If Michael Briggs wants to see a show, record a band's EP or film a podcast, he doesn't have to step outside his own door. It is, shall we say, a bit of a luxury.
In Denton's independent music scene, Briggs is absolutely crucial in the booking, recording and promotion of bands in the area. He books shows at his own house, DIY venue Macaroni Island, records bands at Civil Recording in his home studio and does videos and Q&A's with bands in the Violitionist Sessions. All his work serves to give Denton bands a place to play, a place to record and a place to be seen.
Briggs got his feet wet in the Denton scene when he was living in the dorms at UNT in 2002. His first show there was held at a venue that remains his favorite to this day: Rubber Gloves. There, he met with other musicians and sound engineers for the venue, and kept coming back to Denton even when he moved back to Carrollton for a few years.
Later, in 2006, Briggs started booking shows through his own booking company Gutterth Live with partner Brent Frishman. With this, Briggs became fully entrenched in the music scene of Denton, initially recording albums for his friends' bands before having other bands reach out to him of their own volition. Completely self-taught in his recording, this endeavor eventually became Civil Recording.
"Through those connections, knowing those people and having an interest in recording for bands, it's really been steadily growing," Briggs says.
Briggs runs Civil Recording out of his house in Denton, which is stocked with gear acquired over his time working with bands. Sprawled across the room are microphone stands, guitars, basses, amps and the skeleton of a piano. About 77 bands have had albums recorded here with Briggs, many of whom have recorded multiple releases with him.
From the beginning of his involvement in Denton, Briggs says he's been (unofficially) recording bands in one way or another. Since starting out, he's upgraded his production and setup to where he is now, in his own place, his own studio and on his own schedule. He also does freelance web design to pay the bills, but deems it "less fun" than being able to record bands. Looking ahead, he hopes to gravitate toward a more frequent recording schedule to be able to sustain off of the practice.
Gutterth Live was eventually put on hiatus in lieu of having bands just play at Briggs' house. By a happy accident, the house Briggs moved into also ended up being a viable place to host shows. Briggs was originally just looking for space to make a studio, but the garage that ended up being Macaroni Island was an added bonus. Now, the venue gets more requests than it can reasonably fulfill and is fully booked for this month with six shows total.
Historically, Briggs has been more involved in hosting and recording punk-related acts but he's looking to expand into other genres. On the day that we meet, he's been recording with singer-songwriter Claire Morales, who is more folk-inclined.
"We've been recording track by track, which will end up making the album sound cleaner and a bit more produced," he says.
However, Briggs strictly considers himself a sound engineer rather than a producer in his work. When recording, he emphasizes his duty to make the album agreeable to the band while minimizing his own input in the songwriting, allowing the band to retain their own vision for what the album should be.
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"I generally don't feel that's my place," Briggs says. "Producers have a place, but I don't consider myself one."
The studio's setup is geared toward capturing the energy of a live sound. Most of the recordings are done that way, too, with vocals usually being the one track that's recorded separately. The style not only helps retain an authentic and natural feel in recordings, it also tends to be much faster and more efficient than recording individual tracks. Using a mostly live recording arrangement, Briggs says most records can be fully recorded in two or three days.
Right now, he's got two days of recording behind him and many more ahead of him. He doesn't mind, though, and he's definitely thankful for the kind of work he gets to do and the opportunity to do it.
"I try my best to stay involved with it," he says. "I hope to have more busy days ahead of me."