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Pandemic Pushes Pause on ‘Mysterious’ Canton Music Studio

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Image credit: Cecilia Lallmann/WET

Pearl Sound Studios, a recording studio in Canton known to only a few in the township but many in the music industry, has been hit hard by COVID-19. That includes the Grammy award-winning owner of the studio.

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Cecilia Lallmann/WDET
Cecilia Lallmann/WDET

Open the door of a nondescript gray building near Ford Road in Canton and there’d be recording sessions underway that, over the years, featured everyone from Eminem and Bob Seger to the late Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell.

To unabashedly borrow a phrase from the Pearl Sound Studios website, “if the building’s interior walls could talk, they’d probably sing.”

Grammy-award-winning studio owner Chuck Alkazian says he also enjoyed taking young artists under his knowledgeable wing.

But Alkazian says the pandemic 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, Pearl Sound Studios Owner: It’s been horrible, hasn’t it? We’ve been surviving. We were shut down for most of 2020. And last spring I had been quarantined as much as the government and everyone had requested. Our families were all quarantined. And I have no idea how I actually caught COVID early on. I got very ill. I was at home, I had a temperature of almost 105 for almost three weeks off and on. And then it slowly started going down. I did not go to the hospital, I kind of just let it play out. But it’s been horrible, random brain fog, strange random symptoms here and there. But hopefully we’re getting past all this stuff. It was pretty scary.

Quinn Klinefelter, WDET 101.9 FM: Why didn’t you seek any medical treatment?

I did call my physician and my physicians requested that I stay on acetaminophen and just kind of wait it out, because no one really knew what was going on with it. I didn’t have any breathing issues, so, I was very lucky. Mine was strictly fever and headache and body aches. It was more flu-like, I guess.

And this was all happening right at a time when what’s been a lot of your livelihood at the studio, people recording records or shows, all that was dropping at the same time.

I was right in the middle of doing an album for the rock band Tantric — I had been working on that late 2019 into early 2020. And then everyone went on quarantine. I would be working by myself without anyone around. And then I got ill and I had to put everything on hold. I lost a lot of records from artists from out of the country who couldn’t get visas to come over to work, (because of) the pandemic. Everyone got smacked.

You see people doing stuff from home and over Zoom or trying to put together some kind of virtual concerts. Were you able to get in on any of that?

Cecilia Lallmann/WDET
Cecilia Lallmann/WDET

Very little. Once I knew everything was a little safer, I tried my darndest to get people to do more live streaming and try to help them create some sort of financial revenue so they could stay afloat. It just became a big pain in the butt after a while. And I know some people had some success with it. I was actually mixing through VPN out of my house. I would just leave my equipment on and stay home. I was getting projects that were being recorded 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’m concerned.


Related: Mysterious Michigan Studio Lures Music Icons to Canton


You said previously that one of the other big revenue streams that you’d have is doing commercials for different automakers and other types of companies. Did that all pretty well get chopped once the pandemic hit?

We have a separate building for our ad work and the majority of our employees stayed at home, took their editing rigs to their house. And we’d communicate via Zoom creatively with clients because businesses were actually, I feel, advertising more. They were trying to get people to come and spend money because everyone was buying everything from the delivery companies, you know, Amazon and such.

How close has it been for you in the studio in terms of staying financially afloat?

Well, for our ad agency work, we had to let go of some people. It was rough. It was really rough. But as far as the recording studio side, I guess I just felt that it would blow over quicker. I felt when the time was right people would come back and make music. And I think we’re kind of getting there now. But didn’t really pursue any of those avenues with government assistance because I feel that there are a lot more people out there who needed it more.

How about for yourself and the studio, even prior to COVID? I know when we talked a couple of years ago, people that were not involved in the industry would drive by and see your dark building off to the side of the road and would want to know what was going on. You told me about one elderly lady who said (suspiciously,) “What are you guys doing in there?” And you let her kind of look inside to see what was going on.

Ha!

Has it gotten a bit more publicity? Are people more familiar with what’s going on in there now?

It’s kind of funny. People run into me — well, not since COVID — but right after that last interview, I’d see people out and about and they would ask questions. And it’s a nice feeling to know you have the support of your city. The cat’s out of the bag now. I mean, most people who knew, knew. And if you didn’t know, a lot of people find it really cool and they’re supportive. And entertainment is one of the things that, I’ve noticed, people really are missing. They’re missing live shows, they’re missing seeing bands, they’re missing getting new music. It all goes hand-in-hand. But I just hope that people realize how fragile we are as humans and as we move forward in life. There are certain things that are more important than others. And hopefully, people get their head screwed on straight.

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Quinn Klinefelter, Senior News Editor

Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.

qklinefelter@wdet.org

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