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House Music: Weekend Warriors

Bailey S. Barnard

The term "record producer" immediately brings to mind an image of a musical luminary like Quincy Jones hovering over a giant mixing board as Frank Sinatra stands alone at a microphone in an adjacent recording space. Today, for a fee, record producers provide the same kind of personal musical direction for amateur musicians as well.

For example, in April 2005, Scott Mathews (an accomplished producer who has participated in more than 20 Grammy-nominated projects) worked with a heart surgeon, a gourmet chef, a real-estate developer, and a bottled-water entrepreneur—collectively known as Bender—to lay down tracks for their album at his Mill Valley, Calif., recording studio.

"I’m an interventional cardiologist," says 48-year-old Bill Buchanan, a member of Bender who lives in Wilmington, N.C. "But as a teenager, that wasn’t necessarily my dream job. My first true passion was music." Although Buchanan has played in bands since he was 12, he eventually decided that going to medical school would be a more financially stable route than striving for rock-stardom. He now considers himself and his bandmates weekend warriors—professionals by trade, but musicians at heart.

The band’s collaboration with Mathews was sparked a few months earlier, when a patient of Buchanan’s turned out to be the father-in-law of musician Huey Lewis. "We’d done some amateur recording and slapped together a CD. Huey listened to it and said, ‘You’ve really got something here, but you need a producer if you want to record an album, because bands don’t make records; producers make records.’ " Lewis introduced the band to Mathews, who works both with professional musicians and with those seeking to record albums on a more casual basis. "The guys from Bender flew out to California, and I recorded them here," Mathews says. "No different than if they were signed to a major record label."

Twelve years ago, Mathews started his own production company, Hit or Myth Productions. His recording facility, TikiTown Studios, has a view of San Francisco Bay and has hosted Lewis and Van Morrison, among others.

For Buchanan and the other members of Bender, recording with Mathews was about having fun, not becoming famous. "It was a great experience for us to go into a professional studio," Buchanan says. "And we couldn’t have found a better person for the job. Scott was great to work with—it takes a lot of dedication. But after we finished the album we knew we had to be realistic. We couldn’t leave our families and give up our professional careers to go on tour. For us, it’s more like going out and playing poker with the guys—except we play music."

Hit or Myth Productions, 415.389.9998, www.scottmathews.com

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