It’s a classic story: Philadelphia-based music producer Will Yip started at the age of 15.
After about a year, he started buying some gear and recording in his basement. From there, Yip networked and produced his way to a partnership with Grammy Award-winning producer Phil Nicolo (Bob Dylan, Bon Jovi, Sting). He is now part owner of Studio 4 located in Conshohocken, Pa.
Yip released a compilation on Oct. 8 titled “Off the Board: A Studio 4 Family Compilation.” The proceeds from the record will go towards funding his share of the partnership.
One of the biggest influences in Yip’s journey has been the Wilkes-Barre music scene, including popular local acts Tigers Jaw, Dead End Path, and Title Fight, all featured on the compilation. The Weekender checked in with Yip to discuss the compilation and some Wilkes-Barre acts that have helped him out along the way.
THE WEEKENDER: How did you get involved with the scene?
WILL YIP: I always recorded Philly hardcore bands back in the late 2000s. I never did auto-tuney records, which was pretty popular with local studios. It made it sound fake, but it made it sound better. That wasn’t my vibe, and I wasn’t competing with that. I recorded more punk bands and hardcore bands – which lead to me Blacklisted. They gave me my first shot. I did their record, and they are friends with Title Fight and the guys from the Wilkes-Barre music scene. Ned and Ben’s brother’s band recorded here, which led to Title Fight, which led to Tigers Jaw and Balance and Composure. It all just grew.
W: When did you first meet Phil Nicolo?
WY: Everyone in Philly knows of Phil. He’s kind of a legend; I mean, he’s won Grammies. Not many people can do that from the ground up. He taught at Temple University, and I got a scholarship from there. I basically took it just to meet Phil and figured maybe I’ll get an internship. I took his class and right after the first one, I told him I wanted to work for him. I told him I’d sweep floors, take out garbage, whatever. He always had an open door policy and he told me to show up that day. I showed up that day and every day since.
W: When and how did the opportunity come up for ownership?
WY: This year, I was basically using the one room over and over again. Man Overboard watched “Sound City” (a documentary produced the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl about a studio in Los Angeles) and pitched the idea. They said, “You need to own this.” And I said they were crazy. I brought it up to Phil, and he thought it made sense to maybe sell it now instead of when he’s older. We’ve been working together for seven years and we’ve never had an issue. Just like the process from the last seven years, it just happened naturally.
W: How did the idea for the compilation come up, and how were the songs chosen?
WY: Nick from Man Overboard was giving me some ideas for the start, maybe something to just get some press and get the word out. I thought maybe I’d put out a download of my own favorite recordings, and then Title Fight and Circa Survive said, “Let’s use some new songs people haven’t heard.” All of the bands wanted to do it and make Studio 4 their home. I’ve used every off-day from the past seven months making this. Some people drove crazy hours just to record one song for me. It was really cool, and just about every song was recorded specifically for the comp. Anthony Green finished his record; three weeks later, he came in and recorded a brand new song for it. It was so f—king rad.
W: What was the mindset going into this project with a bunch of different bands compared to when you produce a full record?
WY: It took over my life for a while. Everything kind of piled on. There were 21-hour days trying to finish Anthony Green and Polar Bear Club and the comp. It was supposed to be a nice cool project, but it became so much more. It was a cool way to promote the studio, but now it’s become such a cool record. The songs are so good. It’s definitely bigger than a comp; it’s one of the best records of my career.
W: What’s your connection to Title Fight and Tigers Jaw, two bands from Northeastern Pennsylvania?
WY: I didn’t know any of them until about 2009. I’ll never forget what bands like Blacklisted and Title Fight did for me. Everyone else used big fancy record labels, and they took a shot with me. I feel like they’re my brothers. Since I started, they’ve become some of my best friends in the world. Cold World, a legendary Wilkes-Barre hardcore band, is another. I’ve never been there before, but that area has produced so many cool bands, and that scene is cool to me now. It has such a good sense of morals and ethics when it comes to music. We all do it because we love it.
W: If you cold produce three songs for anyone, dead or alive, who would be featured on the comp, who would you pick?
WY: Nirvana: favorite band ever. They got me into rock and roll and I wanted every record to sound like that. It’s my vibe.
The Beatles: in terms of studying music and production, The Beatles are bigger than anything. They created the producer.
Jimmy Eat World: Clarity was a record that came out in middle school, and it changed my life in a different way. It made me understand pop music better, and it was produced in such a way that the music was still real.