American Noise: The Smart Studios Story

Recent News 21 Feb 2013

American Noise


American Noise: The Smart Studios Story

Local musician, production wizard and filmmaker Wendy Schneider is undertaking an enormous task: a documentary entitled American Noise: The Smart Studios Story.  She is currently seeking materials for submission. Stories, pictures, music, etc. can be emailed to: The project also needs finishing funds so here is your chance to make the movie credits.

Butch Vig and Steve Marker are Executive Producers with Direction by Schneider.  There are plenty of photos already posted at the project’s Facebook page.


wendy schneiderSchneider has been working in media production since 1982. her accomplishments include an audio documentary on the Civil Rights Movement, an award-winning CD compilation of songs protesting the Iraq War, audio soundscapes for children, and the ground-breaking documentary, CUT: Teens and Self Injury, winner of the “Best Wisconsin Film” award at the Beloit International Film Festival. She began as a messenger for a video production company in New York City and within eight years she had become creative director of audio, producing and scoring for major corporate clients (National Geographic, ICP). In 1990 she relocated to the Midwest to attend the University of Wisconsin, where she concentrated her studies on community issues and multicultural literature and music. Schneider began engineering and producing independent records at Smart Studios in 1992 and in 1994 opened her own multi-track recording facility, Coney Island. She has been producing and collaborating on projects for indie/major record labels and independent artists in the Midwest since then. An active figure in Madison’s music scene with a loyal regional following, she has toured the US extensively and released two albums with her band Bugatti Type 35. Currently she is working on the Stripper Project, a series of stripped-down recordings featuring local artists with minimal accompaniment, as well as a documentary about Wisconsin women who ride dirt bikes.

Below is the plot outline for American Noise: The Smart Studios Story:

Co-owned by Butch Vig and Steve Marker and established in 1983 in part as an outlet for Butch’s band Spooner, the original partnership between the two Midwestern audiophiles began in Steve’s basement. Their first studio space quickly attracted the attention of bands which infused Madison’s diverse live music scene with hardcore energy, punk rock politic and a DIY approach to making music. Madison …typified the “satellite” scenes which defined early 80s independent music.American NOISE covers the post-hardcore Midwest scene, early relationships with indie labels (Touch and Go, Caroline, Frontier, Sub Pop, Slash), the circulation and broadcast of local music and how producers Butch and Steve helped promote the bands and their shows with local radio and cassette compilations which paralleled other regional disseminators of indie music like the Seattle-based Sub Pop Singles Club.The Explosion!The connection of Killdozer’s monumental Twelve Point Buck to Sub Pop founder Jonathan Poneman and Seattle bands The Fluid and TAD eventually connected Butch Vig to Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins. And with the success of Gish and Nevermind Smart became the epicenter of the post-grunge explosion.The 90s refocused on Butch and Steve’s band Garbage, combining the emerging technology of sampling, looping, and layering with Smart’s long history of analog experimentation. Garbage’s records defined the cutting edge of the rock and pop scenes. The Midwest sound had come a long way from home.American NOISE sketches a portrait of a space which weathered, literally, fires, flood and the foibles of a generation of rock and rollers. It’s a montage of reflections on what the space meant to the people who worked there, and a celebration of the confluence of energy, material, musicians, and the times that, in the words of an interviewee who grew up in Singapore, made Smart “hallowed ground.”

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About the author

Rick Tvedt

Rick is publisher of Local Sounds Magazine, formerly Rick's Cafe, Wisconsin's Regional Music Newspaper. He is also the Executive Director for MAMA, Inc., a non-profit organization that produces the Madison Area Music Awards and raises funds to promote youth music programs.

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