It’s the dream of a lifetime for Ian Gorman, and he’s letting you in on it, with the grand opening of La Luna Recording and Sound, from 5 to 10 pm, Saturday, Aug. 25, at 1501 Fulford, near the corner of Stockbridge. The surf band, Guitar Up, will entertain, with food and drink provided guests.
Isn’t that an odd place for a party? Not when you see the inside.
What was built to be a munitions plant in World War II, is now a state-of-the-art digital recording studio...that also has retro analog recording equipment, for Old School purists.
The celebration at La Luna will feature all of the ventures at the Jericho Town campus, including Fido Motors (which builds electric scooters) and their Café (serving gourmet coffee and light fare), Kal-Tone (a guitar maker), and Kalamazoo Piano Company (which restores pianos).
Fido is in the building that once housed Kalamazoo Buggy Company, and the other two companies are in the building that was once the Starr Brass Company, which made parts for Gibson Banjos.
We met La Luna’s Gorman at the large, unfinished, “not yet decided” room, with construction workers putting up drywall behind us. Gorman’s calm demeanor, as he stretched out in his chair, hands entwined behind his head, belied his active imagination and ambition to be the best. His descriptions are peppered with words like love, creative, craft, evolving, quality, vibrant, art, eclectic, and genuineness (he wasn’t sure that was a word). He’s calling the open house a “big hug” to the community that is welcoming him.
Gorman says he’s from the east side of the state (People from the east side of the state always use that designation. Maybe they don’t figure we’ll have heard of the town they’re from—or maybe they’ve heard too much “where?” and realized “the east side of the state” is all most people care to know.). We wanted to know, so he clarified that he’s a native of Ferndale, near Detroit. He came to Kalamazoo in 1996, to go to WMU, and fell in love with the city. But classes were not enough, so he took a job offer in Chicago. However, his first job involved movies and TV. Since he really wanted to work in music, he moved to the Chicago Recording Studio, where big stars put down tracks.
Yet, he found he was not cut out for big city living—not to mention the typical 100-hour work weeks, topping out at 130 hours. So he came back to Kalamazoo at the end of 2001, to work as a staff engineer at WMU, and recorded local bands on the side. Word-of-mouth built his recording business, but he says studio recording will only get you so far. After all, a band will only put out one or two albums a year, but might play live shows every single weekend, so live recording is the way to get started.
His studio recording was done in his house or at a rented hall. Before being La Luna, the venture was known as “Big Green Lamp!” because, well, he bought a big, green floor lamp at a garage sale, and it sort of stood out. He chose “La Luna” in 2012 because he says he just liked the sound of it.
Gorman has recorded 500 studio albums, earning his clients 28 WYCE
Jammie Awards (with over 250 nominations), and he was recognized as Producer of the Year, 2012. Artists have included Greensky Bluegrass, May Erlewine, Seth Barnard, The Crane Wives, Joel Mabus, Dominic Davis, Stephen Lynch, the Go Rounds and Red Tail Ring.
That’s in addition to being a performing songwriter and musician in his own Band, The Red Sea Pedestrians
, which began playing in 2005, and has released six CDs to critical acclaim throughout the state. He says the style might be called a mixture of rock, folk, and Eastern European—including Klezmer music and Gypsy jazz.
But there’s more. Gorman offers workshops at La Luna, like the evening and weekend workshops he has presented at WMU, Folk Alliance Region Midwest, and The Wheatland Music Festival. It’s all part of his desire to share the wealth of music. For instance, you don’t necessarily have to go to La Luna to record. He and staff engineer, Nick Pasquino, can come to you. Or you may want to record parts of the piece, and go to the studio to lay down the drums, or whatever. The goal is to get as many people as possible involved in the high quality, eclectic music scene.
We met Pasquino at a coffee joint as he was running from an appointment in Grand Rapids to another here in town. We slid into his schedule quite well. While Gorman has a crop of dark, curly brown hair, Pasquino sports light brown wavy hair, just past shoulder length. They could have been sent from “Central Casting” to portray artsy musicians.
Pasquino says he’s from “the Grand Rapids area,” again thinking we don’t care. We pulled it out of him that he’s from Hudsonville, where he developed a passion for music and dreamed of going to The Music Center at Columbia College/Chicago. The $45,000 tuition deterred him. He heard about the audio program at WMU, and went there, instead. He’s been in town for four years as of next month.
That’s where Pasquino met Gorman through John Campos, director of Western’s sound studios. He sat in on Gorman’s sessions, which he described as “awesome.” Then, Pasquino did his first recording session—a solo project—with Hayes Griffin, of the group Fauxgrass.
When asked what got him into music originally, Pasquino says, without hesitation, Led Zeppelin. Now, however, he says he’s a big fan of jazz, and is amazed at how many genres rap music is splitting into. He has helped record Gorman’s band, as well as a Grand Rapids band, called the Tube Socks.
As with most of us, his family is divided, with his dad in Spring Lake, his sister in Traverse City, and his brother, who is recently married in Macomb County. He says he’d like to see them more often, but he feels that he’s on the brink of a lifelong dream at La Luna. When asked if he had any message for the greater community, he says, “come record with us!”
Gorman is likewise excited. He says Michigan, and Kalamazoo in particular, should be recognized for its cross-pollination of creativity in music, art, theatre, writing, and film; with a large, supportive community of lovers of the arts. Speaking of support, Gorman’s wife, Rachel, is always there for him … at least when she’s not performing clarinet in the band, being a visual artist, graphic artist, massage therapist, a sound engineer in her own right—or a Registered Nurse at Bronson. She also helped paint the new studio.
That’s where we met Rachel Gorman—at what she calls the “Glass Palace,” at the corner of Portage and Romence (formerly Bishop Road). It was at the end of the workday, but we got in just ahead of the locking of the doors. The building is no longer Upjohn, or Pharmacia, or Pfizer. Now, it’s split between Bronson and Stryker, with a third floor awaiting a tenant.
Rachel says she’s from “the east side of the state” (here we go again!), but we pressed her for “near Port Huron,” and finally “Smith’s Creek.” She coincidentally came to Kalamazoo at the same time as Ian. She was also enrolled in the WMU recording program, where she later became the office manager and engineer. Ian and Rachel have been friends for ten years, and are celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary next month.
The Red Sea Pedestrians. Photo by Derek Ketchum for Local Spins.
As noted above, Rachel plays clarinet in their band, The Red Sea Pedestrians. They also hit the road to “Come Together” with the Cornfed Girls to do a live performance of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album. That’s the one with the mysterious “Something,” the fun “Octopus’s Garden,” and the maniacal “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”
The La Luna Studio is an eight-room, 1,800 square foot facility, featuring 24-track analog tape, 32-input Pro Tools HD, “and a lovingly-curated collection of both vintage and modern sound equipment.” There are a large live-performance space, two isolation booths, a spacious control room, four smaller spaces, for further sound separation, two reverb chambers, and a courtyard for breaks and relaxation. also records at the studio. And once established. Gorman hopes to add an intern program in conjunction with WMU.
Photography by Derek Ketchum for this story originally appeared here in Local Spins.