Kris Kolp, owner of Tallahassee's Log Cabin Recording Studio, came to town from Tarpon Springs to study computer science at FSU. Though many of his classmates left the area after graduation, Kolp fell in love with Tallahassee.
"I never had any urge to go anywhere else. I love the 'little big town' atmosphere," he says. "There are a lot of great musicians here, and I love the woods. I love being close enough to the coast to be able to go fishing, but not so close that I'll get wiped out by a hurricane every other year."
By day, Kolp is a computer analyst for the Leon County school system, dealing primarily with test data, but his creative spirit is fed by his studio.
"I didn't start out to create a recording studio business. I just wanted to record my own band, and I didnt want to have to go out of town to do it," says Kolp. "Then other bands started contacting me and I started working with them, too."
Right after graduating from college, Kolp applied for 10 credit cards and maxed them all out to purchase his first pieces of equipment (he does not recommend this method of start-up financing). He already had the computer background, but needed the sound engineering knowledge to get his studio going.
"This was in the mid-'90s, and the Internet was really taking off then," he says. "You used to have to intern at a studio to learn from the masters of the business. I had a sort of Internet internship. I also visited lots of other studios and picked the brain of every engineer I could find."
His unorthodox apprenticeship has helped him to create a relatively unusual arrangement of equipment. Nowadays a lot of sound recording is completely computer-based, but Kolp's studio uses a hybrid approach that includes a wide selection of vintage and new analog gear on the front end, wrapped around a sophisticated set of computer tools.
"These days folks just have a computer with plug-ins — virtual representations of the outboard gear like compressors, reverbs, and effects processors," he explains. "I have the actual pieces of equipment as well as the plugs-ins. I go for best of both worlds."
To take advantage of his unique set-up, many of the groups working in his studio record their vocals and instruments live, all at the same time, as opposed to doing each individual track separately and editing them together later. Kolp believes that the analog equipment gives the music a sense of depth that is much harder to achieve with digital equipment alone.
"That's where the magic is," says Kolp. "When you can capture that feeling of a group that really clicks together, it's like nothing else. That's the best reason to come to a dedicated recording studio. It's virtually impossible to record together as a group in your bedroom with a computer."
He cites the recent album he engineered and mixed for Tallahassee's The New 76ers as a prime example of the kind of work he loves.
"They are just incredible together," he says. "And capturing those performers live in their element was a great experience and made a terrific album." (The album, "Superhighway," is available for download at http://www.acoustichappiness.com
Though Kolp's own musical career was mostly put on hold when his daughter, now 2 1/2 years old, was born, Log Cabin Studio is thriving. It now has about a thousand square feet of space, with four dedicated rooms where the performers can see each other through glass but the sound remains isolated.
"I focused a lot on the sound of the rooms," he explains. "That's really important because the sound of the room interfaces with the sound you're making, and that gets into the microphone, so the better sounding room you have, the better the end product. I've spent lots of time getting the rooms tuned."
Kolp also has a selection of instruments that the bands can use for recording.
"My stuff stays in the studio, so it's not as beat up as what the band uses on the road," he explains. "We put new heads on the drums, new strings on the guitar and do everything to make the instruments sound as good as they possibly can for the recording."
Kolp has recently been working with the I.C. Music record label, run by Rick Holly (aka Rickenstein), a former Motown artist who was the drummer for Sly and the Family Stone in the late 1960s and is now based in Tallahassee.
"Rick was retired from the music business for many years, but now has found a new calling producing albums for young groups just starting out," says Kolp. "He has found all kinds of incredibly talented young local artists here, from rock to rap to pop. He's terrific to work with."
For years Kolp thought he would eventually try to make his studio his full- time job, but he has realized that he likes things the way they are now.
"I don't advertise — I get my clients through word of mouth. I have enough business that I can pick and choose the groups I work with, and I can be in the studio just enough to be happy," says Kolp. "I even get to play a little with a Southern rock cover band now and again, and some acoustic gigs here and there."