Jun 06, 2011 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
What began as a one-man operation out of a medical office basement in Skaneateles has become a world-class recording facility spanning three floors in a downtown Syracuse building.
Ten year-old SubCat Studios will celebrate its grand opening on June 11, and everyone is invited to tour the new space and join in the celebration – especially Skaneateles natives.
“If not for Skaneateles, none of this would exist,” said owner Ron Keck. “We will definitely miss the whole community that Skaneateles provided.”
SubCat began in 2000, when Keck, a musician and sound engineer from the Eastwood neighborhood in Syracuse, started working on a project with musician Scott Allyn (of the Skaneateles Allyn family). At the time, Keck ran a small business out of his house called KDA Productions, but Allyn had his own recording equipment in a 1,200 square-foot basement room of the Family Care Medical Group building at 3922 Fennell Street.
“At the time it was just for fun – it was certainly not a business,” Keck said, but suddenly jobs started coming to them so fast they decided to turn the space into a real recording studio. The name “SubCat,” which was Allyn’s nickname in college, was created for the new company mainly because it was catchy.
While much of SubCat’s clientele was from Syracuse, through the years in Skaneateles many nationally-renowned artists came through the village to work with Keck. Pop and R&B singer-songwriter Colby O’Donis laid down vocals, as did world-famous opera tenor Marcus Haddock. Blues guitarists Chris Cain and Kim Simmonds recorded in SubCat Skaneateles, as did Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers. Even John Walsh, the host of the television show America’s Most Wanted spent a couple of weeks in town while doing voiceovers for the show.
Even in the midst of the national economic downturn in 2008-2009, SubCat stayed solvent and emergent by offering not just recording services but also editing, mixing, voiceovers, and going out on remote jobs. Where comparable studios in New York City charged $100-$150 per hour, SubCat charged about one third of that price, which allowed them to stay competitive.
“Looking back on it, it’s pretty amazing what we did there,” Keck said. He added that every artist who came through was always impressed by the village and its atmosphere – just as he was.
The business grew so fast, however, that ultimately the question had to be asked, Do we want to move out and go big or remain in Skaneateles and stay small? Keck said.
He decided to go big, and when he heard about space at 219 S. West Street in Syracuse being remodeled he saw it as an opportunity to be closer to his client base.
From the small basement studio in Skaneateles now Keck – along with his co-owner (who was his former intern) Jeremy Johnston – has expanded SubCat to a 10,000 square-foot state-of-the-art studio with two control rooms, four tracking rooms, an artist lounge, fully equipped instrument suite, and four administrative offices. There now are also four full-time employees.
The new space will allow SubCat to expand its services in musical and commercial recording, cd duplication, graphic art design and educational programs in music instruction.
There also is a great opportunity for working together with other businesses in the building, or what Keck likes to call “synergy.” In the building at 219 also is multimedia production company Black Lagoon Studios, video production company Ultimate Cut Productions, and the Syracuse University College of Visual and Performing Arts soon will be renting space for classes.
All of these groups working together can, in essence, be a one-stop shop for artists, where they can learn, practice, record, and produce music; create advertising and cd cover art, and even make music videos. “There is no end to what you can do here at 219,” said Emmet Van Slyke, owner of Black Lagoon Productions.
Keck and the crew at SubCat is looking forward to the future and all the opportunities and possibilities the new space may bring, but there always will be a certain wistfulness about their time on Fennell Street. “I hope we will always have a connection to Skaneateles,” Keck said. “I don’t ever want to forget where we came from.”
SubCat Studios will celebrate its grand opening from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday June 11, at 219 S. West Street, including tours of the new facility. Free and open to the public.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.
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