After extensive construction, the world-class Grand Haven recording studio is impressing those who bring projects through its doors. Get the back story and take a tour of this West Michigan gem.
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Grand Haven sound engineer Bill Chrysler has had a decorated career, to say the least.
For a man who has run live sound on worldwide tours for stars such as John Mayer, Prince, Madonna, Maroon 5, Bob Seger and Paul McCartney, his reputation speaks volumes about his talent in the music industry.
But for all his accolades and awards, Chrysler said he simply remains dedicated to helping every artist be the best they can be.
And that holds true for every recording artist that enters his Grand Haven facility, Third Coast Recording Company.
Along with co-owner Joe Sturgill – who helps run day-to-day operations of the studio – Chrysler prides himself on taking the time to listen to what an artist envisions for his or her music. And that applies to artists recording their debut albums or those with Grammy Awards hanging on every wall.
“I want everybody that runs through here to be really happy with their product, 10 or 20 years down the road,” Chrysler said.
“If they come here – come to our studio – and make a hit record, and sell millions of copies; but they’re not happy playing the music? I want them to be very successful, and happy … we want them to want to play the songs they recorded here.”
Chrysler and his studio team – which includes producer/engineer Joe Hettinga, engineer Kevin Kozel, drum mechanic Scott Pellegrom and Bill’s wife, Binnie – are committed to telling the story their recording artists want to tell with their music.
Third Coast’s impressive arsenal of vintage instruments and gear also allows performers to test out new instruments and methods to help achieve their desired sound.
“If people are trying to make their stuff sound like the older, vintage models – we have the real deal,” Chrysler said. “They are welcome to use it. But we don’t force them; we just want their gear to sound as good as it possibly can. It’s about the band… using the facility and the technology to their advantage.”
VINTAGE GEAR, FLOATING FLOORS AND MORE
That vintage gear includes old Marshall, Vox, Roland and Fender amps (including a 1965 Twin), vintage pianos and organs (Hammond, Rhodes and Wurlitzer models), and even an old World War II Chaplain’s pump organ. This foot-pump operated organ used to be folded up into a suitcase, and travel out to the front lines of the war to hold chapel and church services.
When it comes to the studio itself, the facility was built – from the floor to the ceiling – to be the perfect recording studio. From the offices of the staff to the studios where the clients track their music, even the walls and flooring underneath the rooms have been customized to meet the needs of the musicians and technicians who will use them – ensuring the quality of the music they will make.
“Most people think a recording studio sounds like the inside of a pillow, but it doesn’t,” Chrysler said. “The sound in a recording room has character. I hope that decades down the road, people can listen to a record –and listen to the sound of it – and be able to say, ‘Yeah, that was recorded at Third Coast.’ ”
The Chryslers bought the building on Washington Avenue on the east side of Grand Haven in 2015, converting what was once a church, dry-cleaning business, car dealership and garage over the years. It covers more than 10,000 square feet, and Chrysler worked with Los Angeles-based studio designer Jay Kaufman to transform that space into a world-class recording studio — one with floating floors and quintessential sound dispersion qualities.
Cosmic Knot, a popular West Michigan jam group, recently released its debut album, “Inner Space,” after recording it at Third Coast. Tom Wall, lead guitarist and vocalist of Cosmic Knot, said the album turned out exactly how he had hoped.
“It was interesting, working down here – it was definitely a much more focused environment,” Wall said. “It was cool … like, you are excited to go into your job. And getting to know Bill, and all of these people… It has been awesome, just seeing this group of people come together.
“It has been a blessing: I am beyond grateful, more than I can even say. They treat you like family here – it is pretty cool to come into a community like that. … Bill always says, ‘I’m just here to help people do what they want to do… how can I help you do that? If it’s going to help all of us, and it’s going to make the community better, then it’s going to be better for everybody.’ It was really cool to hear him say that. And it makes you want to work here more.”
A West Michigan native who was born in Walker and graduated from Kenowa Hills High School, Chrysler said the Great Lakes State was the natural choice for him to set up shop and create a resource for talented musicians.
SHOWCASING MICHIGAN’S ‘EXCEPTIONAL MUSICAL TALENT’
“I feel very fortunate to have worked with the international talent that I have. It has allowed me to achieve a very high musical barometer,” he said.
“I believe in Michigan, and there is exceptional music talent. I don’t know what it is about this place… but I would like to help get it noticed, and put it on the musical map again.”
Chrysler plans to do his part to help make that a reality, which means spending less time traveling the world with performing bands and spending more time in his Grand Haven studio. He said while he once worked an average of 250 live shows a year, he’s now scaling back to about 50.
“I love what I do, Chrysler said. “This will be my best year for studio work.”
He also firmly believes West Michigan has a disproportionate number of truly talented musicians.
“My barometer from touring is what goes on in the studio here,” he said. “And really, the average band around here is much better than the bands the record companies are out there trying to promote – and who usually don’t make it. They are putting all the money and effort into pushing these bands, but the average band around here is so much better than that. … I’m trying to get them something that they can get out to the world.”
In the end, Chrysler said his dream for Third Coast is to produce music that does just that – gets around the world and makes it a better place.
“I don’t want to sound cliché, but music is a good thing for the world, and it makes the world a better place,” he said.
“It breaks all communication boundaries – if you like a certain song, it doesn’t matter if you only speak Chinese, or only speak German… it doesn’t matter. It literally breaks all boundaries. So, I want to give bands the opportunity to get out and reach the rest of the world.
“I’ve lived my dream. And now, every day, still – I get to help people. I want to help the newer, younger musicians. Some have yet to make their mark or haven’t had the opportunity. So we hope to give them the opportunity to achieve their dreams, too.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Third Coast Recording Company
Photos by Loren Johnson, Matt Marn and Dennis Henry
VIDEO: A tour of Third Coast Recording
Video by Matt Marn
Copyright 2018, Spins on Music LLC