Motor City Cribs 

Detroit producer-engineer-soundman Chris Koltay owns, arguably, the coolest studio in Detroit. Part of what makes it so cool ain't just the vintage keyboards, guitars and amps lying around on the ground floor recording area — it's his cozy home upstairs behind the mixing room. It features a large kitchen, lots of art and a ridiculous record collection of soul, reggae, obscure rock and free jazz. Indeed, his two cats (who, remarkably, don't enjoy scratching guitars or chewing cords) are christened Alan Silva and Henry Grimes — after the legendary free jazz bassists.

A little history: Koltay moved to Detroit from Cincinnati in '01 where he'd been working at Afghan Whigs bassist John Curley's Ultrasuede studio — home to Detroit faves the Greenhornes.

"John taught me everything I know about recording," Koltay says, "but I wanted to buy an abandoned building and set up my own studio."

By 2002, Koltay had his building. A stone's throw from what would become Slows Bar-BQ, he found an old liquor store that was soaking wet from a leaky roof. It had "mushrooms the size of hubcaps." Koltay gutted the building, put a new roof on, and began setting up his studio-home. (Koltay runs the studio with his Shadiamond Le Freedom bandmate Erik Maluchnik.)

The Dirtbombs, Human Eye and SSM did their last records here; Slum Village has been through; and the Sisters Lucas just finished their unreleased album here. It's this kind of musical diversity that drew Koltay to the D.

"In Detroit you can do whatever you want. It's the place that everybody forgot about with totally badass musicians pushing the envelope who don't give a fuck about the outside world," he says and pauses. Then he grins and cracks, "I wish it was little more punk though."

More by Doug Coombe

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