Page 1


However, he admits that money needs to be spent on some

When the band went to California, they took Paholek with them.

equipment to ensure a quality recording. “There are certain

He had the opportunity to watch and mentor with the engineering

things that you need to bite the bullet on,” he says. “You need

team and be involved with the record, “and after that is when I

specific microphones. You need to buy good preamps to

probably started making my best records,” he says.

run them through. But there are some microphones that are fantastic that are quite inexpensive.”

But his innovative approach has also helped recording artists here in Edmonton to make the record they want, without having

“To make a good record you don’t need to spend a ton of

to accommodate anyone else’s vision. One vocalist wanted to

money,” he says; but on the other hand, “you can spend tens

layer ten or fifteen vocal tracks on her recording, a difficult feat to

and tens and tens of thousands of dollars setting up a modest

manage. “So when she asked me to do this, I straightaway said

project studio and still make bad records with it.”

yeah, sure,” Paholek says. “And I guess I was the first person

In addition to keeping costs low, Paholek says the other key to staying in business is readily accepting the musical visions of clients. “A good policy to adopt is to never say no to people,” he says. “I think one of the reasons I do so well here and I stay

to actually let her do this. She had run this idea by a bunch of people, and everyone else said, ‘This is not going to work,’ or ‘This is not how it’s done.’ So as a result I’m doing all of her records, and it was just so simple as that one thing.”

in business is because I try not to sell people on what they don’t

Regardless of the approach an engineer takes to a project, or

necessarily want, just because I think it might be better for them.”

the amount of money that goes into it, it all comes down to the

But Paholek does have ideas that are worth incorporating. He places a lot of emphasis on good drum sound, and has a few tricks to ensure a fuller percussive sound. “A lot of people use augmentation—they drop in extra samples

product. Paholek does no advertising other than word of mouth, yet he is currently booking six months in advance for studio time—a fact that can’t be ascribed solely to his low rates. “You’re not going to get any work if people don’t like what you’re doing,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how cheap you are.”

for the drum sounds. I try not to use that at all, or I try to use it sparingly. Some records call for it, like heavy metal—it’s granted that

so I’ve got a lot of drummers who really love working here.”

“!"#$%&$'()*+(#,$-!".'$.($ ')!'/$!00$./*$123'$%"$),$ 4%.1/*"$.($5*1(5#$!$'(2"#6$$$$$ %$0*.$./*).”

he industrial area of Edmonton’s west end seems an unlikely destination for aspiring

In addition to the drum setup and homemade amp, The Physics

Financial gain is certainly no reason to get into music production.

musicians, but Terry Paholek’s recording studio, The Physics Lab, is making it the place

Lab boasts a Sony DMX-R100 digital console. Rather than the

“If you want to start a studio to make money, don’t,” Paholek

to be. The modest and unassuming studio, situated in a bay with a garage door, features

more common industry software Pro Tools, Paholek uses a

warns. “It’s taken me so long to do this full time, it’s ridiculous.

smaller, open-sourced editing program called Reverb, which he

And the competition is really fierce.”

you’re going to sample the kick, that’s just how you get that sound.” “I use a lot of room sounds. That’s a huge part of my drum recording. The room pretty much makes up almost half the kit,” he says. “I’m pretty good at making really big-sounding drums,


surprisingly good acoustics, homemade coffee and its own recording arts guru. Paholek, the owner and sole operator of The Physics Lab, has been interested in recording and

He says anyone considering a career in the field should be

production since his teens. He got his start recording on tape recorders, and honed his skill

Although The Physics Lab has only been in operation for a few

passionate about it, but also very patient. “If you don’t think you

mentoring and interning with engineers in a number of different studios. He supplemented his

years, Paholek has already amassed a network of local and

can listen to the same song literally hundreds and hundreds of

income by playing in a cover band, and it is only in the last few years that he has reached a point

international clients. One band from Calgary, Chy Shuga, has

times, and then multiply that by ten songs on a full-length record,

where it is financially possible for him to record and produce full time.

been particularly helpful in boosting Paholek’s career.

and then scrutinize it every time you listen to it, and think about

The cost of setting up your own studio makes it tempting to overcharge musicians for recording

The band came to Paholek to record an EP just as they were on

how to make it better, you don’t want to do something like this.”

services, but Paholek works at keeping his own overhead costs down, passing the savings on to

the brink of disbanding. Nevertheless, Paholek was impressed

“In some aspects it’s very rewarding, but extremely time-

clients. He owns the bay in which his studio is located, eliminating the concern of rising rent prices.

with them and finished mixing the CD as a keepsake. But the

consuming and sometimes boring job.”

And while recording gear can be expensive, there are ways to cut the cost.

band rebounded, and on the strength of Paholek’s recording

“The gear selection is really important. I own quite a few high-end pieces,” he says. “I also own a lot of pieces that most people probably wouldn’t expect to see in a normal recording studio.”


prefers because it is faster and more efficient than Pro Tools.

they gained extensive airplay on the Calgary radio station CJAY 92, climbing to the #2 spot on their top ten countdown. They also garnered a production deal with Sylvia Massy at RadioStar

There’s also the inevitable cleanup that comes with working with creative people. “If someone wants to break something in the studio and they’re willing to pay for it, I really don’t care. I can’t remember the last time I actually told someone, ‘You can’t do that.’”

He points out a hand-wired amp from the 1970s. “It looks like absolute hell, but sounds fantastic,”

Studios in California. Massy has previously worked with such

he says. “Everyone that’s come in has used it on a record in some capacity. It’s just a bunch of

well-known artists as System Of A Down, the Smashing Pumpkins

“And if somebody wants to smash all the cups in my kitchen to

spare parts thrown together. It’s the best amp I own.”

and Tool.

record a sound, I let them.”


Sounds of Success  
Sounds of Success  

Article about the Physics Lab recording studio from the May 2011 issue of Merge Magazine.