorgeous and hilarious white umbrella cockatoo, Moloko Moustache Princess Chicken Baby (Coco for short)” Oliver responds when asked the origin of the name before emphasizing that the recording space’s instrumental “palette is always growing too.”
From the conception of the iPod to the execution of Flip video camera, the past 10 years have seen technology reshape the face of ‘traditional media’ into a new unspecified and indeterminate expression. From the much-publicized prolonged public death of record labels, resembling the moribund struggle of a terminal patient, to the massive impacts of technological developments in digital recording and promotion on artists, technologies impact on the record business is undeniable. The impact of technological benefits in recording equipment for emerging artists or recording artists without label backing has been grossly overlooked.
“Ok, I'll start answering” begins the email response from twenty-one-year-old Brooklyn based Ignatius. Last night’s interview, scheduled to be held at Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen was scuppered due to Oliver suffering an unforeseen migraine. “I decided to set it up last year, recording has always been a primary focus in my life since I was five and doing primitive experiments in multitracking using little tape recorders and stuff,” writes Oliver. “It's always been something I wanted to do.”
Having inherited some money from his grandparents Oliver decided it was “time to pull the trigger.” With the availability of less expensive professional grade home recording equipment/ indebted to technology and a defined musical approach and credos best exemplified by Ghost Pal’s self-described technicolor catalogue, Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen was birthed. “I figured out what equipment I was going to get over a period of time, I'd spent a lot of time in studios and had a pretty clear idea of what we would need. Of course there's a lot of joy in the accidental accumulation too of pieces you didn't know you needed” he explains.
The quality available via relatively recent technological developments is best exemplified by Ignatius through the production and promotional values of his group Ghost Pal. Ghost Pal currently upload one new track a week at a ‘name your price’ rate via their bandcamp: http://ghostpal.bandcamp.com/, the same promotional approach employed first in October of ’07 by Radiohead for their self-released seventh studio venture In Rainbows. Ghost Pal’s bandcamp currently boasts 13 tracks which showcase Ignatius’ evolution not only as a songwriter but also as a producer. His ear for arrangements and harmony, especially vocal, has only matured since the accommodating arrival of Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen. The groups’ first recording from Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen was an upbeat pop track titled Brian Wilson whilst their most recent effort is a funk homage called Akhenaten which samples Sly Stone. These recordings alone offer insight into Ignatius’ influences as well as the spectrum of sonic possibility available in the studio.
“I guess it's a recording house geared toward a pop experimental aesthetic, but approaching from all genres and sounds,” he writes. When asked how developments in recording have affected the careers of emerging or lableless recording artists he writes that he “couldn't be happier about it. The less power that lies in the hands of besuited "professionals" the more freedom and creativity can flow back into music. “I was exhausted with engineers at professional studios always claiming things "couldn't be done." There is no such thing, as long as you're willing to get creative, collaboration is fascinating to me and symbiosis is inherently richer than one inner pool.”
So far Mystic Princess, Sons Of An Illustrious Father, Ghost Pal, Nelsonvillains, seems dead, Oh My Blackbird, The Great American Novel, Eye Skeem Team amongst others have recorded at Mama Coco’s and received Ignatius’ production treatment. These emerging mostly local acts drawn to Mama Coco’s through low recording rates as well as an on hand experienced producer. “I like to emphasize the spiritual and holistic element of recording, encouraging a full on immersion in the music for the band and myself together” begins Oliver on his approach to recording other artists. “I like to cover most of the bases setting things up so they can focus on their creativity and performances without any anxiety over the technological aspects of things” he continues. Ultimately the goal is to achieve the desired conveyance of the artists he produced however Oliver’s own professional perfectionism is an important aspect of Mama Coco’s production process. “The most important thing is that the music moves me and therefore hopefully you.”
Since home recording artist R. Stevie Moore’s 1979 debut Phonography, recorded entirely on 1/4 track 7½ IPS reel-to-reel stereo tape decks, digital recording and production has /achieved an entirely new medium of recording and producing music. The past 10 years have seen the rise in recording/production software such as Pro Tools and Ableton. Perhaps the most notable amendment to digital recording is the visualization which allows for more precise editing of recorded sound. Oliver is a Pro Tools producer with a seemingly conflicting interest in the 1960s, both as a songwriter and in terms of production values. “Generally analog has the warmest, most naturally ‘musical’ sound, and I certainly love the immersive quality of listening to music on vinyl,” he writes. “However I do think that any technology can be wrestled with, understood and utilized for its own capabilities,” he specifies.
“I've been grateful for the opportunity to carve out a little thing that's really about the joy and love of music,” writes Oliver on how Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen has impacted his career.
Recording artists of NYC take note:
“Mama Coco's Funky Kitchen is open and available for business - that means bands, singer/songwriters, rappers, jazz players and small orchestras, and anyone seeking mixing assistance or sound design… I also will bring to your project my devoted ear, my studious attention to detail and my respect for your artistic freedom.”
PS: Here's some footage from their set at Fat Baby back on the 6th of May: