By Will Yannacoulias
Photo by Tracy Creighton/Copperblue Design
Aspen Beveridge is proud of his deep roots in the Saskatoon music community. Whether playing with veteran rockers League of Wolves, up-and-comers Old Sols, or supporting the arts as part owner of the Capitol Music Club, Aspen’s quick smile and infectious enthusiasm is well known in local music circles. Beveridge’s biggest project has been Skullcreek Studios, recording and mixing releases from an impressive who’s-who of Saskatchewan indie artists. Beveridge shared with NSMZ a bit about his background as a musician and producer as well as the origin and goals of Skullcreek Studios.
Thank you for talking with NSMZ Aspen. Could you introduce yourself with a little background information? How did you come to music, and to production?
“As far back as I can remember my family has been heavily involved in lots of things music related. I remember as a baby hearing my siblings practice the violin, my grand parents were into gospel fiddle music and my grandmother played piano. All five of us kids studied the classical violin. As a teenager I recall studying violin at Medicine Hat college, I kept hearing someone playing the drums down the hallway and kept telling my parents ‘THAT’S what I need to do.’ My violin instructor was really strict and he turned me off of classical music right at a time when I was looking at playing rock and roll. I began learning the drums and I self taught myself the guitar, mimicked my older brother who was a very talented guitar player. I moved from the violin onto different instruments and into a whole different world. My introduction to recording was early on, I was probably ten years old, my oldest brother Ben had some recording equipment and he was really excited that I was interested, so he showed me the ropes, helping me experiment with recording and tape machines. As far as music being an aspect of every part of my life, I couldn’t have asked for a better upbringing, I was born into it.”
What was the path that led to you operating a music recording studio professionally? Did you learn under an established engineer or dive right into it? Was Skullcreek your first attempt at operating your own studio?
“The whole time I was in university I focused on football and academics and found that I really missed music being the centerpiece of my life. As soon as I finished my degree in 2009 I looked for an opportunity to get closer to music and away from academia. I applied for the Audio Engineering program at the Banff Center Of The Arts, it’s like a work-study program. My biggest inspiration was my instructor Shawn Everett, who produced Weezer, The Killers, Alabama Shakes, and lots of other great artists. Once I’d completed my diploma in 2012 I looked for jobs in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal. At that time nobody was taking on engineers as employees or apprentices, so I just decided to start my own studio. The first incarnation of Skullcreek started it in a hundred year old brick schoolhouse in Piapot, Saskatchewan in 2013.”
Skullcreek has worked with an impressive roster of artists from a variety of genres. Singer/songwriter, alternative rock, country and hip hop. Do you find it challenging or fun to record such diverse styles? Do you tailor your approach or are there things that are universal to music production?
“The variety of artists I’ve worked with is a reflection of the fact that I love all kinds of music. If I were to stick with one genre I’d get bored. I enjoy the challenge, keeping things fresh and exciting. Creating electronic beats and loops or arranging a country song all satisfies something creative with me, I never want to be one dimensional as a producer. When it comes to recording and production there are differences and similarities. The concepts and principles of recording are universal. You want to capture a great sound from the source and you want a musician to perform the best they can. Good musicians, good gear, good techniques, these things are shared across all genres of music.”
Skullcreek Studios and the Saskatoon based video production company Prehistoric Productions have a great working relationship, collaborating on a lot of projects and working with a lot of the same artists. How did that relationship come about?
“Brad Pederson at Prehistoric and I have known each other since we were both kids at summer camp, and our families are friends. Prehistoric was hosting a festival-slow pitch tournament in Cabri Saskatchewan and League of Wolves was playing; they were just starting out when League of Wolves was just starting out, that’s how we connected professionally. They’ve gotten so good over the years, so professional, and ive consistently recommended them to clients I’ve had.”
One of the most exciting projects Skullcreek and Prehistoric have collaborated on is The Skullcreek Sessions, a series of video performances spotlighting local artists and local venues. How did that come about?
“We had the idea for the Skullcreek Sessions years ago but just recently put it in motion. Some of these bands wouldn’t get an opportunity to have a video, so we’re trying to help get these bands some attention, give them something well produced to show venues or promoters. It’s also a great opportunity for us to capture their performance and make some cool art of it. Technology has streamlined the process, it’s not as expensive or time consuming, you can shoot a performance and have it edited and ready to go in a few days.”
What does the future have in store for Skullcreek?
“We’re wanting to be as busy as possible, keep recording as many diverse and far flung artists as we can. For The Sessions, we’re always going to focus first and foremost on the local acts, but we hope to start capturing some more established touring acts as well."
You’ve been very closely involved in the local music scene for many years, as an artist as well as a producer. What are your thoughts, feelings and observations on everything that’s happening in Saskatoon and in the province with indie music?
“I look around and think to myself, ‘look at what we have, look at what we’ve all created together. People are sticking around Saskatchewan to create music, record records, shoot music videos, organize shows and festivals, it’s so exciting, it makes it all worth it. The arts community here is different. There’s so much mutual support, so many good bands, and so many good artists.”