The Man Behind the Mix …
Eric Ritter is all about the music. The 39-year old owner of Windmill Agency Recording Studio in Mt. Cobb is not only a seasoned musician (Cider, New Past Life), but has also earned quite a reputation regarding his engineering skills throughout the recording industry. Ritter’s studio may look like a big barn sitting next to a cornfield, but the inside has an ever-expanding arsenal of vintage gear and an inviting atmosphere where local, national and international artists have laid down their tracks. The busy husband and father of two returned to northeastern Pennsylvania after working in the recording business in Los Angeles to start a family and focus his energy on Windmill Agency. Business is booming for Ritter and he couldn’t be happier with his daily roles of being the bustling family man and recording all genres of music. He’s not only pushing the record button, he’s pushing recording artists to deliver their best. Meet Windmill Agency’s Eric Ritter…
What is your education in music?
Rock ‘n’ roll, really. I grew up with piano and guitars, but I was drawn to rock. Sheet music didn’t interest me much. I know how to read it if I need to, but it was always more of a gut thing. While growing up, we had to take a year of piano. As a kid, I thought it was the worst year of my life. If you made it through, you could pick any instrument you wanted. I went right to the electric guitar.
When did you start performing?
The first time performing in front of people was the 6th grade talent show. My first paying gig was a show at Lake Sheridan. My brother and I and a drummer got paid 100 bucks to play the same five songs for about three hours, but we were young enough that nobody really minded. I don’t even think there were vocal mics set up. Then we started playing in bars when we were 15, and our parents had to be there with us.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Guitar heavy stuff was it for me, like Eric Clapton. Even before I tried to learn Cream songs, I could almost see what was happening on the fretboard. It was the ’80s and Duran Duran was popular, so I felt really punk listening to Cream and Clapton. I go back to a lot of blues stuff like Robert Johnson and old ’20s, ’30s, ’40s blues; the raunchier, dirtier and noisier, the better.
When did you start gaining interest in the recording aspect of the music business?
Oddly, even before I started playing an instrument, I could remember getting a Shaun Cassidy tape recorder for Christmas when I was five or six. I would tape something and go back and forth. I wasn’t thinking of it as multi-tracking at the time. That was even before thinking about music. Jumping ahead, I got a Tascam 4 track recorder and recorded for the purpose of wanting to hear back what we just played, or mix some songs. I learned some very basic microphone techniques and also had some happy accidents.
And that escalated.
I always loved recording. I was always the guy in the band jumping ahead to book time in the studio. I’m the first guy there and the last to leave. I loved it. I ended up in Los Angeles and recording in some really big studios and getting to meet some great engineers. I would take every opportunity. I learned some techniques you could not learn in any school. I love recording other people and seeing what happens when you get a microphone set up and see what comes through. You have to make it a comfortable place for people to let go. It has a whole different vibe than playing live.
Talk about the Windmill Agency Recording Studio.
I built the building after I graduated high school as a place to have band rehearsal. My dad is real hands-on and the building itself is built over the foundation of a swimming pool. It has slowly transformed into a recording studio. When I moved back here to start the business on the east coast, I redesigned the room. If I had known some room treatments 20 years ago, the building would have been totally different. It’s been totally redesigned.
And it took off from there.
I had work coming in. I love working with the local artists around Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. It’s amazing the amount of talent that’s here. I have friends who have studios in places where you think everyone in the world moves there to be a rockstar. Studios are shutting down and going out of business, but I’ve been really lucky in this little bubble in Mt. Cobb and people keep coming in. There’s an apartment available where bands can stay for free during their recording session. The studio is on a farm and I have a bobcat and go-carts so people can take them or go fishing. You can get a little stir crazy, so it’s nice to have those attractions. I have a lot of repeat customers. Some bands are on their second or third album already, so that’s a big deal in any business that people would come back to record. There are a lot of great studios, so I’m thankful that people do want to work with me again and again.
What do you think makes it so special?
Having been on the other side of the glass (as a musician), I know that pressure. Sometimes that pressure is just what you need. I need to be very sensitive to the artist and knowing “is it time to push them?” or “is it time to not say anything?” You develop relationships. It’s a people business. I feel lucky when people say “it’s never been this easy before.” Having people feel comfortable is the name of the game.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m always thinking of another building. I’m running out of room and I just purchased a new console. It was built in 1976 for the Bee Gees. A lot of hit records were recorded on it; all of the Bee Gees records and Hotel California.
What kind of satisfaction do you personally get from
It’s amazing. I get to watch and help artists fulfill their dream, but also fulfilling mine; being a recording engineer, producer or whatever my job is with the particular project. I love it as much as if I’m playing. I’m not doing this while waiting for something else to come up. It’s my dream job.
— tom graham
Visit www.windmillagencystudio.com for more information.