Steve Fulton 

For the last 16 years, Steve Fulton has provided sound engineering to everybody from local artists to Hollywood directors courtesy of his recording studio, Audio Lab. Now, the business is moving into a new home along with the Visual Arts Collective at 3638 Osage St. in Garden City, just off Chinden Boulevard.

The move will mean a combination of visual art, live performances, theater and sound recording in one sleek venue. BW sat down with Fulton to talk about the move and Boise's growing music scene.

How did you start a recording studio?

I owned the Koffee Klatsch, and next to that was a little record store called Aardvark Records owned by Todd Dunnigan. He and I both sold our businesses and went into business together and started the Audio Lab. We were in business together for about eight years. It's just been an institution. I can't even imagine how many records we've recorded.

Does Audio Lab just work with musicians?

Not at all. It's our main focus and interest, but through the years, I've diversified to be able to offer as many services as I can as a recording studio. We do forensic work, and we do live recordings, and we do audio for video and film. I've been doing a lot of sound design and editing for film and video lately. I did [the sound editing] for the Boise State documentary called Out of the Blue last year.

How did you get started in music?

My mom has always been a pianist, and she gave us a year of piano lessons. I wanted to play drums, and I really didn't like [piano] for almost exactly a year. It was 11 months before I finally could play something that was popular off the radio, and I started getting into it. I took about six years of classical piano, and as I was doing that, I was starting to play drums and guitar and trying to teach myself other instruments. I was 13 when I started taking piano lessons, but I knew when I was 7 years old that I was going to be a musician.

Did you go to school for engineering or did you learn it on the go?

I should have gone to school. I learned by trial and error and error and error and error. I learned it the hard way.

How did you get involved with the Visual Arts Collective?

When they wanted to start this art gallery that also had performances, they consulted with me, and I helped them start it. Their lease was coming up, and we started to look together for them to move out, and for me to move the studio in, and that's what we're doing right now. We've got the building. We're moving forward and have a lot of the construction done. We're going to have a lot of music events, but it's also an art gallery so it'll have art shows.

How would you describe the music scene in Boise?

I go back and forth about the music scene here. The quantity of great music in Boise, in the Treasure Valley, far exceeds the venues. There are not as many live performance opportunities as there is great talent here. There's a lot of music that doesn't fit in a bar situation. I do think the venue situation is going to get better. I think [our new location] will offer a lot. One of my main focuses will be to provide everybody with their CD release party, so that it's actually an event.

How's the recording market here?

It really is healthy. I probably have lost some clients to Tonic Room, but it hasn't affected me at all because there's just more work. We're the only two studios that can accommodate live bands, or a full band.

Are your clients mainly local?

Yeah, because that's what is available. I don't think you're going to get people from L.A. to come here. There's enough competition in the recording studio business down there that there's 50 studios like mine. We do get people from all over southern Idaho and eastern Oregon and one or two projects from Nevada.

What do you love about Boise?

It's this secret little city. It offers so much. There's still room to grow with whatever you do. There's a great art community. There's passion and politics. There's going to be a community radio station pretty soon.

Is there any kind of music you don't like?

I don't really get into opera that much, but I can appreciate it. Some of the gangster rap I really don't like at all. Some of the really poppy country stuff is horrible to me.

Would you still be able to engineer music if you hated it?

When I'm engineering something, it's different. I'm involved in it, and the involvement makes me like it more. I try to make it as good as I can.

What's your own music like?

You can imagine that being a musician and an audio engineer, I get influences from every angle. I write everything around the acoustic guitar. Everything has to have some kind of a groove for me; it has to have something that gets into your skin. Some of my songs are really super-mellow, and some are just really funky. I love that kind of feel, where it feels like it's always evolving and building. I incorporate some of that kind of feel, where there's this pattern and this loop going on.

How has sound engineering changed?

In the '40s, the only recording was "mono," which would be one single microphone with everybody recording around that microphone and placing themselves strategically around it to make them the right level. The difference in recording style nowadays is that everything is multi-track. Individual instruments are put on their own track, so you control and manipulate them to a higher degree than you ever would of if you had just one mic. Multi-track recording didn't start until the '60s.

Who are some of your musical heroes?

Sting. I love that Sting came from basically a punk rocker to an adult contemporary superstar. I think it's amazing. I've always loved Peter Gabriel. How do you categorize Sting or Peter Gabriel? You can't label them. As far as the newer vibe, I really like Damien Rice.

How many songs are on your iPod?

I actually clean my iPod off all the time. I probably only keep about 200 songs on there. I feel overwhelmed when there's more.

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