When Mike Brown went off to Berklee College of Music in the early 90s, he originally planned to study guitar and be a musician. But by the end of his first semester, he had decided to go the tech route and eventually became an engineer and producer.
After graduating in 1997 and paying his dues in the recording world, Brown decided in May 2003 to open his own recording studio – Lava Room Recording on Cleveland’s west side. He opened his doors four months later. “I really built it for myself and hoped people would follow,” Brown recalls. “I wanted to make a studio with the elements I wanted.”
The people did follow. Twelve years later, Lava Room Recording has a national reputation in the recording industry, working with artists in all genres as well as commercial and film production. In 2008, he renovated and moved the studio to the old WHK radio station next to the Cleveland Agora Theater on Euclid Avenue.
“Everyone gets treated like a rock star here, whether you’re a 15-year-old kid or someone like Joe Walsh,” Brown says. “We have a place or room or budget for everyone. I personally like working with unsigned bands because I get to help mold them in their careers.”
Two months ago, Brown made a “huge upgrade” to Lava Room’s sound and software systems. Moving forward, Brown wants to focus on younger, up-and-coming musicians. “I’m helping young bands treat themselves more like businesses, helping them understand how to be more self-sufficient,” he says. “A lot of times bands don’t understand the business. They just understand the music. There’s loyalty there – when we help them, they definitely want to come back and do a record with us.”
The name “Lava Room” comes from Brown’s love of lava lamps and the colors that inspire him. The three studios and lounge are all color-coded based on the lava lamps in each room. “I always loved the ambiance of lava lamps and colored lights,” Brown says. “It kind of inspired me.”
Lava Room Recording has eight employees, each capable of engineering a variety of music genres.