John Vanderslice: “Do Exactly What You Believe In”

John Vanderslice

John Vanderslice

“Do exactly what you believe in and let the audience follow.”

That philosophy led musician, producer, and recording engineer John Vanderslice to open Tiny Telephone Recording, an analog recording studio in San Francisco, twenty years ago. It’s one of the last recording studios on the West Coast to run analog multitrack tape machines full time. “I’ve always kept our rates low to attract independent bands of all levels and make creative studio recording a possibility for all musicians,” he says.

His commitment to creative freedom is also why he came to Kickstarter in 2013 to record Dagger Beach, a collection of original songs, and Vanderslice Plays Diamond Dogs, a cover of the David Bowie record of the same name.

“When my project passed its funding goal in the first two hours, I realized I had a lot more control over my career than I had previously thought,” he says. “When you have a thousand people paying for the production of a record in advance, you feel like you can be as weird and wild as you like. It's pure freedom.

The Tiny Telephone Oakland live room.

The Tiny Telephone Oakland live room.

In 2015, Vanderslice opened a second Tiny Telephone studio in Oakland. In the year and a half since it opened its doors, he and his team of ten engineers have recorded over sixty musicians, including Tune-Yards, Boz Scaggs, Dodos, and the Gay Men’s Chorus of the East Bay.

But the studio has a problem: the roof leaks when it rains, and it lets sound escape when musicians are recording. Vanderslice recently returned to Kickstarter to raise the funds to repair the roof, so that musicians will be able to record softer-sounding instruments in the studio’s live room without the sounds of the outside world seeping in. In exchange, backers will be able to pre-book recording time at the studio at a lower cost than Tiny Telephone’s current — already below-market, Vanderslice notes — rates.

With these refurbishments, Vanderslice hopes the studio will remain “a vital and fully functioning creative space for decades to come.”

Engineers Maryam Qudus and Beau Sorenson in the Tiny Telephone Oakland control room.

Engineers Maryam Qudus and Beau Sorenson in the Tiny Telephone Oakland control room.

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