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page 5 dailytarheel.com/dive thursday, february 18, 2010 A HOME FOR MUSIC Mebane’s Jerry Kee records

page 5

page 5 dailytarheel.com/dive thursday, february 18, 2010 A HOME FOR MUSIC Mebane’s Jerry Kee records musicians


thursday, february 18, 2010

page 5 dailytarheel.com/dive thursday, february 18, 2010 A HOME FOR MUSIC Mebane’s Jerry Kee records musicians
A HOME FOR MUSIC Mebane’s Jerry Kee records musicians in his house Photos by Jordan
Mebane’s Jerry Kee records musicians in his house
Photos by Jordan Lawrence
Jordan Lawrence
Diversions eDitor
It’s easy to miss. Just a dingy old drumhead staked into
the ground on the side of a curvy road in rural Mebane.
But the small house that resides at 3907 Mebane Oaks
Road is home to one of the Triangle’s longest-standing and
most respected producers.
Jerry Kee, who operates his self-proclaimed eighth Duck
Kee Studio on the site, has been recording bands in the area
for more than 20 years.
“I named the last one seven since that’s a good number,
prime number,” Kee jokes of his last studio in Raleigh. “That
just kind of dawned on me one time, that that was the sev-
enth place I’d been recording. But that includes, like, the
bedroom of my parents’ house.”
Having begun recording in his youth out of a hunger for
composing and producing music, Kee moved from his West
Virginia home to Raleigh in the mid ’80s. It was about 1988
when he turned his home at the time into a locale that still
lives in the annals of local music history.
It was there that the name Jerry Kee was tied to records
by Superchunk and Polvo, two bands that put indie rock
and Chapel Hill on the map in the ’90s. After about eight
years in Raleigh, Kee moved to his second live-in studio,
transforming the living room area of his Mebane house into
INSIDE: see Page
9 for a review of
schooner’s Duck
Kee Sessions eP,
which is being
sold as a down-
load for charity at
A ramshackle collection of
CDs, stickers, food products and other miscellanea, Jerry Kee’s kitchen
adjoins to the equipment-bedecked living room where he manages the levels of his recordings.
professional recording studio.
“It’s what everything centers around,” Kee says of the
choice to cram his house with tape machines, booths and
computer equipment. “I don’t really think twice about it.
This place needs to be bigger as far as that goes. I think
about taking the screened-in porch and finishing it up or
something like that.”
It certainly results in an interesting environment. Part
cluttered homestead, part indie rock nostalgia, Kee’s setup
is charmingly rustic, his three cats — Sammy, Molly and
Zucchini — coexisting with whatever troubadour is record-
ing there at the time. It’s an atmosphere that clients speak
of fondly.
“Jerry’s studio is like this cluttered place that you can
barely move around in,” said John Booker, of Chapel Hill’s
Was Totally Destroying It, who has recorded at Duck Kee
with four previous projects. “It’s got cat hair all over every-
thing. But, I mean, it’s got that vibe to it. It’s got that really
Mebane producer Jerry Kee pays some attention to his cat Molly. Molly is one of three cats that
calls his recording space home, coexisting with all the musicians who pass through the premises.
homey feel to it. I mean, Jerry lives in the studio.”
From this comfortable environment Kee produces records
with a warm, lived-in feel. Recording to two-inch tape as
opposed to the digital methods becoming more prevalent
today, he gives his products a roughly hewn but still profes-
sional sound.
“I try to let them do what they want to do,” Kee said of his
studio technique. “I try to help them do what they’ve been
trying to do. I’m not really hands-on unless they’re really
inexperienced and are aiming for something higher than
what they’re going to get.”
Many of the artists who come through Duck Kee appreci-
ate this approach.
“He knows how to point you in the right direction, but he
doesn’t bring his ego into the recording process,” said Reid
Johnson of Chapel Hill’s Schooner, whose new Duck Kee
Sessions EP was recorded by Kee. “He kind of will let you do
your own thing. He will give you a kinda weird look if you
suggest something that’s probably not going to work, but he
doesn’t try to make you something out of his mold.”
With this approach of guiding rather than directing and
rates that are affordable for those not working on a record
label budget, Kee often becomes a solid first option for up-
and-coming talent.
“The people I always work with usually are paying for it
themselves, as opposed to a record company paying for it,”
he said. “They’re enthusiastic about it. It’s just great people
to work with because they’re at that stage where they’re
really excited about it. They’re working hard.”
Booker, who had his first recording experience at Duck
Kee with the band Strunken White, said Kee was a great
first producer.
“We were still so young and figuring everything out,” he
said. “Jerry’s kind of the guy to walk you through that. He’s
just been doing it for so long for so many local bands.”
Eager to dole out his wisdom and open up his doors
for whatever band chooses to reach out, Kee provides a
service that many in this area’s music scene are eager to
keep around.
“You’re getting really high-quality records for a reason-
able amount of money,” said Paul Finn, head of Chapel Hill’s
Odessa Records, speaking to how Kee sells used tape or rents
tape to bands who are strapped for cash. “You’d be hard-
pressed to be able to afford analog tape without Jerry.
“You’d just be getting records that weren’t as good sound-
ing. We’re really lucky to have him.”
And if Kee has his way, it’s an opportunity that bands
from the Triangle and elsewhere will be able to utilize far
into the future.
“I just turned 50 last year, so zowy! That sounds old,”
he said. “I’m wondering whether I should try something
different before I’m too old to change over. My conclu-
sion was, ‘No, I’ll just stick to doing this.’ I probably won’t
have much money to retire on, but I have a brother, a little
brother in West Virginia who has a farm. Always a place
to stay.”
Contact the Diversions Editor
at dive@unc.edu

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