By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Building a successful business from the ground up is never easy. It usually takes a lot of work and a whole lot of money. Sometimes it even takes axes and cymbal stands, homeless men with ladders, naked guys with bags over their heads, guns, rats, and snipers. Nestled in a warehouse complex off Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami, Tapeworm Studios is proof that creativity, patience, and a sense of humor can also go a long way in building a business. Sitting in a clean, blue engineering room that overlooks a spacious sound booth, Tapeworm partners Mike Boudet, Tom Bowker, Jeremy du Bois, and Chris Romeu look back at four years of helping to capture a truckload of South Florida music on disc and vinyl.
"I would definitely say that a lot of the bands we've worked with have grown with us," notes Bowker. "I could draw correlations between their growth and our growth." So far about 50 full-length albums and more than 100 seven-inch releases have been recorded at Tapeworm, including material by local bands the Agency, Against All Authority, Cavity, the Crumbs, Orgasmic Bliss, King 7 and the Soul Sonics, Ed Matus' Struggle, Subliminal Criminal, Anger, Quit, the Feebles, Blind Prophet, Floor, Stun Guns, King Friday, Kreamy 'Lectric Santa, Grass Patch, Swivel Stick, and Boudet's solo project Lounge Act. And a number of bands from elsewhere in the state -- Tampa, Gainesville, St. Petersburg -- have also recorded at Tapeworm, which, du Bois points out, "is great for us, because those bands have a lot of advantages over us geographically. They don't have to travel as far to get out of state, and that puts us out there."
Tapeworm is currently recording projects by local groups Precisely Edison, Against All Authority, and the Agency. After years of working mostly with rock and punk bands, the partners say they are branching out with rap, hip-hop, and Latin music sessions. Also in the works: a recording deal with the local rap label 1210 Records. "It's nice to get other styles of music so that you're not getting burnt out listening to the same style of music day in and day out," du Bois contends. "We once had an incredible session with some Hindu musicians. The music was unbelievable, but suddenly they had to leave in the middle of a session because they didn't feel God was in the room any more. I understood that, and we continued the session the next day. As a studio, we're willing to try anything. We've put microphones on crowbars, broken bottles, had people sing with paper bags on their heads or with their pants off."
The growth of Tapeworm, now in its third incarnation, has been a surprisingly speedy one since its inception in August 1993. Originally Boudet, Bowker, and du Bois established the studio as a rehearsal space for their own bands, all of which broke up within a week of signing the lease on Tapeworm's first space in Little River. The three owned some low-fi equipment -- four-track recorders and tape decks -- on which they had been recording their practices. "We were a bunch of naive eighteen-year-olds," quips Boudet, "but we knew there was a severe lack of good budget studios." Without their respective bands, the Tapeworm partners devoted their time to fashioning a studio from scratch (devoting so much time that they all subsequently lost their girlfriends, jokes du Bois). They pooled $10,000 in start-up money, using it to pay rent and purchase basic equipment -- a soundboard, noise gates, microphones, et cetera -- from friends, pawn shops, and through the classifieds. Within a year they were joined full-time by Romeu, who had previously been lending them equipment. (Two other partners, Jules Gondar and Andre Serafini, were active in the business between 1993 and 1996. Gondar still owns a small part of the enterprise; Serafini ceased his involvement in Tapeworm, which had consisted mostly of letting the studio use his equipment, to concentrate on his own business, Beach Sound.)
"We've gone through some really rough times when we weren't sure we were gonna stay afloat," reflects du Bois. "We're a lot more stable now, but that wouldn't have been possible if it hadn't been for the support of the bands we've worked with. More than half of them stick with us and come back whenever they have a project." Adds Romeu: "We're really grateful for that, and we try to offer then the best we can -- the best equipment and the best rates. They want to see what new stuff we have every time they come back, and we want them to grow with us."
One band that keeps coming back is Against All Authority, which records all of its material at Tapeworm. "What's cool about the studio is that they keep growing with the bands -- they get better equipment as the bands get better," observes Tim Farout, AAA member and owner of the Fort Lauderdale-based indie label Far Out Records. "Jeremy [du Bois] is the best guy down here for punk bands. He's not just some guy who works in a studio and wants to overproduce everything -- he really listens to the music, and he knows what we want it to sound like." In fact, Farout and his band trust du Bois so much that they had him join them on tour as their soundman when they opened for Bouncing Souls on all of that band's Florida dates. They've also steered Far Out bands Hudson and the Crumbs toward recording their albums at Tapeworm, with du Bois at the helm.