Lee Russell Has Tweaked Trees' Sound System and Started Working on Video Production

Yep, that's a freakin' cake.
Yep, that's a freakin' cake.
Jeff Schattle

As proprietor of what could possibly be the finest P.A. system in Deep Ellum, Trees' Lee Russell is a repeat guest in this column. We spoke to him in January about his jet engine of a sound system, installed at Trees, but he's up to more now. Much, much more. Now, before we talk shop, I have to mention that at his recent birthday, he was presented with a full-sized cake replica of a 32-channel live sound board.

He's also been working on the side as a sound engineer for a few of these rock 'n' roll cruises that have been happening, starting his own multi-cam live video production company and small label, and he's technically stepped up the auditory behemoth he pilots in Deep Ellum. He's also aspiring to start a one-stop online local music store.

So, first ... what became of rock 'n' roll's greatest birthday cake? Tell me you froze a few "channels" as a keepsake.

Cake artist [and Rude King vocalist] Vicki Tovar is the bomb! If anyone did anything with that cake other than eat it or take photos it was a waste of a good cake. It was as delicious as it was spectacular. I was absolutely blown away by that cake.

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It looked So. Totally. Real.

People thought it was a real mixer! For those that didn't get a chance to taste it, it was Irish car bomb flavor. I was eating it for days. Not sure I should have been but I didn't care.

Is it me, or has the Trees "Jet Engine" gotten even more powerful since we last spoke?

Wattage-wise, the system is the same. If you are saying it sounds "bigger," well I've been been practicing some new mixing techniques. If you are saying you have seen a lot more blinky colorful lights back there in my mixing world then yes, it has grown tremendously.

I hear you're up to new things. Video things, for starters.

That's those new blinky lights I just mentioned. I have invested in a new video rig. Not sure I can say "cat's ass" here but ...

You can say that. Is your new video setup the "cat's ass"?

Yes. I have invested in a Tricaster 855 and a few new cameras. I am now capable of full on HD video production. Recording, streaming and editing. Basically, the second your band walks off stage I can have a full-blown 1080p multi-cam video of your set. Still tweaking things but I feel I have a pretty good grip on it now.

I saw you at a different club recently, at the Mad Mexicans show, running a multi-cam shoot. Test flight?

Let me first say congrats to the Mad Mexicans for lasting 10 years in this business. I love all those guys. Good people. My having the video rig there was certainly a test of sorts. It was a test to show that the rig is very portable and a test to see how quickly it goes together. Also to show what can be done on the fly. I was also trying to see how well it would hold up in different lighting situations. There will be a few more test runs in different venues for sure.

I get the feeling that isn't the only new iron you have in the fire.

Honestly for every one iron I take out I put three in. I just put the word out that I want to put together a single web store for all things local music. Send me your music! You can go to iTunes and download Mad Mexicans but it won't show you a list of just Dallas local music. I can do that. There is a store up at the moment that is a constant work in progress. Site mentioned below. I'm just trying to have people that are fans of one local band get exposed to the rest of the awesome talent that Dallas has to offer. I'm working on ideas with some local radio talent that may want to jump into the video world. Also talking to a writer friend of mine that used to write for Metal Edge magazine, about doing a video show on the national act level as well. I could answer this question for days. ... I have too many ideas.   Are you working towards culminating all your ideas under one umbrella? "Top of the Bottom" records? Am I correct?

Top of the Bottom records is my personal Frankenstein. I want to create new ways for bands to get heard whether it be producing videos or audio recordings. I want it to be another stepping stone in keeping the music alive. It could be profit sharing, it could be an investment. Every day I just try to think of things to do. The music business has been great to me and I just want to return some love somehow. A one stop site for local based music and music I love in general.

You recently went out to work the Monsters of Rock cruise! Tell us about it.

I actually went out on the Monsters of Rock cruise, the Moody Blues cruise and the Cruise to the Edge with Yes. About 19 days or so of cruising. Those three cruises back to back were the actual testing ground for the video system. Way to test a system! For fans of the genres these cruises are a blast. The Monsters of Rock cruise was a nonstop party for four days. When I left for Florida I had only had the video system actually powered on for about an hour. I was terrified. Once on board there were like six stages and 30 bands of nonstop rock action. At first just trying to figure out where we should be and when was crazy.

On day two I did something no one had done before and tied the video into the ships jumbo TV on the pool deck. Then we had live action on the TV while the bands were playing. Good times. I basically learned everything I had to in a day. I have posted a few of the videos online. Look for a Great White video and a John Corrabi singing with Cinderella video on YouTube. You can go to topofthebottomrecords.com to find them easier. There is also a Med Mexicans video that was posted the minute I got home from the show. Zero video editing on all of them other than some graphics stuff. These videos are the footage I had the second the bands finished their set. Now don't judge me on my web skills because I don't have any. Any web designers want to help me help the local scene hit up Ayo and he'll put us in touch.

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