The Studio Report: Rough Magic Studios

“I wish someone could just look me in the eye and see how badly I just want to make albums”, says Albert Cohen, Engineer and Sr Partner at Rough Magic Studios in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood.

“That’s what I want to do. I want to record something. I want to see it through until it gets mastered. I want to feel proud of that band that’s going out there and promoting that album. That’s what I care about.”

It’s impossible not to appreciate the passion Alby carries for creating music. It’s impressive, inspiring even, resonating through every anecdote and back story he shares about his profession and the progress made by his studio home.

Founded by Doug Martin and Louie Ames in 2003, Rough Magic Studios is located in Greenpoint’s Pencil Factory. 16 terra cotta pencils point skyward, lining the tips of the columns segmenting the hawking brick structure that originally housed the headquarters of 19th century pencil manufacturer, Faber Company. The building is iconic in a sense, one of many historic warehouses-turned-condo-slash-commercial-office-space that now defines the North Brooklyn neighborhood.

“We built this studio from nothing”, Alby says, describing the third floor studio. “These walls didn’t exist. We built the place up. Doug did a lot of the work early on. I helped him. I used my salesmanship and my rolodex of musicians and made some calls. I was relentless.”

Born in Bergen County, New Jersey, Alby studied jazz and music business at Goddard College in Vermont. “I moved to Ithaca [New York] where a bunch of my friends were”, he says. “I ended up falling into a band, [Damn Brandy]. We weren’t actually the tightest band ever but I loved touring. That realization sort of got me to where I am now.”

Following Damn Brandy’s 2002 disbanding, writers block set in for Alby. But since his nine-to-fives were spent working for an advertising agency and his nine-through-nights were spent working at Rough Magic honing his skills as an engineer, he was still around the music. “If I’m still in the studio, I can still work with musicians and my input is still there”, he says. “Maybe I’m a better engineer and producer than I am the actual one playing it. This is maybe just the most effective way that I make music.”

Then came the opportunity of a lifetime:

“In 2008, right when the recession hit in October, my job was no longer in the company I worked at so I decided to take a chance”, he describes. “It was a week after my 30th birthday and I said now or never. If I really want to do this then I should do this now.”

Alby’s “now or never” moment mirrors that of millions of late-twenty-early-thirty-somethings nationwide: maneuvering through the murky remnants of the Great Recession, pimping a layoff into a brand new career path — one that’s closer to passion than profit. And Rough Magic Studios is an ideal launch pad.


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