With almost $45 million riding on his latest investment, chief executive officer of the label formerly called UIM Records, Andrew Myrie, is optimistic about the prospects.
“I dedicated approximately 12 years of my music production career to UIM. I am looking at it like a previous catalogue and looking at the studio I have recently constructed, as the place to create a whole different catalogue and create more business,” Myrie told The Sunday Gleaner.
Myrie, known professionally as Anju Blaxx, 39, is no dilettante. Wearing many hats from music composer to songwriter to producer, he has had big professional successes with more than 1,200 songs coming out of UIM Records, with top reggae-dancehall recording names such as Vybz Kartel, Tommy Lee Sparta, Popcaan, Bugle and Mr Vegas. He expanded his fanbase locally with hits such as the 2011 single, Nymphomaniac by Vybz Kartel, and in the following year, Naughty Girl by Popcaan and Nuh Compatible by Bugle, which dominated the charts through 2013. Myrie received critical acclaim five years later when Damian Marley’s Stony Hill album won Best Reggae Album at the Grammy Awards in 2018.
He has been quieter than usual, “because I have been working to get the [studio] project off the ground for about four [years],” he said, adding that the new studio and label, which has been named Black State, is a dream made a reality.
Its location off Hagley Park Road is the seventh spot that the producer and his team will be occupying, but the difference is that the close to 2,000 square feet studio building, is not only permanent but has three rooms geared towards music production and recording, one room for podcasting and one room dedicated to Black State’s videography team who may be hired for editing projects.
THE RIGHT SIZE
“We spent a lot of money renting spaces; sometimes that isn’t ideal because of the size. Some artistes get claustrophobic when they are in a small studio space; others will like a large space, and then the larger a space, the more persons want to be inside. I believe we have the right size rooms to make it as intimate and comfortable for any artiste to express their creativity,” Myrie said.
He added, “Then for me, I believe in investing in different types of equipment, and I had some that wasn’t being used. I like when my analogue gear is hooked up to my computer, and sometimes the studio spaces that we rent are already designed a certain way or can’t hold any more equipment. The studio is very expensive, from purchasing the land to repiping and redoing the plumbing, but it was my dream to say I own my own studio.”
Returns on investment for a production studio can be irregular, but Myrie also rents the space “and tried to make it meet an affordable price point”.
On the official opening of the studio, which took place last Tuesday on Myrie’s 38th birthday, he was in a nostalgic mood – thinking about his father – especially when he showed a 2013 Audient ASP4816 analogue recording console in the main studio room.
Myrie shared, “This was a gift from my father. Actually, it is the only thing he gave me as a contribution to my career because he wasn’t into these sorts of things. It took a while for him to believe in the opportunities… my mother was the one who always supported my choice of career – and still does.”
“Before he passed, he said he would do something for me; he asked what I wanted, and I told him an analogue board. He actually got it. So, even if the machine goes down, me always find a way to refurbish it. It came out nine years ago, and I have it now; every channel works. There is no hiss or no hum. I just wish he could have been here to see the making of the studio,” he continued.
The Black State staff includes his mother and sister, and he described it as a “family business” because most of his teammates are friends he has made and kept for many years. Some have been around for more than a decade, he said.
He shared that the music business is challenging no matter how successful one gets, and despite the accolades. Myrie also offered that any aspiring producer should aim to create their own space, but it doesn’t have to be a rush or cost so much.
“You can spend US$2,000 and get what you need to do [a] quality recording. Work hard for what you want. I am grateful to my family’s contribution, also my real friends who I haven’t changed. It started at the home of my brother Shawn Myrie, who most persons know as Blak Diamon, and [it] has grown into this. I’ve passed the stage of working out of a home studio, but if you’re working towards a goal, do what suits you and save towards the goal,” Myrie said.