Friday, August 28, 2009

The Boys From the Fifth Floor

I am so proud of these guys. They even made the local paper.
Brian, Kai and Greg have a dream. Right now, it's kind of a funky, slightly less-than-perfect dream, but a dream nonetheless.
Live Mix has been host to mine and Greg's big 5-0 birthday parties and all the Velvet Brother reunions. Speaking to Vel-bro Al on Wednesday, I said, "That makes four Velvet gigs, right?"
He paused, rolled the thought around his head and then answered: "I'm not sure you would call those gigs."
That sent us laughing. Never underestimate Al's sense of humor because that statement has a lot of implications.
I have know the Live Mix guys for a number of years now, Greg being the longest. When I first took the retro-vader up to floor five, it was your typical musician's rehearsal space: clutter everywhere. Brian was in a hard rock group (for lack of a better descriptive term) and his band had all their stuff set up. Listening to some tapes of his band, I realized how far afield my nylon string mellowness sounded a bit Kenny-G-ish along side their aggressive sound. The place had that young, male, musician frat kind of vibe. It was pretty disorganized, to be polite. I thought it was a great rehearsal space, but didn't imagine it would last this long.
Things have changed. The place has a great vibe and looks great. For musicians, it's a great place because it's being run by musicians. That fact alone makes it very appealing.
I like all the wacky incongruity: Custom speakers from the 70's, albums line the walls, a bit of this and a bit of that.
Lots of people have ideas. Ideas abound. It's really saying something when you commit to an idea and make it work. That's exactly what has happened here.
So, congrats, guys.

Musicians create multimedia studio downtown
Studio hosts live events, can seat 100 people
by Monica Orosz
Daily Mail staff

Tom Hindman
Brian Young, at soundboard, Greg Wegmann, to his left, and Kai Haynes, at rear, opened Live Mix Studio in space on Quarrier Street two years ago and began outfitting it with hand-me-down and scavenged equipment and furnishings. But bringing together decades of experience with music and technology, they offer multimedia production services and host musical events.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A trip up the elevator at 1033 Quarrier Street to the fifth floor is a bit of a time warp experience - a step back in time blended with modern technology.
The space, outfitted on the thinnest of shoestrings - and perhaps some out-and-out trashpicking - is home to Live Mix Studio LLC.

It is a place where $2 light fixtures, hand-me-down 1970s Kustom brand speakers, patched-together computer equipment and a hand-me-down video program from a DJ are used for audio-video wizardry.

The guys behind Live Mix are Kai Haynes, 59; Greg Wegmann, 50; and Brian Young, 41. All three are longtime musicians. Wegmann and Young have added computer and video expertise from their day jobs. When they began this venture two years ago, the idea was to create a space where they could offer multimedia services and have a little musical fun.

Want a music video? They can do that. Want to produce an infomercial? They can do that, too. Need an old VHS tape converted to DVD? Yup.

They're currently editing some dance footage for January Johnson's dance academy and recently completed an infomercial for a guy who invented a hat he calls the Bi-Vi - two visors patched together so there's a bill on the front and the back.

"He's a construction worker and his ears were getting sunburned," Haynes explained.
They helped Charleston resident Donna Edmondson, a former Hee Haw Honey of the television show "Hee Haw," convert some VHS tapes and update some footage for her Web site.
The equipment may not look fancy, but it does the job.

"We can do multi-track recording up to 16 tracks," Wegmann pointed out. "We're trying to go global," he adds, and he's not really kidding. What the heck, this is the Internet age.
The space itself is surprisingly conducive to good sound, with acoustic tile ceilings, carpeting and large sets of bookcases their landlord stipulated had to stay.

"It actually creates one of the greatest (sound) disbursement walls," Young said.

Live Mix has hosted musical events such as Deni Bonet's recent visit back to West Virginia and last weekend's gig with Option 22 and The Clementines. Canadian Fingerstyle Champion guitarist Craig D'Andrea has been there twice.

The space includes several rooms that offer seating - a patchwork of folding chairs, scavenged sofas and donated barstools - for about 100 people.

Equipment came together from a variety of sources - it's amazing what people will give you if you ask.

"A lot of times someone will say, 'Can you fix this?' If you can fix it, you can have it,' " Young said.
The circa-1970s Kustom speakers, used in a room off the main stage, are perfectly serviceable, if clunky as all get out.

"They're so big, they don't fit in a conventional car anymore," Young said. A sound board came from a church. Other speakers and microphones came from the musicians' own cache of supplies.
A giant boardroom table was cut down for the stage. A large screen behind is used for screening a program that changes colors and shapes as the musicians play. It's a somewhat antiquated program Young got from a DJ, but it works.

"It's some old DOS program," he said, loading it up on an old laptop - Wegmann contributed that. "Don't make fun of my Windows '95," he cheerfully added.

Mind the decorative touches, too - colorful cellophane tones down harsh fluorescent lights and a 75-cent leopard-print lampshade adds a touch of whimsy to a floor lamp. Old album covers - remember those? - are tucked into shelves that line rooms.

"And we're looking for a turntable, if anyone has one to donate," Young said.

The control room is a tangle of screens, soundboards and cords.

"We are active recyclers of crap," Young said.

They find a use for most things they dig up. An early 1980s projector stands atop a refrigerator in one room, ready to flip on during a performance. If a visitor has popped in to get a drink, he can still see the band's performance projected on the wall.

"It has been an adventure," Young said. "It's almost like electric Lincoln Logs."

Contact writer Monica Orosz at or 304-348-4830.
For information on Live Mix Studio services and events, e-mail or call Kai Haynes, 304-345-9145; Greg Wegmann, 304-395-0675; or Brian Young, 304-342-1244.

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