It takes a great producer, engineer and mixer to capture the sound of an artist in the studio. But it takes a musician to go the extra mile and capture the artist’s spirit too. With Chris Badami, founder and owner of Portrait Recording Studios, you get that rare combination of attributes – plus one world-class drummer to boot.
"Chris Badami has an innate and discerning musical ear that gives everything he produces, engineers and mixes its superior sound. Anyone who has heard his work will immediately understand." - Roark, Drive Thru/Love Minus Zero Records.
Through his work at Portrait, nestled in a small-town environment just a 25-minute drive outside of New York City, Badami has earned this reputation through sessions with the likes of Madonna, The Early November, Jennifer Rostock, Janina Gavankar, The Starting Line, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Mike Patton, Lauren Marsh, Wakey! Wakey!, Trophy Scars, Lenny White (Miles Davis, Stanley Clark, Chick Corea), Mary Wilson (The Supremes) and other bands whose credibility rises from the union of great performance and great sound.
Whether cutting pop or indie punk, electro rock or country, Badami makes it his method to find the heart of the music and bring it to life. His interactions with clients during pre-production, his willingness to create rhythm and keyboard tracks where needed, and his knack for putting the best gear into the most amenable ambience at Portrait, are all about focusing on that mission.
Considering his own history as a musician, technician, and teacher, his history in helping clients achieve their goals is as impressive as you’d expect it to be.
A New Jersey native, Badami began teaching himself the basics of recording on a four-track cassette recorder he received as a birthday gift. His parents, noting his talent and ambition, allowed him to convert their garage into a studio, which he used to cut his own music as well as other bands from the neighborhood.
“Ever since I was a kid, I was putting on headphones and listening to records,” he remembers. “I was attracted early on to playing drums, but I was listening to the sound too. I always looked forward to getting new records and then seeing who produced them, who engineered them, who mixed them, and who mastered them. I wanted to learn all I could about how that worked, and I understood from the start that you learn that through listening. You can have the best equipment and instruments, but listening and learning is everything.”
Badami built his command of music theory and studio practice through studies at the County College of Morris and New York University, where he earned his associates of science degree and bachelors degree in music technology/percussion with a minor in piano. While pursuing his education, he stayed active in “the real world” too, through playing at clubs, assisting in sessions with celebrated producers/engineers/mixers such as Andy Wallace and Eddie Kramer and working at various mainstream New York and New Jersey studios.
With his ambitions fueled by hands-on experience, Badami opened Portrait Recording Studios in 1995. His double-threat renown as a player and studio virtuoso drew a steady stream of business toward Portrait immediately. Most of it came initially from the punk world, in which he had established himself as a dynamic performer, session fixture and go-to producer for the growing genre. But with a background that also included classical piano study, drum corps discipline, and a Louis Armstrong Jazz Award honoring his accomplishment in that genre as a high school student, Badami has kept his door open to any and all types of music.
This philosophy has earned Badami 4 gold records and numerous #1 and top 10 slots on various billboard charts throughout the world. This past year showcased Badami at his best; producing, engineering and mixing the new Jennifer Rostock (Warner Music) record, Schlaflos, which debuted at #2 on the German charts and #5 on the Austrian charts. Badami also produced, engineered and mixed Trophy Scars’ (Montreme Records) magnum opus, Holy Vacants, which was named #2 Best Albums of 2014 via Sputnik Music. Badami rounded out the year by mixing a remix track for Madonna and engineering Janina Gavankar’s #JustAddDrumcorps version of “Don’t Look Down.”
Still active as a player, through gigs with Lauren Marsh, Leanne Weiss and Ace Enders (The Early November/I Can Make a Mess), Badami nonetheless centers his musical life on Portrait. “I’ll never stop playing, and maybe that’s one of the most valuable things I can offer through my studio,” he says. “You can be technically savvy, but it takes somebody who’s been in the trenches to understand the musician’s thought process and passion. Music is about moving people, so with every record I do I want to make sure that the emotions of the artist translate completely to the listener.”
The best way to do that is how Badami has always done it: through listening, making himself available at every level to the client, and applying what he’s learned and the tools that he’s gathered to the joy and challenge of making a great record. “And Portrait is a great place to do that,” he insists. “It’s close to the energy of the city; it’s also a great place for a band to retreat to. It’s a great vibe as well as a great studio. It’s home.”