City of Doraville staff had an opportunity to meet with Peter Jacobson of Knock Hard Productions here in Doraville at 5891 New Peachtree Road, Suite 116. You may know him from his recent song for the Sesquicentennial Celebration called, That’s Our Doraville. From our time with him we learned that he really does it all. Not only does he produce music, but he is also an artist that is willing and able to step in to help add layers to a musicians work with his talents in saxophone, keys, guitar, bass, drums, vocals, lyrics, and much more. We even had an opportunity to jam with Peter with our staff member, Katelyn Burton, on keys and Peter ad-libbing on drums, watch the video of our jam session here.
Below are some of the questions we had an opportunity to ask with their responses:
Q: Have you always been drawn to music and when can you first remember being drawn to music?
A: Yes. I think you have two kinds of parents, Elvis parents and Sinatra parents. I had Frank Sinatra parents. So, back in the older days of recording studios, they had the choice of either panning left, right, or center. So, if you listen to Frank Sinatra records, the orchestra, the piano, bass, and drummer are all the way to the left on the left speaker. Frank is in the center and the orchestra and violins are to the right. So, I would be a little four- or five-year-old kid sitting on the floor of the living room. And that was back in the days when people had stereos with speakers across their room. So, I would sit there playing and I could just hear this drummer kicking, kicking it over it on the left side, going crazy on all the Frank songs and then the sweet orchestra stuff over there. And it just stuck with me.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to open your own studio?
A: After I went out to California to chase like the being in a band dream, when we went into a studio for the first time to record, I loved that environment, no windows, you know, and equipment all over the place. That was back in the day when they were racks, just of gear. Now all the gear is virtual. So, I loved recording studios. And then, I didn't like carrying around equipment after gig, stuff like that. And, you know, the problems with touring with the band and stuff like that. So, studio life sounded good to me.
Q: What made you pick Doraville as the home for your business?
A: It was right in between where my old studio was. I had a studio on Cheshire Bridge in Downtown Atlanta, and I lived in Dunwoody. I wanted a studio that was right near the house. I have been in Doraville since 2006.
Q: What are some of the challenges you faced in starting your own business?
A: It was already started, it was just basically, doing the buildout and then, I think it was the first time I had to do an occupational tax because the last place I was in, I was under the auspices of this gentleman at the Musiplex next to Cheshire Sound Studios, which was the first studio in Atlanta ever. It was a one-track studio. They recorded in mono. That's all they had. Then he got a two and people were like, wow, two tracks then in four than an eighth and a sixth then… so you know, you have to go to City Hall, and you have to give them all your info. That was interesting. And then you get the thing on the wall, and you frame it. And that was cool. So, it was what it was, it was very easy. It's a friendly town, you know.
Q: How has the city of Doraville either as a community or the City itself helped you face any challenges with starting or maintaining your business?
A: I think it just helped that it’s really central. It’s central to whoever I would still get from downtown, but also closer to the north, so people from, Gwinnett or Marietta. But now everyone just, they just Google studios within five miles, you know? So that's the way people do it. But there haven't been any challenges, I think it's helped. So, and it's, reasonably easy to find.
Q: So, who are some people that you've had record here that you've enjoyed the most?
A: They're local artists. When I was at the other studio, I had celebrity artists and stuff like that. I worked with Peabo Bryson and Bobby Brown people like that, but they were pains in the neck. They were primadonnas. And they had a record company paying for the time, so they didn't care. So, they would book you at like four o'clock, but they would roll in around eight, you know? So, you're sitting there for four hours, you lose your edge, and then they come in and then they have their food and stuff like that. They eat for another hour or two. And then by 11 o'clock they're ready to do their thing. When it’s your eighth hour of the day.
Q: Did you design everything is the studio?
A: Yeah. In a drum room, you shouldn't have parallel walls because of sound reflecting back and forth becomes, which they call a standing wave, so you want it to be padded, but not too padded. You wanna leave some pad and some live wall and then angled walls. And, that thing up on the ceiling there, that big thing is a trap basically, so sounds goes in and does not come back out.
Q: Do you have future goals for your business here?
A: I can't really expand because I'm the one that people want work with. They don't want me to hand them over to an assistant or anything like that. So, I'm happy right now, but I’m a workaholic, so like the more business I can get, I can handle it myself. And I remember the days where I would do 10-, 12-hour days. No problem. I'm still up for that.
Q: What kind of music were you recording last night?
A: Jamaican gospel. That was an interesting, he's an older gentleman. He did this, introduction where he said a book of the Bible. I forgot what it was. Just like, Job 19: 18-25. And I said, you know, why don't you let us do this? Why don't you just let me narrate. So right before each verse, I said, the passage and then he would begin. And then when that ended, I would say the next passage and he said, I love that it was like a learning experience for the listener, as opposed to just announcing passage, so he was really happy with that.
Q: What is your advice from someone that wants to start their own business?
A: Just do it. You really have to do it. Cause you can kill yourself, planning and thinking about it and worrying about it, you really just have to, you know, have the wherewithal do it. And be prepared that a lot of businesses fail in the first few years, but it's better to try and fail than to have never tried at all.
Q: How was business during the pandemic?
A: The pandemic was actually a plus because, I have the glass wall, so people could come in, I'd wear a mask, they'd wear a mask, and we'd discuss our project and then get to it. But they could go in there. I'd already have the mic and we could talk through this wall at each other. And it felt really good. It was interesting. Plus, I think when people were out of work, they tend to say, right, maybe now I should focus on my music for a few months. And so, it was actually a boom for the business.