Michael Seifert, co-owner of Cleveland's Ante Up Audio Recording Studios, had offers to work in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco after honing his chops working in his father Bruce Seifert's Cleveland recording studio, GTR Recording, in the '90s. Projects with Cleveland's Bone Thugs-N-Harmony led to an offer to produce major rap records that Seifert says would have put a half million dollars in his pocket immediately. And he says he was tempted - for about a minute.
Instead, he opted to stay in town to tackle a goal that's eluded so many here: to be a catalyst to move area talent past spinning its wheels on the local scene. "I made the decision not to be a deserter," he says last week, taking a brief break from mixing in the complex's B studio.
With the now four-and-a-half-year-old recording studio as the engine and recently launched artist development company Reversed Image as the vehicle, Seifert and his crew are putting muscle behind some of the artists they're recording. An open-to-the-public showcase this Friday will allow fans, musicians and others in the music scene to check out some of the talent, network and visit booths manned by event sponsors, "all people I know who do good work for a fair price," says Seifert. It will take place in a newly acquired space behind the original studios, which just last week was still awaiting transformation from brick-and-concrete cavern with the skeleton of a stage into the carpeted and curtained showcase/rehearsal/video-shoot room it will be this Friday, part of Ante Up's ongoing expansion.
"There'll be booths throughout the complex," says Seifert. "If people need an ear break, they can walk down the hall, network and talk to sponsors. In the front control room, we'll be recording the event. In this room, we'll be showing segments of the film stuff we've done. With any luck, the whole place will be full of people to talk to and things to check out." Seifert began planning Ante Up more than six years ago, after making his decision to put down local roots. He and partner Paul Shaia spent a year and a half looking for space, figuring out what gear they needed, designing and building the studio.
"The goal of Ante Up from the beginning was to be a means to an end," says Seifert. "Anyone who builds a recording studio in a city like Cleveland expecting to get rich is out of their mind. Unless you have another motivation, it's a futile exercise. My motivation for staying in Cleveland, instead of taking a job in Chicago or L.A., is that there's a ton of talent not being supported. We put together packages to shop around to labels, and we're working toward our own truly independent label to be able to offer artists a much higher royalty rate and more artistic control. I would love to be able to focus on artist development exclusively."
Eclectic theatrical performer Nicholas Megalis, the first artist Reversed Image signed, heads the showcase. Others include: alt-country act the Vig; electronic dance-rock group This Is a Shakedown, featuring Brandon Zano of a Dozen Dead Roses and Leo; former Faith No More vocalist Chuck Mosley; Bowie-inspired artist Adam Heart; young singer-songwriter Will Bowen; high-energy pop rockers Ghost Town Trio; and self-described "progressive ambient metal" group Ceterum. Each band will have two tracks on a free CD that showcase attendees will receive.
Seifert says that the showcase is perfectly timed because most of the acts are working on, or finishing up, recordings at Ante Up. Ghost Town Trio and Mosley are wrapping up full-length discs. Adam Heart is recording his debut and This Is a Shakedown starts recording in December. Currently, the Vig is in the studio with engineer/chief tech Matt Curry.
"There were a lot of naysayers, but here we are almost five years later," says Seifert. "It wasn't the easy way out, but I can sleep at night."