Greenpoint Gazette
McCarton Ackerman

Cohen Creates Rough Magic In the Studio

BY McCarton Ackerman

Tucked away near the edge of Greenpoint Avenue, a long-standing neighborhood music studio has seen some of the biggest names in the industry come through to record tracks.

Rough Magic Studios, a six-room music recording and rehearsal facility, has been graced in recent years with platinum selling artists including Talib Kweli, MGMT, and Matisyahu, who all visited by word of mouth, further adding to the reputation of this space that’s been in Greenpoint since 2003.

“I used to be a musician and eventually realized I was pretty good as a drummer or a vocalist, but that I’d rather work with the best musicians I can find and help them,” said Alby Cohen, Marketing Director and Senior Partner at Rough Magic Studios. “I just want to make albums. It’s as simple as that.”

The facility has up to 20 recording days each month, with bands of all genres coming through to record in the soundproof isolation booth, or rehearse in one of the four rehearsal spaces. In addition, Cohen has a team of assistant engineers on call for anything a band needs to be done while recording.

Despite the global recession affecting record sales and the music industry overall, Cohen said he believes that Rough Magic is poised to survive the transition.

“In a lot of ways, we’re the studio of the future,” said Cohen. “I think the big thing that’s going to change is that bands aren’t going to record albums in their apartments anymore. They’re going to come to a studio like ours, extremely well-rehearsed, and bang everything out in one or two days.”

When Cohen took over the current space in April 2003, he built Rough Magic from the ground up. Initially just a raw space, he set it up for rehearsals before acquiring the downstairs space in 2005. Over the next several years, he gained the high-end, HD equipment needed to record albums, and became a full-time engineer in 2008.

Cohen, who formerly worked in media buying, said that being laid off from his job ended up being a blessing in disguise.

“On my 30th birthday, I did a recording session with three of the four members of Vampire Weekend, and ended up getting laid off from my advertising job a week later,” said Cohen. “Once that happened, I decided that this is what I wanted to spend my life doing.”

Despite having built up a steady client base, Cohen acknowledged the difficulties of trying to attract bands to record.

“It takes a lot to convince musicians to spend a lot of money to make an album, because it’s almost like buying a car,” said Cohen. “Whether or not you get a return depends on what you do, after the fact, in terms of getting yourself exposure and PR.”

With several albums from local Brooklyn bands set to be released this summer through Rough Magic Studios, Cohen said he hopes to create the best songs possible for them and set Rough Magic at the top of the studio scene in Greenpoint.

“If I produce you, our goal is to make the best possible songs together and let the music tell your story,” said Cohen. “We ‘re all trying to keep our businesses open in the music industry, so the only way for us to do that is by creating a superior product.”


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