March 25th, 2014
Madison filmmaker Wendy Schneider is hoping to fund a documentary on Smart Studios, the recording venue here that closed four years ago but helped give rise to groups such as Killdozer, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Death Cab for Cutie.
She has a Kickstarter campaign that has only a few days left but it woefully short of its goal.
Our alt-weekly, Isthmus, had an article on the project earlier this month.
Bands that recorded there, from Nirvana to Death Cab for Cutie, have inspired legions of other acts. After launching the studio in 1983, Butch Vig and Steve Marker went on to form their own hugely successful band, Garbage, in 1994. Former Smart staff are now some of the most sought-after sound engineers in town. Another ex-employee, Wendy Schneider, is a filmmaker on the rise. She’s been traveling the country, laying the groundwork for a documentary called The Smart Studios Story.
“[Smart] ended up starting a chain reaction that really did change popular music,” Marker recently told Isthmus.
Vig is proud of the quality work Smart produced, as well as the focus on local and regional acts.
“I think over 90% of the bands came from within a 100-mile radius,” he says.
Smart became so popular that it could have moved to New York or L.A., but Vig and Marker insisted on keeping it local. They had friends here, and a Madison address helped cement the studio’s indie cred.
“Being in the Midwest, we were always kind of left to our own devices. There was very little interference from corporate powers, even after we had some major-label success,” Vig says.
Plus, he and Marker simply loved Madison and its deep pool of musical talent.
“To be able to have…Clyde Stubblefield come down and do a session is just amazing,” Marker says.
Tonight at the High Noon Saloon the Madison institution, The Gomers, will be transforming their traditional live karaoke night, Gomeroke, into Smart Studioke where revelers can sing songs recorded at Smart Studios and donate to the project.