How I Met TriPops, Part 2

Ah good!  You stayed tuned for the next installment, which covers the “we” and “us” mentioned previously.  The first installment revealed a brief glimpse of how I got started in my desire to record music; a long-deferred dream.  Initial attempts brought only major frustration until I found Trimordial Studio Las Vegas, where owner, Roy Rendahl, a master sound engineer and more, opened up a whole new world of endless possibilities for me. Fast forward to my next meeting with Roy, when he introduced me to the “we can do all that”part of this dynamic “micro”studio, TriPops Music Production and his longtime business partner (another musical “savant”), Ale Oliver.

Chuk Peña with Alex Oliver of TriPops Music Production at Trimordial Studio Las Vegas.
Chuk Peña and Alex Oliver

Turns out, Alex moved to Las Vegas some years ago from Los Angeles where he was a teacher.  He needed to sort of “chill out” from the daily “grind” of living in a megalopolis and all the garbage that accompanies that kind of environment.  However, to my good fortune, it turned out that Alex was born into a full-blown music family full of “session musicians.”  In the event you may not be familiar with that term, these are the unsung guys and gals that make the”stars” sound so fabulous on their albums.  Yeah—even Bob Dylan!  If you ever have the chance to rent or buy the documentary movie, “Wrecking Crew,” you’ll fully nderstand what I’m talking about. And TriPops, like those session musicians I just mentioned, obviously were (and still are) the unsung heroes for many “wannabes” like Chuk Peña, as evidenced by the albums of past and current clients adorning their studio.

Well, getting back to Alex, it wasn’t long into our threesome conversation that I realized I had found a true “diamond in the rough.”  When I stated that Roy was a master sound engineer, and more, it soon became apparent that Alex was Roy on the other half of the recording cycle.  Like, I mean, aside from all the fabulous recording equipment available to “play” with, Alex can play umpteen instruments, create arrangements, get you to sing far beyond your wildest dreams.  The best, and worst of all, he’ll make constructive critiques of your recording performances until you’re not sure if you want to cry, pack it up and go home, or dig in deeper and find your inner star power!  And, his sidekick, Roy is no different!  I remember one Saturday doing 4 different takes of my guitar/vocal tracks for a new song I wrote, after which they looked at each other, then me, and “gently” said, “Chuk, you need to go home and practice some more!”  And, that’s why TriPops Music Production is such a “find!”  They simply invest their time and energy making you the best you can be! And, they do it all on their nickel because their business model is to defer taking money from a client until they and the client are 110 percent satisfied with the finished product!  And, they always remind me,”Chuk, remember, you are the producer; we are here to only serve you!” That’s when the Chuk just has to crack-up.

So, where’s this going? What’s it really all about? Simply this—back in the winter of 2015, a very naive “wannabe” recording artist, by happenstance, met two highly experienced “micro” recording specialists to help record his first cover song, “Chelsea Hotel” (written and recorded by Leonard Cohen). Thirty plus songs and almost 4 years later, we no longer are simply vendor-client, but the best of friends! Hell, I don’t even mind being sent home anymore!  And, despite several awards and a YouTube following, I find myself still “crafting” my skills.

Hmm, that gives me an idea.  Maybe next time I’ll share the joys and frustrations of learning to play my guitar in the Travis Picking style, or even slide guitar.

How I Met TriPops, Part 1

Ya know, for an amateur recording artist, I’ve been blessed with the fortune of having a simply stellar production, recording, and graphics crew continually by my side—TriPops Music Production and Trimordial Studio Las Vegas.  At this point, they are sort of “family” and an extended “appendage” of my strumming/picking and vocal arm, if you know what I mean.  Given that, and what I’ve been able to achieve since I started recording with them sometime back in 2015, I felt that they needed a rightfully deserved tribute from me—just one of many who pass through their doors.  

Chuk Peña recording with TriPops Music Production at Trimordial Studio Las Vegas.
Chuk Peña

You know how we have the standard big breweries and zillions of outrageous “micro” breweries? It’s the same in the recording industry. And, for my money, TriPops Music Production is one of those “micro” production/recording studios that is a standout from the crowd!  I have too much to say on the subject for a single blog, so here comes the first installment—meeting Roy Rendahl, Certified Audio Engineer extraordinaire (not to mention one helluva bass guitarist!).

Let’s jump back in time a bit, before Roy, so you’ll understand how I got here.  I think it was during the winter of 2015, I had a bug up my ass to record a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel” and finally get my music out there by whatever means available to me—maybe YouTube, or Facebook, or a even a Chuk Peña website, etc. Completely ignorant of what it takes to develop a decent recording, I contacted a highly successful recording studio in Nashville, thinking this was a piece of cake, and summarily got my comeuppance!  My thought was, record your guitar and vocal and get it to them, and they will turn your cover into a masterpiece—for a fee of course!  Nashville style!  WRONG!

This young savvy guy in Nashville says to me, “No Chuk. We don’t work that way (I’m sure in his head, he was probably adding ‘you dumb dolt’)!  You need to go to a local Las Vegas recording studio first, and record your guitar to what is known as a click track. Next, while listening to your guitar track via a nice quality pair of headphones, sing the lyrics. Then, have the recording studio send us the recorded tracks and we will make you warble like a canary with a full band sound to boot!” 

What the f**k is a click track,” I asked.  The young man was patient and explained how the speed of all songs is measured by the number of beats that occur in the space of a minute. Beats Per Minute or BPM is how that measurement is notated. A click track is like a metronome in your ear that helps you record your instrument or vocal in time to the desired BPM.  You want to do a cover, we need you to record the song at the same BPM Leonard Cohen did.  Ok, given the tutorial, I thought this was going to be a “slam dunk,” so I got on the Internet looking for recording studios here in Vegas. My thinking was that a big, prestigious studio wasn’t going to be interested in such a “micro” job as this, so I focused on smaller venues.  One studio website that popped up was “Trimordial Studio.” In addition to recording, they created and hosted websites, plus did graphics and video production, etc.  I liked the name so I called and got Roy Rendahl, the owner. Explaining my needs for a click track recording of “Chelsea Hotel,” he said he could easily accommodate me. On top of that, I found out that Roy was from Winona, Minnesota (a little town near Rochester), whereas I had moved to Las Vegas from Minneapolis, MN.  A match made in heaven, right?  Let’s see!  Thinking this was going to be a no-brainer, I booked an hour with Roy one afternoon, and came prepared to hit the ground running!

Chuk Peña with Roy Rendahl of TriPops Music Production at Trimordial Studio Las Vegas.
Chuk Peña and Roy Rendahl

Well, to cut to the chase, and much to my chagrin, I might have spent 2-3 hours with Roy, and damned if I could NOT play my guitar to a click track.  It became very apparent that click tracks and I were literally like fire and ice.  I was frustrated to no end, at which point I said to Roy, “Ya know, I can play my guitar and sing this song fabulously, but I do it my way, meaning the beats per minute don’t matter to me as long as the finished product sounds great. So why can’t we just record my guitar the way I feel it, forget the whole BPM mess, then record my vocal to my guitar track? What’s wrong with that?”  To which the Master Audio Engineer said, “We can!  Regardless of what recording speed is the ‘right feel’ for you, using a metronome or click track just makes the rest of the recording process much easier, but we can work around that.”

Oh man, I felt this dark cloud of frustration fade into the air—it was Nirvana!!!  But, then I told him those guys in Nashville wouldn’t work with that kind of recording—they needed my guitar and vocal to be in their idea of perfect timing in order to add more instruments or vocals, then mixing, mastering, etc. to do justice to the song.  To which Roy calmly said, “We can do all that; and you don’t pay us a penny until you are 110% satisfied.”  I was blown away!

And that’s how I met Roy Rendahl!  As to the “who” of the aforementioned “we” and “us,” stay tuned for my next installment…