Since the heyday of recording on Farish Street passed, the only local label with any real national name recognition has been Malaco Records, which has continued with a steady output of high-quality R&B and soul from the label and its in-house studio. Recently, though, other studios have started to surface here. One of them, Sonic Temple Recording Studio, has worked with artists from Cassandra Wilson to David Banner, Scott Litt of R.E.M. to Young Agent Jones.
Sonic Temple is located at 880 Foley St., tucked away right off I-55 in, essentially, an industrial strip mall. I made an appointment with Sean Macke who, along with partner, Kent Bruce, owns and runs the studio and the in-house record label. Even though I was right next to I-55, once I stepped into Sonic Temple, the studio's name immediately had meaning. The studio space is incredibly impressive and is absolutely dead silent and, according to Macke, this was no lucky accident. While Macke and Bruce purchased a layout design from a renowned studio designer, the partners did the work themselves—including the electrical system, the heating and air conditioning, and all major construction.
"We really, really care about music," Macke says, "and that's why we wanted to make sure that the studio was done very well." Macke explained that they figured and executed the dimensions of the console room, the isolation rooms, everything to exacting details. This wasn't done to have the space look pretty, although the visual appeal of Sonic Temple is undeniable. Rather, they wanted to capture truly great sound.
How did such an incredible facility come to exist in Jackson? Macke laughs at the question. "For starters, I really hate football. All I've ever wanted to do is to be involved in music, and I take it very seriously. I wanted to put a world-class recording facility here in Jackson; also, I want musicians here to know that the studio in Jackson is arguably as good as any in the nation, and musicians can record here for a fraction of the price as places like Los Angeles, New York and Nashville." And with the label, the studio can give artists a place to develop and to get a recording shopped around to major labels, he added.
Macke then ticked off the remarkable list of equipment in the studio (for a complete list, go to
Especially noteworthy is the AMEK Rembrandt console board, done by world-renowned audio pioneer Rupert Neve. There is also a wide selection of microphones, monitor speakers and musical instruments that would be the envy of any studio of the world. Notably, Sonic Temple has the capability to record both in digital and analog formats, depending on how the artist or song would be best served. Macke says this makes Sonic Temple a great studio for any type of recording project and for a wide variety of artists.
The impressive list of artists that have recorded at Sonic Temple certainly bears this out. In addition to Banner, hip-hop artists Juvenile, Lil' Flip and Bonecrusher recorded there. Grammy winner and Jackson native Cassandra Wilson's "Belly of the Sun" was recorded by Macke at Sonic Temple; Wilson's new release "Glamoured" was largely recorded there. Jazz woman (and Wilson's
protégé) Rhonda Richmond records there. Further, Macke has worked with recording legends T-Bone Burnett, ("O Brother Where Art Thou,") Elvis Costello and Dennis Herring (Cracker). Macke is currently finishing up work with the Last Muscle Shoals sessions for Young Agent Jones. For his part, Kent Bruce has worked with Scott Litt, Tom Dowd, Mack McAnally and Ricky Skaggs, to name a few.
Despite this impressive list of equipment, gear and artists, Macke stresses that Sonic Temple is an affordable place to make a record. "It's our studio and our label, so we can charge what we want," Macke says. "It's important for us to develop artists in Jackson, and to give them a truly top-quality place to do it." He compares his approach to pro baseball farm teams. "We are willing to take a chance on local musicians to see if they can take their material to a higher level. And one of the best ways to do that is with a studio and equipment that truly sounds good and is operated by people that know how to use it," Macke says.