Stagehand had a Zoom interview with Dog in the Window Records owner Derek Pulliam, and asked him some questions about his studio.
How long has DITWR been going and what made you decide to build a studio?
In one form or another, the studio has been in existence for 18 years. The 1st ten years it was called Sympul Studios. We then rebranded with the idea of possibly being a record label. Which is why it’s called Dog In The Window Records.
Did you train somewhere to learn how to run a studio, have you ever worked at another studio?
No, I trained at the school of hard knocks. I never set out to be the world’s best engineer. I learned from people who had good training. I’ve always been community oriented. My first partner Dustin Symes trained at Craig Learmont’s studio in Three Hills. He taught me Pro Tools. I’ve watched tons of videos and am constantly learning. Pretty much taught myself through trial and error. That said, I owe a lot to Dustin Symes.
How has business been during the pandemic?
Well I haven’t been touring or playing with bands, which before always kept me busy. I have been spending more time in my studio. At first, everyone was waiting for the music to come back, including myself. I started reaching out to people that I admire or whom I’ve worked with before. Asking if they wanted to do a record. Sometimes just playing the role of encourager gets musicians to come in. I have been busy. I try to make 4 to 6 projects a year. Last year I did 5 and this year, I’ve already done 3. The work has been more experimental compared to other years. People have the time to muck around more.
Who are some of the artists that have recorded at DITWR?
Bebe Buckskin has been here quite a bit in the last 5 years. She’s now recording at Muscle Shoals, Tom Olsen has done a couple records here, Tim Buckley and Mariel Buckley both did earlier recordings here, Trina Nestibo made a great kids record here, as did Dan Duguay from Dan the One Man Band, Kenna Burima, Cal Wiltse, Ellen McIlwain... When Rob Smith closed his Rocky Mountain Studio, I was the benefactor of a lot of his clientele.
What’s the most difficult part of running a studio?
Finding the balance between profit and making good art. It’s a multi level thing. Many clients are spending their own money, so it’s my job to balance the economics and the quality of the product. I’ve never relied on getting grants, I probably should have, but it hasn’t been a priority. Finding clients that fit is important. I pretty much have chosen the people I want to work with. If it hasn’t been a good fit, I’m happy to decline the work. I don’t want to be working with someone just to make a dollar.
Is this a one person operation or do you have support?
It probably looks like it a lot of the time, but I have some great support. Dustin Symes as I mentioned earlier, has been a supporter from the start. John Heals, who is a long time member of our music community. John has worked at Long & McQuade for 30 years, and has endowed the studio with really spectacular equipment. There’s no way that without John’s help, I would have the gear I have now. I visit some top tier studios, and when I look at their gear I say “yep, I got one of those, and one of those and one of those…” They may have 2 or 3 of them, but I at least have one! Craig Learmont is another one who has been helpful and I look to him for advice. Jonathan Lagore is a great musician as well as producer. He probably knows Pro Tools better than I do! He’s working as a producer in my studio right now with a prominent Calgary artist. Like I said, I’m very community minded and I seek creative feedback from many different sources.