Recording Process
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What is a record producer?

There are some producers who focus on the artistic and musical aspects of a recording project, leaving most of the technical aspects to the recording engineers. Other producers are more hands on and handle production and engineering/technical aspects as well. Either way, the producer is there to help you get from having an idea in your head, to getting a finished quality product in your hand. Planning and overseeing different aspects of the production all along the way, producers can assist you with budgets, schedules, studio time and rates, hiring musicians, co-writing, arranging and pre-production all the way through recording, mixing and mastering the final product.

At Wonderland Studios, we have experienced engineers/producers that can handle all aspects of your recording and production needs. We have a great track record, consistently turning out quality products.

'A Day In The Life'

Here's some great quotes from George Martin's book "All You Need Is Ears" - 

"The typical 'Day in the life' of a record producer does not exist. He may be doing different things on every day of the week."

"Today, the producer's role has completely changed. He works with the engineer to create something which, in terms of normal acoustics, is not possible."

"I learned that one of the most important aspects of record production is the ability to handle people"

Our Engineers and Producers -

The McKinney brothers (Eric and Mark McKinney) founded Wonderland Studios and were the primary engineers/producers throughout the late '90's into 2006. Eric is still heavily involved with the day-to-day business operations and sessions, while Mark is not as actively involved with the studio due to his time-demanding music career obligations, performance schedules, other business activities and family-life. Throughout the years, Eric and Mark produced and/or engineered projects featuring such diverse upcoming talent as Colin Gilmore (Jimmie Dale Gilmore's son), The Weary Boys, Mantic, Paula Nelson (Willie Nelson's daughter), Gabe Rhodes (Kimmie Rhodes son), Bill Palmer, Hundred Year Flood (featuring members of the Sharecroppers), Felecia Ford, Jim Palmer, Marc Utter, Nathan Hamilton, Eric Hokkannen, Mike Stevenson (co-writer/performer with LeeAnn Atherton/Toni Price/Jane Bond/Danni Leigh), a Still Second, Clay Seasons and many others...

In addition to engineering/production efforts with Mark McKinney, Eric McKinney has also worked with such upcoming talent as Truth For Leo, The Dealers, V.O.A., Seventh Addition, Breaking Autumn, Zoeie Ryze, Trent Brough, The Implications, David Newcomb, Don Fletcher, Shawn Lucas, Rick Easley, Gary Hunt, Phil Melito, Los Cheveres, The National Pasttime, Interstate 808, Gadget White and The Fematics, Peyton Gin, Ronald Munn, Courtney Sanchez, Bryce Alber, Proteus, Kristen Kissling, Shawn Fussell, Leo Rondeau, Brennen Leigh, Seth Hulbert, Cully Symington, Josh Hoag, Cindy Cashdollar, Tommy Spurlock, Ricky Turpin, Mario Matteoli, Lindsay Washer, Jenny Howell, Manager's Choice and many others...

Eric and Mark McKinney are both experienced engineers/producers with a background in live sound applications and live performances. Eric is a graduate of The Recording Workshop (Recording Engineering and Music Production Program).

In addition to the McKinney brothers, Miriam Thompson/McKinney assists with scheduling, office administrative tasks and assistant engineering tasks for the studio. Also, several freelance engineers/producers have worked at the studio with various projects.

In 2006 another engineer/producer/session player was added into the family here at Wonderland. Tim Casterline, or TANK, as his friends call him, began working with us on a freelance basis and will become a co-owner of the business in 2008. His experience in music production and recording got it's start back in early 1990 as a founding member of the metal band Desinence. He recorded several of the bands earliest preproduction demos and it was there that he got his first taste of the beautiful process of sound recording.

While studying composition and experimental music at Texas Tech University, TANK was introduced to many new avenues of music and hands on experience with new recording equipment. While sitting in on sessions for Spinning Ginny's first demo recorded in Lubbock, TANK further developed his ear and his love for the recording process. He began by recording local punk and rock bands on his Tascam Portastudio 414 MKII 4-track cassette recorder and one Shure SM58 pawnshop knock-off.

Upon returning to Austin he upgraded to the Tascam 688 8-track cassette recorder where he started TLC Recording out of the front room of his house in Cedar Park, he began producing demos for several local bands including Outland, Break, Plan-B, King Travis, and eventually his own band The Dealers, which he produced their first 6 albums.

By 2002 TANK had upgraded to the world of the digital age with the Akai DPS24 24-track digital workstation and began building up his collection of mics and gear as well as furthering his own critical ear and knack for sonic experimentation. The Dealers last two TANK produced titles "Live at Tambaleo" and "Past Lives" were leaps and bounds above anything he'd produced before and completely solidified his passion for producing quality recordings.

All the while TANK has been playing bass for 20+ years and has toured Texas and far beyond with 500+ gigs under his belt, and having recorded on dozens of albums in just about any style imaginable from 3-piece jam rock to Texas blues, southern/stoner rock to math metal, alt.country, country, folk and beyond. He prefers his two Marcus Miller Custom Fender basses (The Blondes), but also enjoys laying down phat grooves with his Warwick Thumb-B 5 string (The Tree). He also has his late 80's Jewel Blue Ibanez Soundgear 4 string, Micheal Kelly 4 string acoustic bass, Aria Pro II and Peavey Fury basses to round out the collection.

Further Background Information About Eric and Mark -

In the early-thru-mid-90's, Eric and Mark formed the various versions of "The McKinney Brothers" band, which firmly established them throughout the Texas scene. They opened high-profile shows for such Texas favorites as Kelly Willis, Ian Moore, Hamell On Trial, the Radio Thieves, and were regular favorites at Austins' famed singer-songwriter haven the Chicago House (rip), the original Steamboat (rip), The Black Cat (rip), and Pearls Oyster Bar (rip). In addition to the brothers, the touring band featured such talented musicians as drummers Ike Hernandez (Little Joe's son), and their good friend the late Kris Van Robbins. After years of playing the Texas scene, the brothers took a break from live performances.

In late '97, the brothers started another project with long-time friend Rob Dennis. The three of them founded the Austin/Nashvile-based roots-rock band, Cosmic Cowboys. During the process of recording and producing the bands debut album, they started meeting with lawyers, and showcased for various labels. The Cosmic Cowboys ended up in negotiations with Virgin Records-Nashville. "At first, we couldn't believe it was happening to us. There we were showcasing material at the offices and meeting with executives at a major label," states Eric. "The president of the label told us he loved our sound and our production. That meant a lot to us. We thought, "great" we've got over two albums of good material already recorded, we'll go through that with the label and put together a killer album and have it released sometime relatively soon. Well, that wasn't the case at all."

As the negotiations continued, some differences of opinions began to surface between the songs that the Cosmic Cowboys were digging, and the types of songs that the label wanted to release. "We started feeling like they were trying to change us, and felt pressured to turn in these perfect "Nashville" radio songs," states Eric. The band continued turning in material throughout much of 2000. "It got to the point of becoming very frustrating, and we knew we were turning in good material, but they were looking for those perfect radio singles. You know, that's not what music (art) is necessarily all about. Most of my favorite songs aren't the so-called big singles on albums," states Eric. "But I do understand that from a big-label point of view -- perfect catchy radio singles are easiest to push to radio, to market, to gain attention -- and when you're putting money into an act, you want to make sure you have a home-run single."

Virgin Records-Nashville also set-up a songwriting session with the Cosmic Cowboys and Walt Aldridge and Brad Crisler (EMI Music/Waltz Time Music - writers). Eric adds, "Walt has had songs cut by tons of big artists (such as Alabama, Ronnie Millsap, Restless Heart), and Walt and Brad have had many artists cut songs they've written together (Sons of the Desert, Tim McGraw, Blackhawk). It was a lot of fun and an honor to write with them. We wrote some killer material, turned in some of that to Virgin Records, and it still wasn't exactly what they wanted."

About that time, the band started wondering if it was really the right move to release their debut album on a major record label. Soon after that, parent company EMI announced that Virgin Records-Nashville would merge with Capitol Records and close the Virgin-Nashville label. Therefore, ties and negotiations with the band ceased.

Eric adds, "Luckily we were at a point where we were still able to retain the rights to all of our material. Now viewing everything more clearly, we decided that we're going to almost always release material strictly on our own. Basically, I think we probably would have gotten lost in the label changes, and the album may have gotten shelved or delayed even longer."

"Going through all of that was a real eye-opening experience for the band. And, just like most major label deals, we would have owed the label so much money that we probably wouldn't have seen a penny for a long time. Heck, many major labels lose money with 90% of their artists. So think how many major-label artists/bands aren't seeing a dime from their album sales. If you really want to make some money from album sales, it's almost always better to keep costs really low, and release it with an independent label, or on your own. And if you can't fund it all yourself, you better consider a business deal with an independent label/studio or someone else, and then be ready to play a bunch of shows and do everything you can to promote it," adds Eric.

The brothers decided to start Texas Time Records while some initial groundwork for distribution and promotional strategies we're being developed for the Cosmic Cowboys debut album. "It really made a lot of sense given we were putting so much time, energy and effort into distribution, bookings, and promotional efforts, and given we're going to continue doing that sort of work for a long-time, either for us or other artists. We thought we should use those efforts and contacts for other acts that we really believe in as well."

In addition, Eric and Mark decided to associate Wonderland Studios with the label. Therefore, records for selected artists/projects could be recorded relatively cheap (decreasing the costs for the artist and label) and therefore become profitable faster. The brothers are very selective about the artists associated with the label. They vowed to only release great music and promote artists/bands that they truly both believe in. "That way we'll become known as this little Texas-based label that features great music and is slowly continually building a killer catalog. We're not going to try to compete with the big labels, we don't have the means to do that. However, I think we're going to eventually build a catalog of some really great music, and there will be a lot of folks looking forward to the next Texas Time release."

"We'll always primarily focus on distribution, bookings and promotion throughout Texas, as well as marketing via the internet for some world-wide availability for the releases. Now with all sorts of digital (internet based) record labels coming about, it's the perfect time to promote artists world-wide at a relatively low cost. However, most artists/bands really need to build a regional or state-wide fan base first. If they concentrate on that, then they'll be able to play more often throughout the state and will in-turn sell more albums, possibly to the point of being able to make a living at it. Then they just may spark the interest of some bigger labels," states Eric. "At that point, they would have some real negotiating power, and they just might be able to actually get a decent major-label deal. Hopefully, we'll help some artists get to that point in the near future. In the meantime, given the way this label is set-up, most of the artists associated will be turning a profit relatively quick..."

More Recent Information About Mark and Eric -

Throughout 2006/2007 Mark's songwriting/music career has been noticed by many more industry folks and fans alike. While working on his own debut CD, Mark wrote songs with many other songwriters, and even teamed up with Texas country star Kevin Fowler. Together the pair wrote a song called “What's Your Point,” which is featured on Fowler's latest CD, released on Equity Records. Mark released his own album titled Get It On, produced by Rob Dennis (producer of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the fray, Cross Canadian Ragweed) on Super Loud Music. Mark's first single, Comfortable In This Skin, hit number 8 on the Texas Music Chart in 2007, and number 1 on Radio Free Texas. Mark's band, the Cosmic Cowboys includes Mark McKinney - vocals/acoustic/harmonica, Eric McKinney - guitar/slide/bg vocals, Ryan Coggin - bass/bg vocals, Jonas Lorence - guitar/bg vocals, Michael Kelton - drums. The band has toured relentlessly throughout 2007, opening shows for such artists as Kevin Fowler, Randy Rodgers, Wade Bowen, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Trent Summar and Trent Tomlinson. And the band was featured at such high-profile events/festivals as the Texas/OU tailgate party at the State Fair of Texas, the BMI Stage at Big State Festival, Ranch Bash '07 at Sundance Square in Fort Worth Texas, and headlining Billy Bob's Texas, the world's largest honky-tonk. For the latest about Mark McKinney and his band, the Cosmic Cowboys, visit www.myspace.com/markmckinnney.

Texas Time Releases -

In association with Frogville Records, Texas Time Records and The McKinney Brothers, along with Bill Palmer co-produced this great release called Burn by Bill Palmer

Several other CD's are currently in the works for release on Texas Time Records in 2008 and/or 2009. Including the solo debut by Eric McKinney, a compilation CD featuring many Texas-based artists/bands, and CD's by several other artists that we'll soon mention.

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