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Each partner brings with him some area of interest or expertise that has contributed to the studio's success. Romeu, who is in charge of financing and acquiring studio equipment, honed his tech knowledge while working for seven years at the now-closed Not Just Guitars music store, studied music and video business at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, and has worked as a sales rep locally for various music equipment companies. Du Bois, who does the bulk of the engineering, and Boudet, who is responsible for the studio's marketing and promotions, pursued their interests in sound engineering by first working together on home equipment, then taking courses at Miami-Dade Community College, followed by internships at Crescent Moon (du Bois) and Criteria studios (Boudet).
Boudet also runs the imprint Threshold Records, which recently struck a national distribution deal with New Orleans label Big Easy and New York's Com 4; Threshold is about to release a disc by the local band Dynamo Plaza. Bowker, who coordinates projects with national bands and is responsible for the studio's public relations, is also a promoter, music writer, and recent founder of the Off the Records label, which is currently working on releases by Buzzoven, AC, and a posthumous disc by the late Mentors vocalist El Duche. All four are musicians in their own right, although the only partner currently performing is Boudet.
The past year has been a time of rapid growth for Tapeworm, which moved to new digs in October. "We did a lot of work at our old studio, but we weren't where we wanted to be," says Romeu. The studio recently added an analog two-inch, sixteen-track recorder on which the Allman Brothers recorded their hit "Ramblin' Man." It also offers state-of-the-art computer sequencing and MIDI gear, plus an extensive collection of vintage microphones, keyboards, and compressors. "We've always been a 'budget' studio as far as price is concerned, but we've always emphasized having top-of-the-line gear," notes Romeu. "All our gear and microphones are what you would find in any world-class studio, with the exception of our console, which is middle of the road. Sometimes in the past the aesthetics of the place have suffered a little, but now we're in a good area and we've been working on getting this place happening. We are happy to say that we are now a safe recording environment. You can leave your guns home."
Tapeworm's first incarnation wasn't quite so sophisticated. Bowker describes the area in which the studio was located as the scariest neighborhood ever. "One time we needed to get to the roof, and we thought, 'Man, we need a ladder,'" he remembers. "Suddenly we heard a knock and there was a guy outside, a homeless guy or something, who wanted to sell us a ladder for five bucks. It was the weirdest thing." Small and not-so-small annoyances -- rats, car break-ins and thefts, and crime in the surrounding area -- plagued the first Tapeworm. "During a particular recording session," recalls du Bois, "we went to the store, and we were stopped by police right outside the studio, telling us to get inside because there was a sniper on the roof of our building."
The space was later improved for the studio's second incarnation, which endured for two and a half years. "The acoustics weren't right, and we couldn't record properly, so we got angry; we took an ax and a cymbal stand and just leveled the place in one day," explains Bowker. "Then we spent about four months and $11,000 building the place up." (At about this time Boudet left briefly to open his own studio, but he soon returned to the Tapeworm fold.) Throughout this period the partners continued to improve the studio's capabilities and equipment, upgrading to eight-track and then sixteen-track recorders.
Accompanying this upgrading of locale and in-house technology has been an improvement in the quality of the material the partners are helping to record. "I think everything we're doing is 100 percent stronger than it was this time last year, both engineering performance on our part and the bands' songwriting and performances," claims du Bois. Boudet agrees that things are looking up. "This is the first year that a lot of the bands have taken the initiative to go out on the road," he says. "Some of the bands have been touring and have paved the way for others, but this is the first year there are about two dozen bands we've worked with that are on the road or getting ready to go on the road. Miami had a big fish/little pond mentality for a long time, but now I think the bands are aimed in the right direction."
Bowker likes to believe that a good studio, like Tapeworm, helps make for a good music scene: "In relation to us, I think bands are helped by the fact that they have a CD release or seven inches, which are more viable products to tour with than what people had when we all had bands -- the self-released cassette. You really can't tour behind the six- or eight-song cassette. But now they have CDs, and a lot of local record labels have popped up, and they can in many cases get decent distribution." By way of example, Bowker cites Far Out Records, which is now setting up distribution in Japan.