The Temple of Tune
These days the 1867 Recording Studio—the name is a nod to the building’s age—is a professional producer’s paradise. A dozen keyboards stretch across the counter spaces, and along a dusty pew McLaughlin displays his favorite electric guitars. But amid the amp stacks and cord coils, he’s left room for remnants of the Masons’ tenancy: programs from a 1913 meeting, skulls and crossbones painted onto the towering walls, engraved scarabs fixed to moldings. The vibe is equal parts Dan Brown and Pavement.
“There is such an air of mystery to the building that it was unlike any recording experience I’ve ever had,” says Kosuke Kasza. Earlier this year, Kasza recorded a new LP at 1867; he is one of several New Yorkers who regularly travel north to work with McLaughlin. Some musicians come for the sheer novelty of the experience—a chance to lay down tracks in the cavernous chamber where a shadowy society once held sway. Others are there simply because they believe McLaughlin will produce a sound that other engineers can’t. McLaughlin has an “amazing ear,” Ounjian says. “We’ve all recorded in over a dozen studios in and out of Boston. This has to be the best-sounding record we’ve done.”
Andy Guthrie, codirector of the popular Band in Boston podcast, says McLaughlin’s passion rubs off on his clients. “Recording studios are usually these off-limits places, like the Taj Mahal or something. Maybe you’ll get in there for a few million bucks,” he says. “What Chris has done is make the whole thing attainable, and accessible, and fun. He’s made it interesting.”
On a sharply cold day, McLaughlin sits on a bench at 1867, toying with the fretboard of a beat-up Univox guitar, and struggling to stay warm; after a while, he pulls a jacket tighter around his shoulders. McLaughlin spends a lot of time in 1867. He is there for the marathon recording sessions, but he’s also there when the building is empty—when it’s just him, and the amp stacks, and the keyboards, and the ghosts of all the people who have gone before.
“It’s a good place to think,” he says. “It’s weird—in a lot of ways this building has become a kind of home.”