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Dean Watson: From pawn shop microphones to Ottawa's go-to indie rock recorder

Audio engineer Dean Watson has literally built his career with his own two hands.

He began by modifying old microphones found at pawn shops to record ’90s rock bands like Seismic on his four-track. He says that he appreciates his bric-a-brac beginnings and is grateful that he didn’t have access to the best equipment when he first started.

“Because I had no money, I had to use whatever I had and get creative,” he said.

Watson’s career quickly evolved when he built his own studio in the Glebe in 2006.

“I just wanted to make records and play,” he says.

Now, music recorded at Gallery Recording Studios is heard on airwaves and iPods across Canada every day.

It’s his innovation and dedication to the best sonic and artistic result that has indie acts like Andrea Simms-Karp, Musk Ox and Shannon Rose and the Thorns returning to work with him.

“I love working on a piece of art with someone and work towards the same end goal more so than playing music,” said Watson.

He said the most valuable and sometimes unexpected skills are learned from hands-on experience.

“It’s more than just plugging in mics or knowing how to mix a song. You wear a lot of hats.”

That often includes mediating band egos to avoid Spinal Tap moments by sending two members off for coffee while another stays to record.

“Most of my clients are from the Ottawa-area,” said Watson.

“I haven’t actively solicited any bands, it’s been all word of mouth.”

A reputation for experience and easy-going excellence has made him a sought after sound engineer.

“I’ve been involved in mixing, mastering and producing over 300 records. It makes me feel old,” said Watson with a laugh.

Bands from across Canada go to Watson for his ability to deconstruct and then reconstruct songs to carefully curate the best sound possible.

The only problem is, Watson has worked on so many songs he sometimes can’t recognize them.

“It’s always nice when I’m shopping, (and I think) ‘Why do I know this music?’ and it doesn’t dawn on me until ‘Oh, I made that song!’ It happens a lot.”

I can’t see myself doing anything else,” said Watson.

For more information, visit Gallery Recording Studios on Facebook.

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