Blind Banana Productions Hits Its Stride

Mar 18, 2004 12:00 PM, Editors


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Jeffrey Pierce (pictured) owns and operates Fredericksburg, Va.-based Blind Banana Productions ( ), a full-service recording studio and live sound business with a full roster of corporate clients and bands seeking an alternative to the pace (and prices) of nearby Washington, D.C. During the past year, Blind Banana has completed work for The Kennedy Center, HBO, Georgetown University, The National Zoo and The White House Commission, and has also worked with Spike Lee, Goldie Hawn, James Brown and Jerry Lewis. Pierce and veteran recording engineer Shannon Walton are joined by current interns Jerimie Thomas, Carlos Diaz and Zak Obenchain.

When the studio upgraded to include digital recording technology, Pierce purchased a Yamaha 02R96 and had the distinction of receiving the first production model sold in the U.S.

“I was not a previous 02R user,” he explains. “What convinced me was the combination of price, features, value and wanting to ‘step it up a notch.’ Some people advised against getting a new product right out of the gate, but in retrospect, it was the smartest decision we ever made. I did have some help learning to use it—the people at Sweetwater Sound and Yamaha Tech Support were extremely helpful—but overall, the 02R96 was one of the most intuitive pieces of gear I’ve ever worked on.”

Starting off with a Tascam1/2-inch reel-to-reel setup, Pierce recorded demos for artists including blues singer Bobby Parker, Les Loki and the band Firefall before landing a gig as technical director for the French Embassy in Washington. “I was responsible for the on-site cultural center, which hosted meetings, visiting presidents and musicians—everything from jazzers to French pop stars,” he explains. “We recorded a 17-show jazz series for WDUQ Radio (Pittsburgh, Pa.) from there, which was then picked up by National Public Radio. Those visiting artists were very, very particular. It was a real challenge, but a great learning experience. It took my skill level to a new level, and put it on par with national engineers.”

Pierce returned to full-time studio work three years later, and continued to build a steady client base. “Someone told me that it was the studio’s vibe that helped us attract all this talent,” he says. “Since the studio is in my house, we can provide an environment where people can really relax. When people come here, they have the run of the bottom floor of the house, the garden and a room with pinball machines. Everyone can just hang out.”

The decision to upgrade Blind Banana’s current location in 2002 was a move to stay competitive. “As the technology changed, we weren’t really keeping up, and clients were jumping,” Pierce notes. “I had met engineer Dave Ruffo on the jazz series when I was at the Embassy and we hit it off immediately—plus, he gave me some great microphone tips. Dave was at Birdland [Jazz Club] in New York City, and was also making the jump from analog to digital, so I gave him a call. He was a big fan of the original 02R. Another recommendation on the [02R]96came from engineer Donnie Thompson, who had been using the ‘classic’ 02R for years."

Additional gear includes an Alesis 24XR and Pro Tools hard disk recording system. “Being able to run Pro Tools from the surface of the 02R96 really helped our business,” says Pierce. “It got the MIDI people and computer people onboard. We’re using Wavelab to master, Vegas 4.0 for video and have a DigiDesign 002 rack. We kept a Lexicon MPX1000 and a Yamaha SPX1000, and everything runs through the Apache Frontier. Originally, we started with one of the Mackie HD systems and then went to the Alesis 96 for the clock. We also have Bellari preamps for bass input, two RP583 and two RP520s.”

Although the studio continues to attract corporate accounts, Pierce and company are getting back to their roots by recording an increasing number of demos for bands, and are currently working on releases for Enough Said, 7th Wish, The Shooters, Kyle Pierce, De Realiz and rappers Blade and Sheem. “Bands are a lot of fun,” he says. “Like our Website says: 'It’s not enough to know your gear inside and out. Music is a passion, you either feel it or you do not.' We feel it!”

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