The East Village of Davenport looked a little less lively on a hazy Saturday morning as the rain struggled to decide if it would keep falling or simply hang above, haunting the city all afternoon. The spirits provided the night prior had all dried up while I made my way past the baseball fields and businesses newly in transition. Nestled in the neighborhoods northeast of the main 11th St stretch, before the road winds race up the hill, rests Modern Myth. Essentially at the corner of Jersey Ridge & Fulton, Modern Myth appears unique in comparison to the more modern houses along Fulton, homes within which they wish they could create the magic that has repeatedly unfurled within these walls.
Modern Myth is the braindchild of Murray Lee, someone I have known since we were both teenagers. If you have any involvement in the local music scene and/or Common Chord, you have almost certainly seen and heard him on stage. He has become a fixture in the local scene, being a major part of several acts, including Rude Punch, and Logan Springer & The Wonderfully Wild, in addition to creating and recording his own profound musical concepts, under the name Murray Lee and The Sons of Hades; a group that was featured as part of the 2021 edition of Alternating Currents. Even before delving into his studio, and the aspects of his approach to recording, it’s clear Murray has a deep commitment to music, songwriting, and the process of building expression from the ground up. When entering the room, it feels welcoming, and while it houses a variety of instruments one would expect to see in a studio there are also shelves of books and several cameras sitting around the space, showcasing Murray’s appreciation of a myriad of artistic mediums. In addition to the interview I left the studio with a new short story to read, gifted from Murray, a reminder of the importance of friends (and individuals) and that so openly share with the others the art which they define as inspiration.
Studio of the Month:
Address: 1203 Jersey Ridge Road. Davenport, IA. 52803
Modern Myth Studios | In the East Village of Davenport | All Photos Provided By: Matthew Terry
Echo: How did you get into the music studio business? Were you (are you still) playing in any local bands in the area, or does your interest focus mostly in music production and not creating the music, so to speak?
Murray/Modern Myth: Lack of money. I’m a musician before an engineer and I needed a space to put down my ideas. I never had enough money (and still don’t) to go into a studio and start tracking so like a lot of people these days, I started doing it myself. Being more on the musician side of things, my studio is more of a pre-production space; a place for a band to put down their ideas, rehearse and get some good demos before they head into a more expensive studio.
Echo: Are there any specific genres or artists you’ve really enjoyed working with throughout your career, why so? Is there any specific style of music/musician that you believe your studio/production style excels at?
Murray/Modern Myth: One of my first customers at the studio was the Avey Grouws Band and they utilized the space exactly how I’m trying to sell it. They came in with some song ideas, did some woodshedding, rehearsed diligently, knocked out a lot of demos, and then went down to Nashville and recorded a Billboard topping album with a Grammy award winning producer. That perfectly encapsulates how I envision my role in the music making process.
Echo: For the artist, what is the best way for them to make sure their track is recorded and produced to the best quality when they come in for a session? Of course time/costs can play a major role, outside of practicing/having songs dialed in, are there any suggestions you have for an artist in preparation for time in the studio?
Murray/Modern Myth: If at all possible, play the songs out live as much as you can before recording them. Recording a take, no matter what instrument, is recording a performance and playing a song in front of an audience can and should inform your performance in the studio. There’s a great story from one of David Bowie’s engineers that I’ll try and paraphrase. He said Bowie would do his vocals in one take. He’d get in the vocal booth “in-character” and just perform the hell out of the song like he was singing in front of a sold out crowd.
Modern Myth Studios | Inside the hideaway studio brainchild of Murray Lee
Echo: Let’s settle the debate: Which is the best digital audio workstation(daw)? If you don’t feel there is but a workstation to deem the best, is there one you like to use in particular? What is the most beneficial aspect of using this DAW?
Murray/Modern Myth: Oh man, I’ll be upfront about this one, they all sound the same, and it really doesn’t matter. I use Ableton because I only had to pay for it once. If anyone is in the market for a DAW, just pick one and learn it. If you’re a musician or a band looking for a studio, it doesn’t matter what they use, as long as they’re proficient and have a good workflow, it doesn’t matter. To me Tape vs. Digital is even becoming a dull debate. Songwriting is more important than any of that. People are more willing to listen to a good song recorded poorly than a bad song recorded in a multi-million dollar studio. I will say though, if your heart is set on tape, you better book some rehearsal time at my space before your session.
Echo: With so much technology involved, what are your favorite pieces of gear made available to artists that use your studio? Are there any pieces of gear that make your studio even more unique and/or help the studio stand out?
Murray/Modern Myth: Being on the production side of things, I have a lot of sounds available. A lot of them are digital, like emulations of every synth you can think of, or whole string sections, but they really come in handy during that writing/experimentation phase. What would this song sound like with a violin, or a minimoog, or a mellotron? Let’s find out real quick.
Echo: We know artists will always attempt to make audio recordings in their own home? Are these recordings something you can traditionally/commonly work with? If so, what’s the best way for them to do so? If not what causes the biggest issue with home recordings?
Murray/Modern Myth: If you want to do it yourself, the first thing you should work on is the sound straight from the microphone. Learn what sound treatment is and how it works, treat your space, and use good microphones. The part about microphones may seem subjective but I’ve learned that it’s kind of a hard truth, you just need good microphones and honestly the price is a good indicator of how good the microphone will be.Trust me, I’ve used every microphone in the $300-600 price range, and while there are some good ones, a lot of times they just don’t cut it. So knowing that you have to ask yourself, do I want to spend a minimum of $3,000 dollars on a microphone and another $2000 to treat the space, just so I can say I recorded it myself, or take a third of and do a full album at a local studio. If you want to be an engineer go for it, if you’re a musician just let the engineers track it at their place.
One of Murrays pieces, his projects include: Rude Punch, Logan Springer & The Wonderufully Wild, Murray Lee and The Sons of Hades | Photo By: Matthew Terry
Echo: What are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve faced as a music studio, either anticipated or otherwise, and what did you do to overcome these temporary blocks?
Murray/Modern Myth: I am just the worst at promoting myself and the space. I don’t really use social media anymore to make matters worse, but luckily there’s publications like the Echo that are very proactive in their outreach and inclusion. Otherwise, my work at the studio is pretty laid back and low-key.
Echo: In closing, what music/musicians have you been hooked on recently? And are there any local artists you’ve worked with that we should be on the lookout for/more people should know?
Murray/Modern Myth: Andy Shauf just put out a new album that I’ve been digging on. His albums always have such great production value. For local artists, I’ve been trying to get JD Aguilera in again and eventually into a bigger studio. He’s got some great originals that need to be recorded. Make sure to tag him in this, maybe that’ll get the ball rollin’.
Modern Myth Studios | East Village of Davenport | Photos By: Matthew Terry