Pearl Sound Studios, a Canton recording studio known to only a few people in the Canton but to many players in the music industry, has been hit hard by COVID-19. That includes the owner of the Grammy-winning studio.
Open the door to some nondescript gray building near Ford Road in Canton and there would be recording sessions going on which over the years featured everyone from Eminem and Bob Seger to the late singer of Soundgarden Chris Cornell.
To borrow a shameless phrase from the Pearl Sound Studios website, “if the interior walls of the building could talk, they would probably sing”.
Grammy-winning studio owner Chuck Alkazian says he also enjoys taking young artists under his savvy wing.
But Alkazian says the pandemic has changed everything.
Click on the player to hear Quinn Klinefelter’s conversation with Chuck Alkazian, and read a transcript, edited for clarity, below:
Chuck Alkazian, owner of Pearl Sound Studios: It was awful, wasn’t it? We survived. We’ve been closed for most of 2020. And last spring I had been quarantined as much as the government and everyone else asked. Our families have all been quarantined. And I have no idea how I actually caught COVID in the beginning. I fell very ill. I was at home, had a temperature of almost 105 for almost three weeks on and off. And then it slowly started to go down. I didn’t go to the hospital, I kind of let it happen. But it’s been horrible, random brain fog, weird random symptoms here and there. But I hope we go beyond all that. It was quite scary.
Quinn Klinefelter, WDET 101.9 FM: Why didn’t you seek medical treatment?
I called my doctor and my doctors told me to keep taking acetaminophen and wait a bit because no one really knew what was going on. I had no respiratory problems, so I was very lucky. Mine was strictly fever and headache and body aches. It was more flu-like, I guess.
And all of this was just happening at a time when what used to be a big part of your livelihood in the studio, people recording records or shows, all of that was dropping at the same time.
I was doing an album for the rock band Tantric – I had been working on it in late 2019 until early 2020. And then everyone went into quarantine. I would work alone with no one around. And then I got sick and had to put everything on hold. I lost a lot of records from foreign artists who couldn’t get a visa to come and work (because of) the pandemic. Everyone got slapped.
You see people doing things from home and on Zoom or trying to set up some sort of virtual gigs. Were you able to participate in all of this?
Very little. Once I knew everything was a little safer, I tried my best to get people to do more live streaming and try to help them create some sort of financial income so they could stay afloat. It just became a big pain in the butt after a while. And I know some people have had success with that. In fact, I was mixing via VPN away from home. I would just leave my gear and stay home. I was getting projects that were saved at home, just trying to be safe. And I was still working on projects from 2019. February, March 2020, the world stopped, you know, as far as I was concerned.
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You said earlier that one of the other big sources of income you would have would be doing commercials for different car manufacturers and other types of businesses. Was it all chopped up well enough once the pandemic hit?
We have a separate building for our publicity work and the majority of our employees stayed home, took their editing devices home. And we were communicating through Zoom creatively with customers because companies were actually, I think, advertising more. They were trying to get people to come and spend money because everybody was buying everything from the delivery companies, you know, Amazon and stuff.
How close have you been to the studio in terms of keeping it financially afloat?
Well, for our work as an advertising agency, we had to lay off some people. It was hard. It was really hard. But as for the recording studio side, I guess I just felt it would explode faster. I felt that when the time was right, people would come back and make music. And I think we’re sort of getting there now. But I didn’t really pursue any of those avenues with government help because I feel like there are a lot more people who needed it more.
What about you and the studio, even before COVID? I know when we spoke a few years ago, people who weren’t involved in the industry were driving by and seeing your dark building on the side of the road and wanting to know what was going on. You told me about an elderly lady who said (suspiciously) “What are you doing in there?” And you let her look inside to see what was going on.
Did he do a little more publicity? Do people know better what is going on there now?
It’s quite funny. People were meeting me — well, not since COVID — but right after that last interview, I was seeing people coming out and they were asking questions. And it’s a nice feeling to know that you have the support of your city. The cat is out of the bag now. I mean, most people who knew, knew. And if you didn’t know, a lot of people think it’s really cool and they support you. And entertainment is one of the things that I’ve noticed people really miss. They miss concerts, they miss seeing bands, they miss new music. Everything goes hand in hand. But I just hope people realize how fragile we are as human beings and as we go through life. There are some things that are more important than others. And I hope people will have their heads screwed.