All Ears


Tony WachterTony Wachter makes audio happen at Audioczar Productions.

by Lindsey Lowe 

Photo by Beau Gustafson

 

There are lots of great local musicians in Birmingham who are keeping us dancing (and proud!). But many of the people driving the music in Birmingham aren’t on stage, but are just as vital in the process. One such person is Tony Wachter, owner, chief engineer, and producer at Audioczar Productions.

Wachter has been interested in audio recording since he was a kid, when he would overdub himself with cassette recorders. In his early days, he was solely a musician, and then, perhaps in a stroke of fate, he was asked to sing a jingle. He was singing jingles one night at Boutwell Studios in Birmingham (Wachter moved to the city in 1975) when the owner, Ed Boutwell, asked if he knew anyone who would be interested in being an intern engineer at the studio, and Wachter immediately volunteered himself. Thus began a career that has spanned nearly four decades. Wachter spent 12 years at Boutwell, working his way up to partner and music director at the studio. “I’ve recorded just about every genre of music there is, from rock, pop, soul, gospel, bluegrass, country, etc.,” he says. From there, he worked at a video production company, where he learned about commercial production, working for the likes of Little Debbie, GMC, Pontiac, and more. And after that, he spent more than a decade recording music and audio for a local ad agency’s in-house studio (which he designed and operated). In 2010, he opened Audioczar. “I actually built my studio for my own project use in 2003. I had really started to feel the need to have a facility of my own,” he explains. “When I parted ways with the ad agency I was working for, I already had all the components in place to just open it for commercial use. Many of my former clients were happy to see that I was back recording commercially and started to use me and my services. Many former clients that I had made records with heard that I was on my own and were excited that we could work together again.”

Audioczar allows Wachter to immerse himself in a little bit of everything concerning audio in Birmingham. He explains that his role in the process depends on what hat he’s wearing for the day. “My main focus as chief engineer is to capture performances to whatever recording media the client prefers. As a producer, my main task is to help the artists find the right form, content, and conceptual design for their songs,” he says. “My favorite part of what I do is seeing a project grow from a raw idea to a finished product. Many of my clients come in with only acoustic guitar or piano sketches of their songs and through the course of production, I will direct musicians on the session as to what they play and when to play the differing parts or the order of the arrangement so as to make the song interesting or cohesive.” That isn’t always the case, though, and sometimes, his clients already have specific plans; each project, and each artist, is different, he explains.

Much of that distinction rises from the nature of the client, since he works with both commercial entities and musicians. Commercial clients require that Wachter select talent (which can be local or remote), locate music (or produce it, if they request original music), orchestrate the sound design (the adding of sound effects), and so on. If he’s recording a band, he begins by setting up the studio, which may include up to 16 microphones. Then, they begin recording, doing it over and over again until they achieve the perfect take—it can take as long as four hours to capture one song. And then Wachter begins mixing. “Final mixing involves getting the proper levels between the different instruments to achieve a cohesive and proper mix,” he explains. “I generally put in a 10-hour workday in most cases, sometimes seven days a week. Many clients will block book full days for their projects.”

In the past few years, Audiczar has produced audio for Virginia College, Iron Tribe Fitness, Dales Seasonings, and others and made records for artists like Shelbie Z, David Sea, Cotton Box Road, and many more, including a charted single for Calvin Richardson (K-Ci and JoJo). Wachter also teaches modern recording technologies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Wachter says that the times in the Birmingham sound scene are exciting, which he attributes to social media and to the new music venues available in Birmingham, both of which allow our local talent to literally and figuratively be heard. “The city’s talent pool is finally being paid attention to by a much broader industry spectrum,” he says. “The city has welcomed many new music venues for performance, from Workplay to Bottletree, Moonlight on the Mountain, and Iron City. Having these marvelous venues not only brings in more regional and nation acts, but they offer local musicians chances to perform in well-tuned, well-equipped, and acoustically designed listening environments.” And it’s about time, he says—Birmingham has long been a contender in the southern music realm. “Birmingham has a vast cultural and musical environment,” he says. “Most of the greats, including the Beatles, the Stones, Ricky Nelson, and Elvis all learned from music that came from the South. It’s always been here. The timing is right now for Birmingham to get the attention for the rich talent pool it’s always had.”

 

Upcoming Events

 

6/14: The Foreign Exchange at Workplay

For fans of D’Angelo, Anthony Hamilton, and Erykah Badu

 

6/20: Belle Adair at Bottletree

For fans of Loudon Wainwright III, Tin Sparrow, and Horse Feathers

 

7/19: Ray LaMontagne at the BJCC

For fans of Ryan Adams, Damien Rice, and Josh Ritter

One Response to “All Ears”

  1. We have had the great pleasure of working with Tony over the past few years. He has remastered our Old Road New Travels debut album. And hopefully will be working with us in the very near future on our latest projects. Top-notch musician engineer and producer one of the elite in the southeast as well as the country. Nothing but the best from Tony.

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