Last year was a period of major professional and creative growth for Ben Napier, the veteran green-haired producer, sound engineer, and musician. In April, the TCU alum, who’s worked in the studio and onstage with The Hanna Barbarians, Sally Majestic, Cleanup, Panic Volcanic, Droidekka, and more, moved out of his home studio on the West Side to a smaller, cheaper apartment in the Fairmount area of the Near Southside. His aim was to save money for a longtime dream: owning and operating a full-service recording studio.
His new place, a 3,600-square-foot warehouse about 10 miles west of downtown, had formerly housed Blue Smoke Studios, run by producer/musician Nick Choate (Luke Wade, Josh Weathers). Napier rechristened it Green Audio Productions, the title he’s been using since 2004 as an independent producer at other people’s places. The space features two separate recording rooms, state-of-the-art soundboards, microphones, and amplifiers, and a few sonic frills like a gleaming Baldwin-Howard upright piano and an imposing Tama drumkit. It’s a musician-friendly rehearsal and recording space available at (hopefully) affordable rates 24/7.
“So far there’s been plenty of recording at odd hours,” Napier said with a chuckle. “At my old home studio, I tried to keep a common-sense curfew of 10 p.m. every night. But a lot of the bands that my co-engineer Zach [Tucker] works with don’t start rehearsing and tracking until well after 10 o’clock.”
Tucker, a Collin College graduate with a degree in studio recording, had been an intern with Napier at the old space. As a musician who plays in several popular local outfits, including Panic Volcanic, Animal Spirit, and Bomb Quixote, Tucker brought his own client pool to Green Audio. A few months after moving into the new building, Napier promoted Tucker to co-engineer and handed him control of one of the two recording areas. Napier, who also plays guitar in Sally Majestic and Vanilla Face Jones, is equally plugged into the North Texas scene.
Over the next few months, Green Audio will pump out several recordings, including new ones by Sally Majestic, Animal Spirit, Americana singer-songwriter Keegan McInroe, and maybe even pop stylist Son of Stan.
“We’re trying to get financially solvent as fast as possible,” Napier said.
Napier came to his new studio with a pretty good idea of what worked and what was largely unnecessary. In terms of a model, he cites John Congleton’s Elmwood Recording in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood as a good example of what he wants Green Audio Productions to be: a modest operation that doesn’t try to hard-sell its services to young musicians and that makes the most of its limited space and equipment. Napier uses the word “utilitarian” to describe Elmwood and means it as a high compliment as well as a personal goal. And not every producer where he’s worked has been patient with young musicians trying to find their artistic voices.
“One thing I’m doing different [from other producers] is the way I’m monitoring the musicians,” he said. “I’m big on the ethos of putting musicians in the best environment you can. Some guys will just drop everyone into the same room for a few hours and expect them to be great. I’m trying to let them get comfortable” with identifying their individual talents and building on them.
Napier also has been booking shows. From a short-lived series of Green Audio fundraisers of sorts at The Grotto, for which performers were paid partially with studio time, he recently started taking advantage of an offer to fill Sunday nights at Lola’s Saloon. This Sunday features three progressive, intense, punk-inspired Fort Worth acts: Day Waster, Lady Kira, and Mean Motor Scooter (formerly Endless Sky).
“My aspiration is to book more shows around town with bands I’d like to see but [that] people may not have heard of,” Napier said.
Green Audio Productions Presents
Day Waster, Lady Kira, and Mean Motor Scooter
Sun at Lola’s Saloon, 2736 W 6th St, FW.