Technology Does Not Make Talent 

But if you bring the talent, the Tonic Room Studios has the technology

click to enlarge LEILA RAMELLA

Excuse me for a moment while I point out the obvious: Boise is growing. There are more big-box stores, subdivisions and freeway on-ramps than ever. Compare the rising cost of living, crime rates and housing prices in this city with those in any of the smaller cities around the valley and you may be tempted to call a moving company and start packing the dishes. But there are definite advantages to living in a growing city. One of them is that artists and professionals who 10 years ago, may have sought opportunities in larger cities like Seattle or Portland or San Francisco are coming back and they are bringing with them invaluable experiences and the knowledge they've gained. And, they are sharing it. They have a desire to see this, their city, flourish. Two especially bright examples of this are engineers Chris Parks and Jason Ringelstetter, owners of the Tonic Room. Parks and Ringelstetter took over operation of the recording and mastering studios in May of 2005. Since then, they have invested a large amount of time, energy and money into the Tonic Room. From the outside, it's impossible to guess that this one-level, non-descript building that houses an AA meeting location and a grief counseling center is also home to an amazing recording and mastering studio. A banner displaying the studio's name and logo hangs over the front door, but even that doesn't really indicate what lies within.

Through the front door, there's a small lobby. It looks like a thousand other small lobbies and someone walking off the street could easily believe he or she is about to sign papers for a mortgage or buy a life insurance policy. Beyond the lobby, though, it's clear that Parks and Ringelstetter have managed to find harmony between rock and roll and professionalism. Through the first door is a small waiting area, painted with a cool cityscape silhouette and with an overstuffed, black leather couch comfortable enough for visitors to sit on for hours, when, against the advice of the engineers, they may have decided to tag along with their musician friends to a recording session) Past the waiting room is the main studio. Sections of the wall are movable, offering variable acoustics. The lighting is warm and comforting throughout the studio, clearly a reflection of Parks and Ringelstetter's attention to the needs of the musicians. They keep a huge selection of microphones on hand to help them capture a vocalist's best sounds„they're even willing to bring in a vocal coach who is a Juilliard graduate. They keep several drums in an on-site storage room so a band doesn't have to haul in their own. Parks is even willing„on occasion„to loan one of his classic, vintage guitars to a band if he thinks it will help.

Past the studio, there is a lounge with a big screen TV, more comfortable, black leather couches, a large fully functional kitchen, and Internet access„everything a musician might need whether he or she is spending a day or a month recording. Ah, the recording. It's there that the Tonic Room really lights up.

Inside the engineering room is another black leather couch (maybe there was a buy-one-get-one-free sale), a big, computerized mixing board and a dizzying array of processing equipment: high-end components that function on a level well beyond the average person's comprehension. But, when it comes to engineering, Parks and Ringelstetter are anything but average. They've spent years coming to this point. Both graduated college with degrees in business which, rather than detract from their artistic vision, adds organizational and professional layers to their work. Which is why, when a musician like Marcus Eaton is ready to record, he no longer needs to go to LA.

Eaton is an amazing guitarist/singer/songwriter with a sense of timing that verges on alien. He's seen his share of success as part of a band, but in December completed work on a solo project, the first to be completed at the Tonic Room. Eaton spent six months at Tonic Room: three months recording and three months working toward the final product. I've been fortunate enough to hear the finished version which has complex time signatures, incredible percussion and a combination of Latin, jazz, pop sounds all laying a foundation for Eaton's melodies and sweet, rich voice. Clearly, Eaton has the talent. But, just as clearly, Parks and Ringelstetter have it, too. They've provided a space where separate parts can be formed into one beautiful, cohesive work of art.

For both Parks and Ringelstetter, that completed work is their goal. They ultimately want to run a successful business where the primary function is to make music and the musicians behind it sound as close to perfect as is possible. Based on what they've done so far, they're on the right track.

Call the Tonic Room at 338-8433 for rates or visit www.tonicroomstudios.com for more information.

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