It must be a trip for Will Yip to be where he is right now: poised to take half ownership of the studio where he’s left an indelible mark.
This isn’t just any studio, either: Studio 4 on Fayette Street in Conshohocken has been the home of the production masterminds Butcher Bros.—better known as Phil and Joe Nicolo—for decades. They’ve recorded with all kinds of wild notables like Bob Dylan, James Taylor, the Hooters, Sting, Cypress Hill, Kris Kross, Urge Overkill, Anthrax, Dishwalla, Lucious Jackson and the icing on the cake: Philly’s late, great pride and joy, Teddy Pendergrass. Indeed, Studio 4 has, historically, been rich with diversity, something that certainly won’t change when Yip digs in deep with Phil Nicolo, his Grammy-winning mentor and soon-to-be partner.
“I just really want to continue making records with good music, no matter what it is,” Yip tells PW. “I don’t really try to hunt down records; I just want to work with great bands that want also want to work with me. To me, I am creating music. My usual production philosophy is I’m just an extra member of the band in the studio, helping do whatever the band needs.”
Being knee deep in studio work since he was 12, the former musical director (and drummer) for rap legend Schoolly D seems like a genuine standout talent, running in local circles of music production, mastering, engineering and band support. Capitalizing on his growing stature within the music industry, Yip earlier this month released Off the Board: A Studio 4 Family Compilation, using proceeds from the LP’s sales to fund his share of Studio 4 and help him facilitate a giant playhouse for bands that need a home to fuse their aural energies. It’s almost like Kickstarter, but not really. His project’s more like a cool variety of everything related to good music—one-time pressed vinyl, session sit-ins, studio tutorials and group tours—that you can buy. In this case, the new twist on crowd-funding goes toward a truly worthy cause: making damn fine music.
Yip’s been recording with a lot of pretty hardcore crews—or, at least, some fairly loud post-punk and metal and emo bands. He prides himself on being a creative conduit, an ambassador and third arm for artists who will let him produce them. Luckily, a few pretty badass bands have found Yip, and the results have been impressive. Take his two soulmate groups: Title Fight and Balance and Composure. Together, they sold out Union Transfer two Saturday nights ago as co-headliners, and an in-the-audience Yip got to watch the success from a fan’s point of view, simply enjoying the music he’d helped create with two of Pennsylvania’s newest and fastest-growing success stories of screaming rock.
“Seeing those bands get to this point is incredible,” admits Yip. “It’s always special to see the songs we worked on together be so well received live. Those songs are like our musical babies together. That was the first time I heard the new Balance songs we did together live and one of the new Title Fight songs, too, so that was especially cool.” Relieved of his technical duties, he was finally able to take it all in. “That was a special night, and I just wanted to enjoy and watch the show.”
Both Title Fight and B&C appear on Off the Board. Also included are a bunch of other bands that reflect Yip and his relationship with Studio 4, and a lot of them are pretty vicious: Circa Survive, Man Overboard, Citizen, Turnover, Daylight, Koji, Tigers Jaw, Polar Bear Club, Dead End Path, Sainthood Reps, Mongoloids, None More Black, Light Years, Pity Sex and Anthony Green.
Yip also is able to say that he works with one of the most talented, yet troubled hip-hop artists of all time: Lauryn Hill. “Lauryn Hill is incredible. I’ve been working, recording and touring with her for nearly four years now at her studio. I took some time off to focus on my own projects, but I still get to work with her. And the new material is fantastic.” Hill’s angry, ferocious anti-establishment “Consumerism,” which, coincidentally, hit Soundcloud the day before her three-month sentence for tax evasion ended early this month, certainly doesn’t feel all that far off from the screamfest Yip recently reveled in on Spring Garden.
“Seemingly out of nowhere, Yip has emerged as one of the most sought after producers in the alternative community,” gushed Alt Press in a late-summer piece announcing Off the Board’s release. “The compilation is a celebration of the community that the producer has helped cultivate.”