Musicians rise above basement recording, welcome quality studios of local Cat Trax

By Emmett Overbey

I was in a band last year. Our recording studio was the basement of Stevenson North and our equipment consisted of a portable cassette recorder and a pack of blank Maxells. Our only post-production work was rewinding. We figured that was the best we could afford. We didn’t know about Cat Trax.

Cat Trax is located at 132 E. Lincoln Highway, underneath Austin Music Center. The music store and the studio are both owned by Donel Austin, whose background in music adds to the professionalism of his business.

“Sound is the most important thing,” he commented as he gave me a tour of the studio’s facilities. “We have a lot of fun down here and we do a lot of work.”

I had never realized there was so much room underneath the stores on Lincoln Highway. The recording studio is enormous, even with a separate drum room. Sixteen-track recording facilities are available, and a mixing board with outboard effects completes the job. Donel works on post-production with his assistant, Chuck DeVibo, and two sound technicians.

The quality of the recordings made at Cat Trax has drawn bands from as far as Detroit, as well as local favorites such as Red Line, Howard and the White Boys, The Essentials, and The Renfields.

After a recording is completed and mixed, the band gets the final word on the sound of the music. If the band wants to take its recording a step further, Donel can help out with this, too. He will assist the band in acquiring a copyright, which he feels is one of the most important parts of the recording process.

Cat Trax also offers “9 Out of 10,” an in-house publishing company which will publish sheet music if the recording becomes a hit.

Another service of the studio is something which Donel calls “pocket songs.” These are popular songs with the vocal tracks removed, so prospective divas can record their own voices onto their favorite tunes.

Cat Trax patrons are truly given the red-carpet treatment. The atmosphere is very comfortable, and Donel is proud of the rapport he establishes with the bands that come in. Equipment from the well-stocked Austin Music Center is available for recording purposes, and set-up time is not included in the studio rental fee.

As an extra, members of NIU’s wonderful jazz band are available to sit in on recordings as session musicians. The recording business is very competitive, and Donel Austin feels quite confident that he offers some of the best facilities available, and the quality of his product speaks for itself.

Needless to say, the acoustics at Cat Trax are much more conducive to recording than those in the basement of Stevenson North (no offense), and the people there are a lot of fun to work with. So, if you want to hear how you sound, with or without a band, head down to Cat Trax and talk to Donel.