By Charelle Evelyn on June 29 2015
Chris Holmes. Randy Staub. Jim Vallance. Rick Irvine had every intention of adding his name to the storied list of northern B.C. products who went on to influential careers in the recording industry. “I aspired to that when I went down to Vancouver and went to school. Then I realized I was going to get married and my wife wasn’t going to take care of me,” said Irvine.
Cue the record scratch. Irvine returned to the north and got a job at a sawmill but never left music behind. For the past 20 years, he has quietly nurtured and helped local talent present the best versions of themselves at his home studio, Cheslatta Records.
As producer and recording engineer, Irvine helps ensure musicians sound good, whether it’s by recommending the use of a different microphone or an entirely different arrangement. “It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play that can be super important,” Irvine said. But telling someone their work isn’t quite coming across isn’t always easy – even if it’s for the greater good.
“If somebody’s high on their music and creation and you have to tell them it’s not really hitting the mark… that’s the last thing somebody wants to hear – that’s a crushing blow to their ego.” But that’s why Irvine said he charges by the song and not by the hour for studio time, because those who are willing to put in the time can go do the necessary work and come back to positive results.
Out in the far reaches of the Hart, Cheslatta Records has an idyllic, cabin-in-the-woods feel that Irvine once imagined he’d create out on his family property in the upper Nechako area. The studio, converted from a garage, has been the staging ground for local acts such as Black Spruce Bog and Bright City Heights, as well as a stopping point for people like Juno Award-winning guitarist Lester Quitzau.
“It’s really all about the performers that showcase what you can do,” Irvine said of his calling card raw-production style. “You can’t put lipstick on a pig and you can’t soar with eagles when you’re flying with the turkeys.”
Irvine isn’t interested in propping up anyone who can’t already stand on their own, musically. In fact, if someone approaches him who hasn’t made the leap from singing in front of their mirror, he’ll encourage them to get in touch with other musicians and play together before thinking about recording.
Sure, the technology is available for people to record at home with their computer, but for Irvine, the magic happens when artists get together and find the vibe and groove that makes a song a true experience. A metal head in his younger days, Irvine said he’s come to appreciate the elements of music that truly connect with an audience.
“Nobody’s going to be impressed by how fast you play guitar – there’s always going to be somebody faster – or how fast you can play your drums – there’s always going to be somebody faster. What people are going to be impressed by is if they can get their body moving to your music,” he said. “And you can do that in two bars of a song – you can get people’s heads bobbing and feet tapping – if you can get that happening, you’ve really accomplished something right off the get go
REPORTER FOR THE PRINCE GEORGE CITIZEN
Journalist, west coast native, music lover. Made in Canada.