Gaining on Glenn Brown

For nearly 30 years, East Lansing sound engineer and musician Glenn Brown has been dialed into almost every sector of the movie and music industry.

His accolades include two Emmy Awards and an Academy Award nomination for television and movie work. General Motors, CBS, Motorola, IBM and Rolls Royce are his clients. Eminem, Kid Rock, and Detroit's Ford family have all retained him to design their recording studios.

He has worked with video production companies including WLNS TV Channel 6, WILX TV 10, WKAR TV, WYSM Fox 47, Future Media, Cheny Media, Such Video, Message Makers, Grace & Wild, Postique, Producers Color, Filmcraft, GTN and many more.

He's put his stamp on hundreds of records for renowned musicians, including The Verve Pipe, Nazareth, Ted Nugent and Kenny Rogers.

He even has a cameo on a Spinal Tap song that he helped produce.

"They sent me a song to edit called 'Rock n' Roll Nightmare,' and I do the evil laugh on that track," Brown says with a big grin.

One-Man Band

Originally from Ann Arbor but growing up in the Lansing area, Brown started his musical explorations playing guitar; he was soon integrating his love of playing music with recording and producing.

During the '70s, Brown trained as an audio engineer, and studied at Michigan State University.

"I was going for a sort of independent degree at Michigan State," he says with a smile. "I wanted to study music, electronics, physics, and acoustics, and they wanted me to pick one. I was forced to only go so far in any direction, but I did learn what I needed."

By the late '70s and early '80s, Brown was working on soundtracks, producing albums and doing commercial work for corporations. He built an impressive demo reel of musical samples and jingles.

Larger corporations took notice, and Brown added CBS to his client list, producing themes from past Olympic Games and the 1987 Superbowl.

Along the way, Brown worked as the chief engineer at three major Michigan recording studios with several employees—Wildwood Sound, Audiograph Productions, and Pearl Sound—before settling into his present East Lansing location.

"My business sort of blossomed up here, and we were very successful at it. I didn't necessarily have to leave to make it happen," Brown says. "We would give corporations the same quality product they would find in a bigger city at a lower price, and that's how we started out."

Today, Brown maintains that having a one-man operation is what sets him apart. Humble but confident in his audio mastery, he says that in the past he tried to take on employees, but it didn't fit the mold.

"It's a boutique kind of business, in that you are a specialist at what you do, and if you grow too fast you endanger the situation," he says. "When people retain my services, they expect . . . me to be doing the work, not somebody else. It would be difficult to delegate the work that I do."

Movies, Music, Studio Design

In the film world, Brown has worked with Christopher Guest on several projects, including Best in Show and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.

"When I worked on Best in Show, I'd done some work with Christopher Guest in the past, but joked with him that I received no credits," says Brown. "So at the end of Best in Show it says—really huge—'music recorded at GBP' (Glenn Brown Productions). When I saw it in the theater, it covered the whole screen," he says, laughing.

Brown is also a gifted multi-instrumentalist with an all-improvisational jazz project in the works.

"I've played with lots of great musicians throughout the years," says Brown, "I played with bassist Bill Laswell, and was with him for about four years." Laswell, another Michigan native, also has hundreds of album credits to his name, including stints with Buckethead, Herbie Hancock and Matisyahu.

In 2001, Brown designed Eminem's downtown Detroit recording studio; in 2002, it was Kid Rock's studio in Clarkston, MI. He happily shows off his blueprints for both, as well as the preliminary designs for the Ford family's 585 Studios in downtown Detroit—a job he got through a referral by Kid Rock's engineer.

"The building is a historic firehouse, and I think it's going to be a great addition to downtown Detroit," he says. The studio is set to open March 2009, and Brown has been involved in many of the smallest details.

Making Records

Brown admits that he favors producing records and doing album work over everything else.

"It's creative work without constraints," he says. "Scoring movies, you're trying to fit a mold for a certain scene. With albums, it's whatever people want it to be."

Brown's console—a hand-wired 1977 Neve 8068 analog mixing console—is a legend in itself. The Neve consoles, designed for high-end recording studios in the 70s, are considered by many o be the Rolls Royce of audio consoles; Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, Rick Rubin, and Abbey Road studios all have one.

"Glenn has an amazing ear for music," says Andy Wilson, multi-instrumentalist for the band, Steppin' In It, "He can pick out the smallest tuning and tone flaws. And he genuinely gets into the recording process, regardless of the genre. That's a rare characteristic for a producer [to] switch from metal to classical to roots and be aware of all the variations."

"When musicians around town even hear the name, Glenn Brown, nothing but admiration comes to mind," agrees Chris Hall, a guitarist with several Lansing bands. "The sound quality that comes out of his studio is amazing. He takes your talents to new levels, regardless of the music you are playing."

Staying Near Lansing

While many would insinuate that Brown would be better suited for Los Angeles or New York, he's staying here.

"There are so many great musicians and video production companies in the area, so finding projects hasn't been an issue," he says. "This year, I've had only about two weeks of down time."
Brown sees even more movie projects on the horizon due to the recent Michigan legislation that provides tax incentives to moviemakers.

"I'm getting a lot of calls from different studio camps for film work. I just sent out a demo reel of scores to some people who are interested, so that will probably result in a film project in the future."

"The whole vibe of what's going on in the state musically is really exciting, too," says Brown. "Lansing has always had an interesting and different spin on music. There are so many creative people here. You'd be surprised about the new things that are happening, and some new groups that are starting up that people aren't even aware of."

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Josh Marino writes until the sun comes up, and now joins the lengthy list known as the Fans of Glenn Brown. 

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.


Glenn Brown works in his East Lansing studio with Annie and Rod Capps on their next CD

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

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