Music professor produces Juno-nominated album
By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer
Music producers are often seen in a soundproof studio, fiddling with knobs on a massive mixing board. While Matt Rogalsky does some of his production work in that controlled setting, he much prefers to set up his recording equipment where the music is happening. Dr. Rogalsky, a continuing adjunct in the School of Music, used that approach when recording local musician Gary Rasberry’s Juno-nominated album What’s the Big Idea?!?
“We went everywhere, from a shed on Wolfe Island to Wintergreen Studios, which is a retreat north of Kingston, to my house with various musicians stopping by,” he says.
Selecting a location is often based on inspiration or the acoustics of the building or structure, Dr. Rogalsky says. “And sometimes it’s convenience because we have to make the best use of the time available. If it happens to be a shed on Wolfe Island, that’s cool. We can get a good sound there.”
Dr. Rogalsky and Mr. Rasberry (Ed’83, Med’91) have known each other for a while because their children attended the same school. They worked on the record for several years with Dr. Rogalsky helping arrange the songs and also performing on the record along with a host of guest artists from old-time duo Sheesham and Lotus to Tommy Hunter’s long-time pedal steel player Steve Smith.
Even though What’s the Big Idea?!? is nominated for Children’s Album of the Year, the record is meant to appeal to listeners young and old, Dr. Rogalsky says.
“We were trying to make sure it wasn’t an album just for children’s ears because adults can grow to hate kids’ albums,” he says. “Gary and I agreed that we didn’t want to try and pander to kids. You don’t need to do silly things for them. You can do serious songs because they’re smarter than adults take them for. On the other hand, there is some quality silly stuff on the album, particularly from Sheesham and Lotus who can improvise dialogue like Abbott and Costello.”
Dr. Rogalsky’s work as an electroacoustic performer and academic tends to be more experimental than the music he typically produces through his company Memory Device. However, he says the two worlds are intimately connected.
“When I am producing an album, I really like the idea of thinking about sound, fitting instruments together and deciding on orchestration. And it connects directly with my other music because as I work through my own compositions and sound installation work, it’s all about balancing frequency, content, addressing the spectrum, thinking about levels, and how to make things sound ‘good’ and engaging the ear.”
Dr. Rogalsky works with musicians who play a variety of musical styles, everyone from Mr. Rasberry to P.S. I Love You, the noise pop duo that was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize long-list in 2011 and 2012. He is currently producing the band’s next record at the Tragically Hip’s studio in Bath. While that’s a more traditional recording studio, Dr. Rogalsky recently recorded a band at Duncan McArthur Hall on a weekend. In addition to using the auditorium, they experimented by recording in the stairwell. They went even further by dropping a thousand ping pong balls down the stairwell and recording the resulting sound.
“We just wanted to get the sound of the space. The acoustics of this big, concrete brutalist architecture was great for their music,” he says.
Mr. Rasberry is up against another group with a Queen’s connection. Splash ‘n’ Boots, made up of Nick Adams (ConEd’05) and Taes Leavitt (Artsci’04), are also nominated for Best Children’s Album. Queen’s will also be represented at this year’s Juno Awards by alumna Amanda Balsys (MEd’11, BEd’12,), a member of the Wilderness of Manitoba. The group is nominated in the Roots and Traditional Album of the Year category. The Juno Awards will be presented March 30 in Winnipeg.