Deaf Dog ramps up record production with exclusive new Focusrite console

Deaf Dog’s new Focusrite console is one of only eight in the world

John Ovnik of Deaf Dog Music is on track to realize his longtime vision of expanding the spot music house into a fully operational record production facility.

The biggest piece of the puzzle came this spring with the installation of a 64-channel Focusrite recording console, one of eight in the world.

“This specific board was the same board on which the Music Mill in Nashville recorded Billy Ray Cyrus’ ?Achy Breaky Heart’ and some of the Dixie Chicks’ songs,” said Deaf Dog executive producer Doug Banich.

The installation of the Focusrite marks the second major overhaul of the Deaf Dog studio in the past two years.

“It’s been a childhood dream of John’s to have a Focusrite,” Banich said. “One night after working on a piece for 24 hours, you could see in his eyes how excited he was. This is the perfect machine to create the music that’s in his head. It’s all analog with five miles of wire running through this thing and over 5,000 knobs and buttons.”

The first record Ovnick is recording on the Focusrite is “Simple Complex” by jazz pianist John Webber, who plays a regular gig at the Four Seasons. Ovnik has recorded six of the album’s 13 tracks, featuring guest musicians the likes of bassists Henning Orsted-Pederson and Avashi Cohen, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, vibraphonist Gary Burton, saxophonist Eric Alexander, and drummer Mark Walker.

“The main thing for the Focusrite is to cut records, but it’s totally feasible to help with commercials,” Banich said. Ovnik has recorded one commercial spot so far on the board, for Crest.

“John still loves ad spots, and he’ll always do that,” Banich said. “Advertising is what pays the bills. But now that he’s got the tools, he wants to dedicate more of his time to cutting records, and hopefully expanding into a label as Deaf Dog Music Records in the future.”

Ovnik is heading to New York this month to mix the latest record from Chicago rockers the Cathy Richardson Band, for which he produced in the ?90s.

Deaf Dog’s spot business continues to be brisk, with TV and radio spots for clients including McDonald’s, Budweiser, State Farm Insurance, UPN and Fox.

Deaf Dog’s 5,600-square foot facility is the largest freestanding, composer-owned studio in the Midwest. Ovnik founded the company in 1997 when he bought out his partner, Ed St. Peter, in Chicago Music Works, where he’d been a partner since 1986.

“I’ve been here for six months and it doesn’t look like the same place as when I started,” Banich said. “There’s a whole new piano room, and there’s always something getting tweaked or replaced for something better. John is one of those guys who thrives on constant change.”

Deaf Dog is at 660 N. Orleans; 312/944-4870. Their web site should be up by the middle of June. ?by Ed M. Koziarski,