Hear our talk with the director of The Smart Studios Story, recorded with a live audience.
The Smart Studios Story will be getting its local premiere with two screenings at the Wisconsin Film Festival in April. This week director Wendy Schneider joined me at the High Noon Saloon in front of an audience to discuss the documentary for our live podcast, The Tone Cluster.
Schneider began making the film as Smart was getting ready to close up shop in 2010. What she ended up with was a solid 90-minute film that traces Smart’s low-budget origins in 1983, when Butch Vig and Steve Marker rented a space in a warehouse building on East Wash, glued up some egg cartons, and began recording local bands like Tar Babies and Mecht Mensch. The film, which I watched earlier this week, strikes a good balance between the lesser-known bands who made up the bulk of Smart’s clientele and the big names who made Vig a famous producer and form the shorthand one always hears about the studio.
The film was made with Vig and Marker’s participation, but it does talk about the downside of Smart’s success: When more money started coming in, Smart undertook a renovation that some musicians (including Billy Corgan) say killed the vibe that made the place special, and the success of Nirvana’s Nevermind and later Garbage often took Vig and Marker away from the studio, putting a strain on its business.
Schneider and I had a half-hour conversation about the many interviews she recorded, her work curating the music for the documentary, her own experiences learning recording engineering at Smart, and her recent activities booking shows for the Maria’s series. Also, I told a stupid story about Smokes the rapper. Give the full thing a listen below.
The next Tone Cluster is on May 18 at the High Noon, with guest-host Liz DiNovella.
Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and catch WORT-FM’s weeknight news show In Our Backyard, which partners with us to produce these. Thanks to Dylan Brogan for producing this interview.