published Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Curtain Call: Charles Allison has spent a lifetime producing music

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    Charles Allison works his Spanner Sound studio. Allison is a local musician and producer.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
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Like a lot of kids growing up, Charles Allison developed at least part of his musical tastes by raiding an older sibling's record collection.

Allison had the added benefit of being a military brat. The son of a chaplain, he moved around quite a bit and spent almost four years in Japan surrounded by military kids from around the world. He was introduced to all types of music.

Today he plays with the local band Land Camera, but his real passion is recording music. At his Spanner Sound studio in his home, he does all manner of sound recording.

Charles Allison

* Age: 37.

* Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii.

* Family: Wife, Kate; daughter, Finley.

* Vocation: Musician/producer.


* Movie: "Better Off Dead," "Human Traffic."

* Musical: "Tommy."

* Book: "Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy."

* Performer: The Smiths.

* Actor: Adam Sandberg.

* Quotation: "The temptation to take the precious things we love apart to see how they work must be resisted, for they never fit together again."

-- From Billy Bragg's

"Worker's Playtime."

Q: You said you grew up a military brat. Where all did you live?

A: My dad was from Chattanooga, so he always requested being stationed in the South. We lived in Florida for a while, but when I was 9 we moved to Okinawa in Japan. That is where I grew up during my formative years. It was great. It was this small piece of land with people from all over the world there.

Then we moved to Huntsville [Alabama], and that was a major culture shock. It was awful. At least for me.

Q: How old were you when you moved to Huntsville?

A: 12 or so.

Q: When did you get into music?

Allison: Always, I guess. I have an older brother and two older sisters.

Q: How much older is he?

Allison: Seven or eight years. He had this killer stereo and record collection. This was in the mid-'80s and he was into punk and new wave and post punk, so that is what I was into. On the weekends he'd go out and I would go into his room and listen to everything. I mean everything. It was like Christmas.

Q: When did music become a profession for you?

Allison: Around age 19 or 20. A neighbor loaned me a four-track machine.

Q: Do you remember the light-bulb moment; and walk me through the studio progression since then?

Allison: Once I started over-dubbing my own stuff, I was hooked. I've pretty much been doing that ever since. Basically, as soon as I started home recording, I never stopped. I've been making a record ever since, and I'm almost like a hoarder.

Q: What all do you do in your studio?

Allison: Everything really. I do voice-over work and voice fill-ins and dialogue replacement. We are not scoring films, but I'd love to. If it involves recording on a professional level, we are doing it.

Q: So you work on someone else stuff during the day and when they leave, you work on your own stuff?

Allison: Yes. I'm always tweaking something in the studio. Fortunately, it's in my basement.

Q: How do you know when something is done?

Allison: That's a good question. If it's for someone else, they pretty much decide that. On my own stuff, I struggle with that.

Q: When you get a new piece of equipment or new software, do you want to go back to old stuff and redo it?

Allison: Oh man, that's the hardest, but the way I look at it is, that is a piece of music we did at the time and it represents a moment in time.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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