BLUE FROG STUDIOS
White Rock BC
by Bruce J Maier
I first met the owner of Blue Frog Studios, Kelly Breaks at an annual Jam session held in Surrey BC and hosted by Mr. Paul Sorbaro who is the drummer for one of the Vancouver region’s premiere groups, Compound Blues Band. Paul and the guys have been friends with Kelly for some time and although I had been invited up from the states to participate before, this would be our first time to meet and get to play some music together. Of course people there told me this studio owner guy would be coming there to hang out for a while but there were a couple-hundred music aficionados mixed together in this beautiful private club and frankly, I couldn’t hear too well! I ran into Jody Gilbert from the White Rock Blues Society and she said " Bruce, you’ve got to come over and meet with Kelly from Blue Frog! He’s a great Bass player!" So she grabbed my hand and whisked me down the hallway where Mr. Breaks and some of his associates were gathered watching the musicians on stage. Jody, being quite forthcoming told us that we’d make a great team playing music together and we should give it a go. She was in charge of the lineup of artists who were signing up on the sheet to play and was really doing a fine job pairing players up. So, we get up on the stage, neither of us had ever even heard of the other and neither knew each other’s style or ability but as I called off the tunes one by one, Kelly delivered a solid, skilled and soulful touch to the bottom end of the music and for me, it was sheer joy! After our little mini-set, we chatted as best we could in the party atmosphere and soon after exchanging business cards, briefly touching base on his studio and my web magazine and agreeing to talk over the phone soon, Kelly left for another appointment. I however, helped close down the bar at 3:45 a.m. playing acoustic-folk originals with some other artists who had come to play, and if possible, to bring in the sunrise with a song. The people of Vancouver, White Rock and Surrey BC love music. It’s all over the region and throughout the city proper. What a great place for the arts! More on that in issues to follow. For now, It’s all about the Blue Frog!
Interview July 9th:
DGT/ Bruce: Hello Kelly. It’s great to get a chance to talk with you again. How have you been since we jammed a couple weeks ago?
Kelly: Hello Bruce. Nice to talk with you as well. I’m great. Sure had a good time playing music together that night!
DGT: Me too Kelly. We need to do that again in the near future huh? Well we could talk all day about our own music but I have to tell you, I am excited to be doing this interview today!
KB: I am as well Bruce and thanks for agreeing to do this article on us in Damn Good Tunes.
DGT: You are so welcome! Well, Kelly our readers and mostly all in the music industry in one capacity or another. Many of them have spent time in recording studios, and many of them own everything from project studios to full-blown record companies. In my research I see Blue Frog being touted as an affordable million-dollar studio. How did you create Blue Frog? What’s the story?
KB: Blue Frog was actually built in 2003 as a beautiful facility with a lot of space. 1400 square feet just in the recording room, which was designed by Jon Vrtacic ( 1948-2009 ) and David Hayes. The ceilings are twenty-three feet high, which makes not only a great height for acoustics, but also for placing cameras and cranes for video operations.
Recording room featuring 23 foot high cielings
DGT: So yes. I read about and watched an embedded video performance, which originated from your beautiful soundstage. Tell us about that.
KB: It’s a thirty-five foot wide performance stage complete with a Yamaha Grand piano. We can accommodate anything from a soloist to an eighty-piece orchestra for concerts.
DGT: After watching Alfie Zappacosta’s video performance it suddenly occurred to me that you…and I hope I’m not jumping the gun here…you could turn that facility into an actual web–based television studio and be streaming live and pre-recorded concerts from there, almost as a main function!
KB: Bruce no that’s assuming too much. In fact, you are right on the money with it because that is part of what we are building. On the lines of say, Austin City Limits.You see, we have installed high-end IP Cameras and recessed LED lighting throughout the video room which allows a technical director the freedom to pull in precise and pre-planned shots at will. The operators are not in the way of the audience and the result is much better.
DGT: Kelly, I was involved with television production for many years but I left as digital was coming in. I have somewhat of an idea what’s involved but I’d probably be lost these days. There’s so much new technology.
KB: Well things have certainly changed and we’re able to do things now with video and audio that would have been impossible just a few years ago. You know, everything is recorded in Protools HD while filming a concert, so it’s about the best there is for good sound and solid editing choices. For example, many times an artist will do two shows. One night the first - followed by a show the next evening. We will have them wear a matched set of clothes to the previous night’s performance and then we have the flexibility to say, edit in the better of two performances of a certain number the artist played. They like it and it works well for us.
DGT: Kelly, many studio owners in the past have told me they were either a producer or an engineer, but couldn’t do both as both have separate sets of demands and responsibilities. Which are you, or what is your position at Blue Frog?
KB: First off, I’d like to say that nowadays it’s more and more common to find that the engineers are also the producers. That has changed over the years, and with the advent of the digital recording world, many things are now possible that weren’t before but the trade-off is that everyone must be able to multi-task. I am actually the Studio Manager and I overlook many aspects of the business, both technical and administrative. Also I take great interest and pride in " front-of-house " sound for the concerts and oversee that with hands on!
DGT: Your facility is a Protools environment I think you were saying?
KB: Actually with are both analogue and digital, beginning with two inch, twenty-four track tape and then synching to Protools HD.
DGT: So you get the warmth of the tape right?
KB: Yes and then we move it over to Protools which allows us to edit in a very efficient manner. It’s the best of both worlds!
DGT: What is the size of your staff currently at Blue Frog?
KB: We have two engineers and five to six administrative support staff. Also we work with various video production companies, so there are many people involved with Blue Frog Studios, and as well we bring in interns from colleges and such who would like to gain experience in a nice facility.
DGT: How many studios like your are there in the greater Vancouver area? Is there a lot of competition?
KB: Well Brian Adams owns a nice place here in the city and there are a couple others, not quite as large as ours. None of them have the capability of a hundred-person audience while we’re taping a live show though. We’re trying to move along with the times Bruce. You know, You Tube, Vimeo and all the social networking sites have changed the ways of the music business. We are certain that video and film, streaming and pay-per-view are not just the way of the future. They are the way of now.
DGT: Kelly, I think Blue Frog Studios is really on the leading edge of today and tomorrow and it’s nice to know there are caring musicians like yourself who have put their hearts and souls into keeping the music alive – out there in the real world making the music more accessible than ever before. I wish you well my friend and look forward to seeing you again soon. Maybe a guided tour of the studio and perhaps making some more music together.
KB: Thanks Bruce. Thank you for the opportunity to reach out through the webzine and tell more folks about Blue Frog Studios.
visit Blue Frog Studios website !
"...it’s about the art for me. The only way it can get better is if the art gets better...when we write and sing songs that matter, that’s when it gets better! When we can touch the listener through our words, melody, song....that’s how it can be better. Music makes the world better, whether it be performed around the camp fire or is produced in a great studio. "
GO TO INTERVIEW HERE