Some studios become more than just a place to record music. They become the center of a scene.
In the midwestern US in the '80s and early '90s, Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin was that nucleus, with a constellation of bands like Killdozer, The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, L7, Tad, and Against Me! orbiting the feverish work of Butch Vig and Steve Marker on 1254 East Washington Avenue.
We had no plan at all. We just wanted a place to hang out." -Butch Vig
A new film, The Smart Studios Story, details the origins and inner workings of the place that came to define the sound of the midwestern DIY scene in the '80s and, eventually, the global sound of grunge in the '90s. Directed by former studio employee Wendy Schneider, the film tells the story through the people who were there, from Dave Grohl, Billy Corgan, and Shirley Manson to the many engineers and interns who helped make the studio what it was.
In our exclusive Reverb interview above, Wendy, Butch and Steve and talk through the making of the film, the gear used at Smart, and the studio's lasting legacy. We were tickled to hear them call out two of our favorite pieces of gear: a Roland RE-201 Space Echo and a vintage Fender Bassman amp.