The name's James, and I was born in Duluth, MN way back in 1970. My father was a musician- a violinist by trade- as was my mother, who plays drums in a band and still plays more gigs every year than I do. . . or ever did, for that matter. My older sister was trained as a pianist, and many members of my extended family on both sides work in the industry as musicians, teachers, and productions folk. Check out the credits on enough major motion pictures and you're sure to stumble across the name "Matheson" much sooner than later. For even more fun, try Googling the name. Makes for an interesting read, at least it does for me.

My musical training began at a very early age, but I didn't take to it very well. I was started on violin in the Suzuki style, then shifted to piano, then back to violin. In the early years of my life all music was classical in nature- as this was my father's concentration- but thanks to my mom I was also exposed to Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash, The Kingston Trio, Marty Robins, church music, various broadway productions, and a pile of vinyl- most of which escapes me now. Later on, my older sister turned me on to more contemporary music, but I think somewhere in the confused mess of a little boy's mind I was always most intrigued by the open reel machines that lined the walls of my family's living room- along with two grand pianos and a small handful of microphones. You see, my father was an engineer as well, recording anything that he could get his mitts on, and in the later years of his life it was all that kept him going. At a certain point he came to love it almost more than playing the music himself. I learned a lot from my old man about recording, but that's not to say that he ever knew I did.


The technical aspects of musical instruments eluded me for many years, but to be fair we're talking about the ages of 18 months to five or six years old, so I forgive myself for that. Eventually I found my place in vocal performance, and spent many happy years singing the ears right off myself. I still croon when I've got a little time to spare. My "purely vocal" career lasted roughly from the age of six until I was 12 or so, culminating in local productions of the operas I Pagliacci and Cavallera Rusticana. By the age of 10, though, I had discovered my mother's old Harmony Hawaiian- styled acoustic guitar stashed away in our attic, and that coupled with a few friends who were taking lessons sent me along a different path that wove in and out through the course of my teenage years.

By the time I was a senior in high school I was in my first band- a punk rock outfit called Mr. Hooper Is Dead- and was writing original songs and instrumentals as a guitarist. I never really took to the "cover band" thing, but then it was the '80s, and it was true that we really could all write better music than pop radio was feeding us. From that point on, the writing of original music became a passion for me, and with the exception of a few "ill- conceived" projects that couldn't really hold me I've been involved exclusively in original music ever since. Mr. Hooper Is Dead didn't get very far. We played one show, got a popular entertainment writer for our local paper fired (inadvertently, of course!), and broke up. But life went on.

Fade to the college years, and a few more bands, but really the only group worth mentioning was a little outfit called the RPMs. We weren't a particularly gifted band- with the exception of our lead guitarist, who was literally ahead of the curve on the speed metal bands that rose to popularity just a few years later- but we were good enough to get signed to our first label. It was 1989, and Pendulum Records, a small label in Minneapolis, MN picked us up for a few months after hearing nothing more than our demo tape. Ironically enough, when Pendulum fell apart so did we. Never even did a record for them, although only a handful of their bands ever actually did- most notably a group called Mile One, whom I still recommend highly as "a band of the late 1980s" who clearly stand the test of time. Incidentally, we weren't a speed metal band, either.

It didn't take much after that. I did a short stint with a band called Artwork Red, and then the years blossomed into the time of Pandora's Truck, a band that made all the difference for everyone involved. Pandora's Truck never courted label interest of any sort. We bickered so heartily amongst ourselves that we barely got any recording done, and never even released a single. But music fans came in droves to see us do it. Word of our band got out quickly, mostly thanks to our opening set for Chan Poling- the keyboard player for a popular Minneapolis band called The Suburbs. We made piles of money when we played (most of which was already spent, I might add), had more fun than is literally legal these days, and with the exception of two or three songs we played three solid hours of original music. We had a ball, and it was utter misery.

I felt pretty lost when Pandora's Truck finally disbanded. I bounced around into and out of a couple of recording projects until in 1993 I finally burned out, quit my "day job," bought a one- way ticket to Amsterdam, and hopped on an airplane with my acoustic guitar on my back. What followed was the better part of a year spent traveling around Europe, playing guitar with and for the people I met there, and experiencing some of the most amazing things and people that a person can imagine. But sooner or later a person has to come home, and so I did, at which point I returned to college and settled in for the long haul.

But one of those little pre- Europe recording projects had been shopped around by my partner in the endeavor, and had received some good press in northern California. Before we knew it, we were getting letters from a little company called MGM, telling us that although they didn't think we were ready for the open market just yet, they definitely wanted to stay in touch and track our progress. In the end nothing came of it, as our personalities were too far askew. But there we were, on the map again, and it didn't take long before I was feeling "the itch."

1995, and the peak of the Duluth, MN original music scene. Of course, some would dispute that, but if you weigh all the factors it's a pretty safe assertion. I was playing with my first trio, a band called Buddha Love Joy. We recorded all of our original music, but never released a thing. We thrived on the live performances and concentrated all of our energies there. Much of our promotion centered around performances of my Tape 13 project, which was my introduction to the industry as a solo singer/songwriter. Again, our music was all- original, and the highlight of our road shows has to have been our opening slot for a band called Slaughter at the now- defunct Pacific Club in Superior, WI. Incidentally, BLJ wasn't a metal band, either. Our little 3- piece came to a screeching halt when our drummer moved a little way south of Duluth, which led to scheduling problems and our demise.

1999 was a rare- bird year, and found me struggling to finish college and making plans for the future. A popular local venue had changed hands, and the new owner approached me to put together the first show in his newly remodeled main room. For this venture, a new band was born- The Oscar Goldmann Overthrow Initiative. Another three- piece, we wrote 10 songs and practiced up with the intention of playing this one show only. Things ultimately went much further than that.

The show was a flop, mostly due to local political climes, but the O. G. O. I. stuck it out a few weeks beyond that to record the music that would later be housed on the first album- Celebate Diversity. In October of that year, I pulled up stakes and moved south to Minneapolis, MN.

The Minneapolis years were productive ones, although no traditional "bands" were formed then. I concentrated mostly on my solo career, which culminated in the release of Headfriendly, a full- length collection of "urban folk" songs that featured performances by a number of musicians. . . some that you've probably heard of, and some you definitely haven't. The first O. G. O. I. album was released at this time as well. In 2001, just as the Minneapolis job market was beginning to sag a little, two songs from Headfriendly and one tune from my collection of unreleased Buddha Love Joy recordings were picked up and published in John Ervin's production of the feature- length motion picture Vixen Highway. Shortly after that I returned to Duluth, where the members of the O. G. O. I. were waiting to take up the torch again.

2001 was the year, and the O. G. O. I. began writing, playing, and recording with an energy I'd never experienced before. By APR02 our second CD- carpetbombing- was released, and by JUL02 a label called Island/Def Jam out of New York City was on the horn asking about tour dates and availability. By October of that year it was all over- due to the loss of our drummer- but man! What a ride, leaving behind a legacy of tremendous shows- including our opening set for Molly Hatchet- and the most satisfying and explosive CD I've ever had the honor of performing on- carpetbombing.

If you're interested in learning more about the O. G. O.I. the website's still intact, and can be seen by visiting http://www.ogoiops.com and taking a left at the links.

2002 was also the year that I hit a fork in the road, and was met with the opportunity to join up with a couple of partners and buy into Ballyhaus Recording, the little Duluth, MN- based studio where carpetbombing was recorded, and where I worked for the next three years as production manager and freelance recording engineer. Of course there were bands over that time- IMJ, Adirondack- but engineering work kept me very busy and afforded only limited opportunities to think of appearing on stage again.
Ballyhaus Recording became a phenomenal institution over those years, but it also grew into a leviathan of a business venture. In 2005, my partners discovered that they were overextended- partially due to their attempts to diversify into the real estate sales market- and needed to part ways with Ballyhaus. It was a sad day when we decided that it was necessary to close the studio, but happily we were able to find a new owner who was willing to carry on and maintain the facility itself. The studio space still stands and operates in- for the most part- its original configuration, and has seen a third turnover of owner/managers who continue to provide practice rooms and some recording services to bands in the Duluth area.
When Ballyhaus Recording dissolved, I moved the studio to my home in Duluth, MN and continued to make records under my production company name- Randolph Manpart Products. A number of upgrades to services were made, including an expanded digital recording platform, improved monitoring systems, and digital video transfer services. Many good recordings were made there, and I was also able to expand into archiving services- which I also enjoy a great deal. But in 2007, I thought that I could sense something changing in the real estate market and at the same time believed that I was looking at an opportunity that I had been seeking for many years- so I put my house on the market and sold it.
After selling the house, I moved into an apartment while seeking a new home. I continued to offer mastering and archiving services on a limited basis, and drove literally hundreds of miles looking at houses and properties. In the spring of 2008 I finally found what I had been looking for- a house on wooded acreage in rural Carlton County, MN. I made an offer, struck a deal, and moved in early in June of that year. I resumed offering more comprehensive services that fall, but also began to envision a new business focus. After much deliberation, I decided that this new focus was feasible and justified the transition to Far Q Productions.


I mean, you're really just here to see some pictures of the studio and equipment, right? Well, I guess it's for the reason I stated way back at the beginning- people. I think it's important that you know a little something about your engineer and his or her background before you decide if they've got what it takes to handle your project. That requires some "straight talk," so here it is. Don't worry, there's studio- info on this website too, and we'll get to that in just a few more short minutes.

Throughout my career as a songwriter and entertainer, I've always been very hands- on with recording. . . in most cases engineering or co- engineering those projects myself. I've heard (and made) a lot of recordings and met a lot of musicians and industry professionals, and of course the learning curve on that kind of experience is very high. But as I look back on my engineering career through Ballyhaus, I also see room for improvement and it was with that in mind that I moved forward with R. M. P. and, now, with Far Q Productions.

It's true that Ballyhaus Recording will be remembered most for it's uniquely "client- based" recording style, but let's be honest with ourselves here- that's not always the best of ideas. Another way to look at it is this: What's the sense in paying someone "X" number of dollars per hour and not making use of their skills and knowledge with regard to product quality? There is no sense in that, and while it's true that every one of us has a sound that we're seeking, that doesn't necessarily mean that we instinctively know how to get there every time. Furthermore, it does no one any good to spend that time and money to turn out a recording that's below par- not you, not your engineer, and certainly not your fans.

However, that's not to say that musicians and bands don't have a place in the recording process- frankly they're absolutely indispensable, and especially during the mixing and mastering process! But I want each and every one of you to walk away from the project with the highest- quality recording possible while also suiting your tastes and needs. . . because our work reflects upon each other- either positively or negatively. So I think it's only fair for me to let you know that at the point you're asking me to turn the bass up so loud that the entire recording sounds muddy, for example. . . I'm not doing it. I expect that you're hiring me because there's something you're short of- equipment, experience, etc.- and I expect that my accumulations of both will be put to use.

Just one or two more short notes here. First, please realize that I offer my services as a recording engineer- not a "producer," and there's a simple reason for that: Being a producer sucks. It involves arranging songs and monkeying around in other "band business" that tends to leave everybody feeling a little jilted, and there's no way that anybody in their right mind would walk into a producer's job for the kind of money that I charge. So, I listen very closely to your songs and let you know if someone dropped a note or a beat, but I'm not going to deliberate over song structure or lyrics with you- that's the job of the artist, the engineer's job is to catch the sounds and make them presentable and that's a tough enough job as it is. If you want to hire me as your producer, go ahead and inquire, but be aware that the annual salary I'll be asking you for is enormous, especially since you'll probably fire me after the first album.

Finally, and with regard to rates and bids. I keep my rates very low, folks, because I want you to be able to afford the time it takes to "stretch your legs" and really express yourselves in your recordings. From time to time I also offer special deals that tend to be so ridiculously- priced that I'm making nothing on them. Consequently, I don't "cotton" to much monkey business when it comes to money. I don't haggle, and I don't respond well when people try it with me. Recording is how I make my living, and I'm confident that the services I offer are worth much more than the prices I charge. You don't place an order for a cheeseburger at McDonald's and then "make an offer," and I'd hope that people would treat their recording engineer with at least as much respect as they show to a fast food joint.

So, on with the show! Let's take a look at the studio! Visit the Studio & Rates page for details regarding the facility and the equipment it houses, or return to the top and use the navigation bar to visit any other pages you are interested in.