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Vagrant Records


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LIVE FROM NORTH SEATTLE! U-District Recording Studio re-opens in remodeled digs
By Clayton Park
Reprinted w/ permission Copyright 2002 Seattle Sun
SEATTLE SUN - VOL. 6, ISSUE 6, JUNE 2002



     As a 1985 graduate of "Rock 'N' Roll High," also known as Roosevelt High School, it should come as no surprise that Erik 4-A would choose a career in music.

     After all, he was classmates with Mike McCready, the future lead guitarist of Pearl Jam who taught 4-A how to play guitar while at a high school party.

     Other Roosevelt grads who have gone on to achieve fame as rock musicians include Duff McKagen of Guns 'N Roses and Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue (neither of whom 4-A knew personally).

     While 4-A wouldn't mind becoming a rock star himself, he has chosen a profession where he helps others achieve THEIR rock 'n' roll dreams as owner of a recording studio called Vagrant Records.

     4-A recently celebrated the completion of a year-long construction project to expand his studio. Vagrant Records now occupies the entire 2,500-plus-square-foot Kingsbury Building, located at 5512 University Way NE.

     Built in the 1910s, the Kingsbury Building originally housed an electronics store, and later was converted into a bakery, a piano store, and most recently a commercial print shop.

     Four years ago, 4-A, who had been renting a small space in the Kingsbury, persuaded some of his relatives to become partners with him in purchasing the building from its longtime owner, Chester Kingsbury.

     4-A said he needed a larger studio because his previous space, which was less than 1,000 square feet, was too small to accommodate some of the potential clients he's been interested in working with.

     The newly expanded Vagrant Records studio now sports a main recording room that, by itself, is the size of his entire old space. The new studio also offers separate isolation booths for drums and bass, and a room that he said makes Vagrant "the only recording studio in Seattle with a REAL working reverb chamber."

     The studio's new control room offers 24 individual analog recording tracks, compared with only 16 in 4-A's old studio.

     The pride and joy of 4-A's new studio is his recently purchased mixing console, a Harrison MR-4 that formerly belonged to none other than the World Wrestling Federation.

     4-A credited several people as being "integral to the restoration of this console": technicians Karl Keefer and Simon Grant and recording engineer David Miller. Vagrant Records studio also has a private art gallery ("just for me and my customers," says 4-A), which currently features an exhibit of paintings by 4-A's late mother, Tina Bader Forrey.

     The construction project required a complete overhaul of the building, with only the north and south walls still remaining from the original structure. The front of the building is now adorned with a giant metal "V," which stands for Vagrant.

     4-A opened his recording business in 1993, four years after launching an independent record label also named Vagrant Records. (4-A's label is not to be confused with a recently launched punk music label that bears the same name, but has no connection with him.)

     Over the years, he has recorded albums and demos for countless bands and solo musicians, including Sick & Wrong (punk), The Queen Annes (pop), Crunchbird (experimental noise) and Bakshish (ethnic experimental).

     4-A also produced a live album by The Boss Martians, which he recorded in 1995 while accompanying the Seattle rock band on a concert tour of Europe.

     One of the "coolest" experiences 4-A has had in running his studio came when he was asked to record an entire horn section. "I crammed 12 people into my old recording room, which was about as big as a shoebox," he recalled. Miraculously, the horn section ended up sounding incredible, said 4-A, who added: "It also made me want to build a bigger studio!"

     As for 4-A's own music, over the years he has written scores of songs, many of which he has performed locally in bands he has formed, including The Surrealists and The Long Faces. For now, however, he has put his personal music-making on hold as he focuses on building his recording business.

     As a longtime area resident, business owner and now property owner, 4-A has also become involved with the neighborhood, regularly attending University District Community Council meetings.

     4-A is clearly in it for the long haul, which is one of the reasons why his family agreed to his recording business. "I basically convinced them that I'm not going to quit," he said, adding with a smile: "I'm not good for anything else!"

     For more information about Vagrant Records, contact Erik 4-A at 525-0628.


Photo by Clayton Park

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