Bongo Boy 
Professional Recording Studio/ Disc Replication

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Myles Cochrane/Tri-City Weekly

Posted: 12/20/2011 09:36:59 AM PST:

Humboldt's pro-grade recording studio

Having worked for decades with recording-industry standouts, Jimmy and Susie Foot have been providing Humboldt County recording artists with something that most rural counties consider an improbable dream: a high-end, professional-grade studio to record music in a creativity-maximizing environment.

Bongo Boy, the duo's multi-functioning recording studio in a residential neighborhood of McKinleyville, has been hard at it in on the North Coast since the beginning of 2002.

Producing a band can be a tricky thing, Jimmy Foot said. As someone who has a ton of experience in different recording situations, someone who has guided the album process successfully from start to finish numerous times and someone who is himself a musician, I have a lot to offer those who are (recording) for the first time.  Beginning as a surf-rock musician in Southern California during the mid-1960s, Jimmy Foot had quite a memorable experience in his first go-around with a recording studio.

My band (The Argons) and I ended up being recorded by Bob Keane, who was working with Bobby Fuller on 'I Fought The Law', he said.  In the studio -- watching the lead guitar being overdubbed -- I was bitten by the recording bug.  After playing British-style rock with The Argons, the Bongo Boy co-owner eventually discovered Bob Dylan, a find that would switch his focus to folk music. He then moved to New York where he met his future wife, Susie First.

Through some of her contacts, I did some work as a studio musician for Paul Vance ('Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini') and Leon Carr (famous late jingle writer), Jimmy Foot said.

The husband and wife eventually left New York for San Francisco in 1970.

I had a band named Sparky that played lots of free concerts in Golden Gate Park, Jimmy Foot said.  We designed a sound system where we cut off a bit of our long hair and glued it to the first lightweight Sennheiser headphones, giving us in-ear monitoring in 1971. Everything went into a rag-tag mixing system we devised with echo, fuzz, octave divider and reverb. We recorded over a hundred gigs. My first record released was 'I Can See It' with psychedelic rock band The Magic Mind in 1974.

In San Francisco,, Susie Foot eventually earned a gig as a staff engineer at Wally Heider Recording. In between her own albums, she worked with LaBelle, Herbie Hancock, The Pointer Sisters, Santana, Phoebe Snow and many others.

Back then, Susie and I worked together producing soul and funk with The Athletes, Jimmy Foot said.

The Athletes actually featured Vicki Randle, a former singer with Kevin Eubanks in The Tonight Show band.

Continuing their experimentation with multiple genres, Jimmy Foot became interested in reggae.

I got to jam with Earl 'Chinna' Smith when Soul Syndicate was recording at Wally Heider's, he said.  I joined the first reggae band in the Bay area, Jah Love, which became Reggae Jackson.

It was then that the Foots met producer Bob Johnston (Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, Simon and Garfunkel) and he became interested in Reggae Jackson. The industry standout produced an album of theirs in 1980 that blended reggae with African and Latin rhythms.

In 1985, Bob Johnston teamed up with Susie's mentor, colleague and engineer Fred Catero to produce my next band, The Rhyth-O-Matics, Jimmy Foot said. We opened for artists like Jimmy Cliff, Madness, Fishbone, Tito Puente, Etta James, David Lindley, Olatunji and Mickey Hart at large venues.

In the 90s, while Jimmy Foot was touring as a sideman with Harvey Mandel (electric guitarist who played with The Rolling Stones), Susie Foot returned to the old Wally Heider building to manage Hyde Street Studios.

She set up an apprenticeship program and trained engineers and oversaw a major studio renovation there, Jimmy Foot said.

Hyde Street Studios became the place to record rap and hip-hop. Susie Foot booked Digital Underground, Tupak Shakur, Too Short and other Bay area rappers.

While on a vacation to Patrick's Point, Jimmy and Susie Foot would discover a  'Rod Deal & The I-Deals'  cassette at Singing Salmon Music in Garberville. Shortly after that, The Rhyth-O-Matics hired a professional crew to videotape their next Reggae on the River performance.

Jimmy & Susie produced Rod Deal's "Truth & Rights" album at Hyde Street Studios in 1991, with Terri Becker engineering.  That album has become a classic, and is still being sold around the world.] (JF)

In the early 1990s, we started building our own personal studio and started Bongo Boy Records to distribute Rhyth-O-Matics records, Jimmy Foot said.  As the technology became available in the late 1990s, we expanded the studio to include replication with the first-ever robot with color-CD-printer available. Inspired by the movie 'Rockers,' we liked the idea of making CDs hot off the presses in small runs that artists could afford -- that concept became Bongo Boy as we know it today.

Since moving to Humboldt, Jimmy Foot has played in Djialy Kunda Kouyate and toured with Jah Sun, Ishi Dube, Ras Attitude and Joe King.  (He's now in local band, 'Asha Nan' - SF)

It's all those years of experience that Susie and Jimmy Foot pour into their work.

I try to never dismiss any sort of artistic request or idea from an inexperienced artist because I know every artist has their own vision and method, Jimmy Foot said.  As a producer, the best times are a combination of experience, experimentation, innovation and spontaneity.

In all of the albums the Foots have produced, they've rarely had any bad experiences except for the occasional upset band member whose poorly played part was removed from a mix. Since Bongo Boy found a home in McKinleyville in 2002, the Foots have built quite the reputation and have adapted to industry changes.

Coming from San Francisco, we've been amazed at how many talented artists there are here in Humboldt County, Jimmy Foot said. We've done 60-something full albums since then and hundreds of single songs and demos. Artists can come in, lay down basic tracks, go home and record that solo 357 times, then pop it back here into the mix.

The producer said he's seen touring artists come in to do vocal tracks and take the files with them, artists upload and download tracks for long-distance sessions and that Bongo Boy does a lot of voice-overs for film projects.

We've kept up-to-date with equipment and technology which has evolved and continues to evolve rapidly, Jimmy Foot said.  When we moved here in 2002, computer-based recording was in its infancy. Now everyone and his sister has a multi-track recording system on their I-Phone. Recording artists in Humboldt, like everywhere else, have become more technically savvy.  One thing that doesn't change is the creativity.

In addition to a quality, relaxed atmosphere to record music, Bongo Boy offers a variety of services like CD/DVD duplication, CD package design and layout, and transferring old formats like cassette and VHS to CD and DVD.

We have been hit -- like most businesses -- by rising costs and competitive Internet pricing and lower profits, but we try to focus on the art and the service, Jimmy Foot said.  As an engineer, I want the process to be as relaxed and natural as possible. I never want to say 'no' to an artist. I'm there at their service, as a professional, to deal with technical issues so that they can just play music and be creative. I had a Rap group here that had been to a studio where the engineer told them they couldn't cuss. Something like that would never happen at Bongo Boy!

And the euphoric experiences just keep on coming for Jimmy and Susie Foot.

I had two little girls book an hour in the studio to record their original song for a local radio battle of the bands,  Jimmy Foot said.  These girls were like 9 and 10. They came in like pros, asked for a hip-hop beat and knocked out their song in a couple of takes. They came close to winning the contest.

Recently, Bongo Boy updated to an exciting new platform with some new processing tools like Melodyne editing and new MIDI functionality.

We recently released the 'Ska Santas' Christmas CD with up-tempo instrumental-ska versions of songs like 'Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer,'' 'Let It Snow,' 'Frosty,' 'Santa Claus is Coming To Town' and more.

The album is available locally at The Works, People's Records, and Parasol Arts.

Bongo Boy in McKinleyville provides current and up-and-coming recording artists in Humboldt with a tool that most musicians consider a necessary step in the path to stardom. Susie and Jimmy Foot even served on the Board of Governors for NARAS (the Grammy organization), and Jimmy Foot taught audio for the film department at Humboldt State University from 2001 to 2002.

It's safe to say that artists working with the Foots will be walking to the right beat.

To learn more, visit bongoboystudio.com.

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Check out Jimmy Foot's article about his work with famous Dylan/Cash/Cohen producer Bob Johnston in TapeOp Issue #80, Nov/Dec 2010.

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If you want to check out some of Jimmy's original music, go to www.cdbaby.com/jimmyfoot



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