This week I’m sitting down with DMajor, founder, owner and manager of one of ATL’s newest and most accessible recording studios. Check out our exclusive interview for a look inside The Sound Machine ATL.
The Sound Machine is a classic example of a diamond in the rough. Upon first glance, the grey cement building just off 85 isn’t much to behold. The back entrance opens into a dark corridor lined on both sides by smoke filled studios and offices behind chipped doors. At the end of this hallway, however, there stands an unassuming black door with a brand new sign that reads “The Sound Machine” in scarlet block letters. Immediately behind this door-like a trick entrance in a fun house- is another, this one dressed in a fresh coat of bold red paint that immediately sets it apart from the rest of the building. Just beyond it...well, that’s where you find the diamonds.
The contrast of the studio space to its exterior is jarring, starting with that surprise red door. The first thing that strikes me about The Sound Machine is the atmosphere. The room is illuminated in ice blue light, and in an environment frequented by artists used to their creature comforts, it’s surprisingly smoke free. I find out later that this is due to a rule set in place by Major, one that goes against the grain of his neighboring studios. Reminiscent of his personal style, the red and black motif continues inside the space. The walls are painted a crisp black, with bright red velvet-laden sound proof panels adorning three sides. The windows to the sound booth are trimmed in red. Smart ebony loveseats follow the line of the walls. Any artist knows how quickly a creative space can be given over to chaos, and the countless studios littered with lyric-scrawled papers and red solo cups are evidence of it. However, The Sound Machine insists on standing apart in every way, and so it is pristine, down to the automated trash can.
A wide curved leather-bound desk takes up one corner of the room, one third mounted with mint condition equipment. Two large monitors are perched on the remaining space, the biggest the size of a living room television. Damario Major sits at it, scrolling through client emails. The 26-year old owner, founder and manager of one of the newest and most cost-effective recording studios in Atlanta is decked out in a black tee and camo shorts, with a camo fitted cap, and yet manages to not come off too matchey. He offers me a drink (unlimited liquor is included with every session) and asks me my favorite color. “Fuschia.”
He hits a button on a remote and suddenly the ice blue glow morphs and the room is awash in pink light, furthering the dreamlike atmosphere of the space. It turns out personalizing the ambiance is just one of the many ways The Sound Machine caters to its clients’ individual vibes.
Why did you decide to open yet another studio in a city that’s already so saturated with music? I decided to open up another studio because a lot of the studios here are more geared towards artists who are associated with a label and many other indie artists either try to fit in there or they record in their own home studios. There hasn’t been an intimate space where people can create their own vibe and record [here], and I being an artist, wanted to experience that. And so that’s how I came up with The Sound Machine, so that I and other independent artists would have a home to record and have it be affordable.
What makes The Sound Machine different? I wanted something that wouldn’t break the bank, to give these artists a chance. There’s a lot of talented artists here who just aren’t given the opportunity to like, hone in on their craft. So that’s where The Sound Machine was birthed.
Awesome. We know in 2018, getting signed isn’t a huge priority. I mean, Jay-Z said “I don’t get dropped” [ Major chimes in] “I drop the label.” There are so many artists out here who are trying to do it on their own and are releasing their music independently-it seems you’re doing your part to cater to those people.Yes.
Because you’re one of those people.Yes, exactly.
Cool. Let’s talk about the name. “The Sound Machine”. What does that mean to you? The Sound Machine came from... where it is basically helping an artist create their own sound. We are like the machine that helps you hone in on your craft. So that’s where the play off the words comes from. Tell me a little bit about what the environment of The Sound Machine is like. We are very upscale and posh. You walk in to the session and we have an engineer here (gesturing to the desk) that you can utilize. You set your own vibe here. The lights change to whatever mood you want to create. A lot of other studios charge for snacks and stuff so I wanted it to be complimentary and all billed to one price. So when you come in here, you always have snacks, there’s always water here, hot tea, chips, cookies. We have adult beverages as well.
Think about your personal style and the message you want to convey as an artist. How is that expressed in The Sound Machine? That’s expressed in the overall professionalism of it. I take my craft seriously so I want the studio to be taken seriously. [Hence the no smoking rule] We make sure we have the top of the line equipment. We charge $50 an hour, but this room, the level of sound compared to other studios, would go for $100 an hour. But we wanted to keep it affordable because a lot of the time these [independent] artists write hit records, and big-time artists go to these unknown artists to get hits. But these unknown artists don’t have the money to invest in quality sounding material to shop around, so I wanted to make sure that the equipment in here is reflective of that. That way they can record and you know, have something for themselves.
Very nice. Let’s say I’m an artist and I’ve booked a session here. What does that day look like? Right, so we’ll coordinate to have the engineer come and meet you [to access the building], we’ll give you a tour of the studio, drinks, snacks. We’ll ask what your vibe is, we set the lights to how you’d like it. In the meantime, we ask you to send over your music if you haven’t already, we load it up and go over the session. You get comfortable and you record your song. In the last 15 minutes, we stop and get the levels to where [you] want it and we email it all. We ask the artist to bring a hard drive so we can store the actual session file so if they need to record at a different studio, they can.
I noticed on your website that you also offer promotion for artists through music marketing. What does that entail, and why did you decide to add that on in addition to having a budget-friendly and professional setting for independent artists? We just wanted to have an overall basis. I know a really good marketer, she does all my music marketing and she offered her services at a discounted rate for artists. We have a variety [of services] like being able to mix and master your music-we also specialize in protecting the artist’s music. We assist them in getting everything copywritten from start to finish, so that way when they release something it can be protected. We have a weekly blog that touches on different topics within the music industry and a lot of stuff artists don’t know – that I didn’t know when I first started out. That’s a good central spot for that [information]. We have a lot of different partnerships that we’re working on developing.
You actually have a background in the theatrical performing arts. Yes. How did that influence your decision to go into the music industry and business ownership?So basically, music and theater go hand-in-hand. I was into musical theater specifically and I always liked to create sounds and stuff. What’s kind of cool about everything is with music I can still get that, like, theater feel, because I get to add the theatrics into what I’m doing. Creativity, kind of how Nicki Minaj does in her music, she has a lot of theatrics in there.
So this is another form of artistic expression for you, and one that’s making you a lot of money. (Laughs) Yes.
And it’s offering up a lot of great opportunities for up and coming artists such as yourself. When is the album dropping? (Laughs). I’m letting the album take a life of its own. When it’s ready to drop, it will drop.With Major’s ambition, innovation and drive to do “something different”, I have no doubts that like his studio, the album will be a force to be reckoned with. Want an insider’s look inside the Sound Machine for yourself? Book your first session here.