The Jock of Rock Presents: Andre Maquera and West Street Digital Recording Studio
Cidermag.com Bellows Falls, Vt. December, 2013
FAIRFIELD, VT. – Welcome to the happy and busy musical world of Andre Maquera, a long time Vermont musician and studio owner, whose musical adventure has been forged over the last 30 years and continues to thrive today and into the future. A lot of good stuff sure has happened since the last time this writer caught up to Andre some six years ago.
Photos courtesy of Andre Maquera
Maquera has been playing guitar since age 11 - despite getting no vote of confidence from his first guitar teacher – and played in several rock bands throughout his early and high school years. “I always wanted to play guitar even though early on, a local guitar teacher had suggested that I had not aptitude for the instrument,” Maquera said in a recent Cider interview. “It wasn’t until high school that I picked up the guitar again and really immersed myself into the instrument.”
Andre would play in several rock bands during his high school years, before briefly detouring to become a pre-med student. However, a lack of sufficient funds derailed his ambitions of a medical career and it was from there, that Andre truly decided that music was his calling and would become his life’s work… which ultimately led him to joining the Vermont rock band 8084.
Originally formed in the spring of 1982 by vocalist Randy Smith, keyboard player, the late Charlie Hawthorne and drummer Gary Spaulding, Andre would join 8084 that fall along with bassist Frank Barnes. Over the next three years the band would consistently tour up and down the East coast and Canada, while gaining a reputation as one of the hottest club bands in the Northeast.
In 1986, the band pulled up stakes in northern Vermont and moved to Manchester, New Hampshire in order to write material for their debut release, while also gaining more exposure through playing the nearby Boston bar circuit. It was during this time they caught the attention of famed drummer and producer Hirsh Gardner of national recording artists New England, who worked with 8084 on their self titled debut album released in the fall of 1986.
Although released on a small, independent label in America, the band soon picked up a European distribution deal which increased their record sales, touring schedule and popularity. Over the next five years the band would record three more albums and go on to tour with such national bands as Blue Oyster Cult, Warrant, Edgar Winter and many others.
To this day, 8084 continues to get together and performThe Last Great Train, which was recorded at Andre’s own studio, dubbed West Street Digital and located on the outskirts of Burlington in Fairfield, Vermont. The studio was launched by Andre and 8084 band mate Frank Barnes in 1994.
West Street Digital is a full-service, 24-track recording studio as unique in the area as the beautiful Vermont landscape surrounding it. The studio was originally created as a vehicle for 8084 however, as their recording skills developed and the marketplace became more apparent, Maquera and Barnes decided to open up the facility to other clientele.
"West Street Digital was the brainchild of myself and Frank and originally intended to simply be a recording outlet for 8084," Maquera said. "Through my early years as a recording artist, I was lucky enough to have worked with world class engineers and producers who were always willing to answer the questions of a curious guitarist, which is an attribute that I aspire to now with my own client base."
So, the question must be asked... what exactly makes West Street Digital studio so unique, other than its’ peaceful surroundings? Without getting too technical,(I’m a music journalist, not a musician) West Street offers superior digital sound, state-of-the-art pre-amps, microphones and signal processing, recorders, mixing boards and computer software.
Many in the recording field, however, believe that a pure digital sound eliminates some of the warmer aspects of recorded music. This is where West Street Digital makes its mark, by also offering a superior analogue audio pathway from the microphones right through the signal processing, allowing that warmth and personality of the musicianship and sound to shine through.
“2014 will be our twentieth year at West Street and we’ve seen a lot of changes over the years as the art and craft of making music is evolving faster than ever,” Andre says. “We’re constantly compelled to be on the cutting edge of technology, while also maintaining our analog roots. For us, it’s always been a balancing act between the two. We continue to accrue and maintain a dedicated analog signal chain right up to the A/D converters and after that, its ‘Jetson time!’
“We’ve also been working with the fine folks of Wave and Steinberg (Nuendo, Cubase and Wavelab music software) for well over a decade, but given the global nature of the business, we also have the latest versions of Pro Tools and Sonar for multi-studio projects.”
Indeed, West Street Digital is continuously adapting and evolving with time and circumstances. “Raising our 15-year-old son – who I must say is turning into quite a multi-instrumentalist – has given me the chance to rediscover the music I grew up listening to and re-ignited my passion for the guitar,” Andre added.
“As a result, the studio has put a major focus on the pursuit of great guitar tone. Along with vintage Fender, Vox, Marshall, Supro and Magnatone amps, we’ve been doing extensive R & D with Hass Amplification… re-working and hopefully improving on some of the classic designs… although I’m just the ears and fingers, John Haas is the brains.”
Also in the works is the eponymous “Maq Daddy” amp, a three-channel amp based on Andre’s favorite Vox, Marshall and Soldano models and he is also ready to begin promoting J. Backlund Design Guitars. “They are future-retro works of art conceived by artist/designer John Backlund and guitar master luthier Bruce Bennett… a couple prototypes should be arriving any day.”
Back to the studio… designed as a relaxing environment for creativity, West Street Digital has always taken great pride in putting forth a personalized atmosphere for each band and artist they work with, a clientele that has steadily grown over nearly two decades. Andre believes that one of the most important and often intangible qualities of any studio is “the vibe,” how you feel when you first enter. Is the studio space warm and inviting? Is it conducive to maximum artistic creativity?
From its' inception, West Street Digital has tried to embody these qualities into their studio atmosphere for everyone they work with, which includes a wide range of bands, artists and local businesses and organizations as well. One thing is for sure, things never get boring or “pigeon-holed” at West Street.
“I recently worked on a project with Al Conti titled Northern Seas, on which I recorded, played guitar and mixed and mastered…. And it was nominated for a Grammy. Al’s follow up CD titled The Blue Rose, stayed at #1 on the WZMR-radio charts for two months over the summer. Another one, which you can file under ‘a kid in a candy store for me,’ was producing and playing on “Lyraka,” (full title is "Lyraka – Music From A Mermaid Empire") a heavy metal project featuring one of my favorite vocal heroes in Graham Bonnett (of Rainbow, Alcatrazz, The Michael Schenker Group and Impellitteri fame).”
Maquera has also been working with Country music phenom and Vermont-native Keeghan Nolan for the past eight years. “Keeghan recently signed a record deal in Nashville and I have been selected to produce it… I couldn’t be more proud of her.” Andre also recently produced and played guitar on the second release of Alt-Country band Carol Ann Jones & the Superchargers.
“The last few years have been a blur and we have been blessed to work with a steady flow of diverse and talented artists,” Andre concluded. "Having spent many years on 'the other side of the glass,' I understand the anxiety and trepidation an artist feels in the studio. Therefore, job one for me is to create a 'comfort zone' that allows the musician to fully realize their potential. People skills are nearly as important as audio engineering chops.
"The bottom line for me: having the right tools, in the right place, with someone who knows how to use them and still nurture the artist. I also believe in the concept of quality control… when the client leaves with their finished product, they must be satisfied that they have realized their musical vision and are proud of the result.”
To learn more about Andre’s continuing musical vision and the many recording services which West Street Digital as to offer, please visit their Web site at www.weststreetdigital.com.