Pandemic puts Canton’s ‘mysterious’ music studio on hiatus

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Cecilia Lallmann /WDET

Open the door to an indescribable gray building near Ford Road in Canton and there would be recording sessions going on that over the years featured everyone from Eminem and Bob Seger to the late singer of Soundgarden Chris Cornell.

To shamelessly borrow a phrase from the Pearl Sound Studios website, “if the interior walls of the building could speak, they would probably sing.”

Grammy-winning studio owner Chuck Alkazian said he also enjoys taking young artists under his savvy wing.

But Alkazian says the pandemic has changed everything.

Click the player to hear Quinn Klinefelter’s conversation with Chuck Alkazian and read a transcript, edited for clarity, below:


Chuck Alkazian, owner of Pearl Sound Studios: It was awful, wasn’t it? We survived. We were closed for most of 2020. And last spring I had been quarantined as much as the government and everyone had requested. Our families have all been quarantined. And I have no idea how I actually caught COVID early. I got very sick. I was at home, had a temperature of almost 105 for almost three weeks on and off. And then it slowly started to go down. I didn’t go to the hospital, I just let it play. But it’s been horrible, random brain fog, weird random symptoms here and there. But I hope we go beyond all of these things. It was pretty scary.

Quinn Klinefelter, WDET 101.9 FM: Why didn’t you seek medical treatment?

I called my doctor and my doctors told me to keep taking acetaminophen and wait because no one really knew what was going on. I didn’t have any breathing problems so I was very lucky. Mine was strictly fever, headache, and body aches. It was more flu, I guess.

And all of this was happening just at a time when what was your living in the studio, people recording records or shows, it was all falling at the same time.

I was making an album for rock band Tantric – I had been working on it in late 2019 early 2020. And then everyone went into quarantine. I would work on my own with no one around. And then I got sick and had to put everything on hold. I lost a lot of records from artists from abroad who couldn’t get visas to come to work, (due to) the pandemic. Everyone got slapped.

You see people doing stuff at home and on Zoom or trying to put on some sort of virtual concert. Were you able to participate in all of this?

Cecilia Lallmann / WDET

Cecilia Lallmann /WDET

Very little. Once I knew everything was a little bit safer, I did my best to get people to do more live streaming and try to help them create some kind of financial income so that they can stay afloat. It just became a big pain in the butt after a while. And I know some people have had success with that. I was actually mixing VPN outside my home. I would leave my gear on and stay home. I was getting projects that were recorded at home, just trying to be safe. And I was still working on projects from 2019. February, March 2020, the world stopped, you know, as far as I’m concerned.


Related: Mysterious Michigan studio attracts music icons to Canton


You said previously that one of the other major sources of income that you would have is advertising for different car companies and other types of businesses. Was all of that cut well enough once the pandemic hit?

We have a separate building for our advertising work and the majority of our employees have stayed at home, taken their editing devices home. And we communicated through Zoom in a creative way with customers because the companies were actually, I think, more advertising. They were trying to get people to come in and spend money because everybody was buying everything from the delivery companies, you know, Amazon and things.

How much has it been for you in the studio to stay afloat financially?

Well, for our work as an advertising agency, we had to give up some people. It was hard. It was really hard. But as for the recording studio side, I guess I just felt like it would explode faster. I felt that when the time was right, people would come back and make music. And I think we’re sort of getting there now. But I haven’t really followed one of those avenues with government help because I think there are a lot more people who need it more.

What about yourself and the studio, even before COVID? I know when we spoke a few years ago, people who weren’t involved in the industry would drive by and see your dark building by the side of the road and wanted to know what was going on. You told me about an elderly lady who said (suspiciously) “What are you doing in there?” And you let her look inside to see what was going on.

Ha!

Did he advertise a little more? Are people more aware of what’s going on in there now?

It’s quite funny. People meet me – well, not since COVID – but right after that last interview, I saw people outside and they were asking questions. And it’s a nice feeling to know that you have the support of your city. The cat is out of the bag now. I mean, most of the people who knew, knew. And if you didn’t know that, a lot of people find it really cool and they support you. And entertainment is one of the things that I noticed people really miss. They miss concerts, they miss seeing bands, they miss having new music. It all goes hand in hand. But I just hope people realize how fragile we are as humans and as we move through life. There are some things that are more important than others. And I hope people will have their heads straight.

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