Away From the City, a Studio That Rocks (NY TIMES ARTICLE reprint) by Peter Denenberg

The New York Times

AT first glance, the door at 112 West Boston Post Road hardly seems like a portal to rock ’n’ roll heaven. It is gray and nameless and sits quietly next to the Chinese restaurant Lum Yen.

But once a visitor is buzzed in and heads upstairs, it’s impossible to miss the rock tunes being played at earsplitting volume. Farther back, in a control room, seated at a mixing board, is Peter Denenberg, producer and owner of Acme Recording Studios. In the corner sits the Deep Purple bass player Roger Glover, here to start recording some new songs. As exciting as it sounds, this is all in a day’s work for Mr. Denenberg.

“I always say that my recording career began because my friends and I kept getting thrown out of everybody’s house, because our bands played too loud,” said Mr. Denenberg, 44, who grew up in Larchmont and lives in Mamaroneck with his wife and two children. He is a lanky man, whose steel-rim glasses and goatee give him the air of a hip graduate student. “We basically needed a place to play and record. I started renting this space in 1982, with my business partner, Rory Young. We also have three full-time employees, who assist in recording.”

Mr. Denenberg worked on records by the Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott and others, throughout the 1980s, but as the ’90s began, providence came calling in the form of the then-unknown Spin Doctors. Their multiplatinum CD “Pocketful of Kryptonite” was done at Acme. According to the group’s leader, Chris Barron, the decision to record there, as well as the sessions themselves, happened with a minimum of fuss.

“When we signed with Epic Records, someone at our label suggested we record at Acme, because he liked Peter’s work,” Mr. Barron said. “It turned out to be a great choice. Peter had us rehearse for a week in the studio before we laid down one note. By the time we rolled tape, we were really tight. We did the whole record in a month.”

Mr. Barron credits Mr. Denenberg’s offbeat humor as integral to the creative environment at Acme.

“If we were listening back to something pretty, he’d say: ‘Yeah, it’s great. If you like music,’ ” Mr. Barron recalled. “He has incredible ears for sonic details, but his personality puts people at ease and helps them sound better.”

Mr. Denenberg says he is more dedicated than ever to his trade in Westchester. Not only does he engineer in-studio concerts with performers like Chris Isaak and Aimee Mann for the growing Westchester radio station WXPK-FM — known as the Peak — but he also teaches a music production class at SUNY Purchase.

“Teaching has rejuvenated me. I’m psyched that students are interested in learning my profession,” he said.

“With the advent of home studios, guys like me are in less demand than we once were,” he added. “Kids can do things cheaply on their own now. But I have equipment that most artists probably don’t own, like vintage consoles for listening back to their recordings.

“Still, what I’m trying to teach goes beyond technical ideas. Very often, the most talented musicians need someone to coax the music out of them. What I’m saying is, producers are creative people, too. That’s the secret to our continued success. We’re not just button-pushers here.”