Klondike Korner: Laying Down Tracks in Dawson City

One of the things Nathan Tinkham likes about working in Dawson City is the way things just seem to fall into place. When he arrived in town to set up for the Dawson City Recording Initiative, he wasn’t sure where he was going to stay and where he would be able to set up his portable studio.

In short order the Gabriola Island resident was offered a room at the Westminster Hotel for part of his stay and a house-sit for another part. More importantly, perhaps, the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre made its acoustically agreeable theatre available to him for the entire time.

Tinkham, whose previous musical links in the territory include the Pointer Brothers and the Undertakin’ Daddies, gets to Dawson as often as he can but the notion that he might come up and help people do demo recordings of their original work was particularly appealing to him.

The project was conceived when he and Grant Simpson were talking on Gabriola Island a year or so ago.

After he and Simpson had brainstormed a bit, Music Yukon began consulting with local Dawson musicians.

“One of the things we identified at the meeting was that (Dawsonites) didn’t have the same access to recording opportunities as we did in Whitehorse,” Simpson says. “Duncan Sinclair, Peter Menzies and I then put our heads together to come up with a project that would help to develop infrastructure and skills in recording and engineering.”

The project would accomplish several goals, including recording, mentoring and post-production.

Jazz Yukon applied for and obtained a $10,000 grant for the project, which was also supported by the North Klondike Highway Project and the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture.

“We needed a producer who had lots of recording experience on both ends of the mic and who had already established themselves with the Dawson City music scene,” says Simpson. “Nathan was the obvious choice and we are so lucky to have him on board for this project.”

Tinkham put together a bare bones portable recording studio consisting of a soundboard and a selection of good quality microphones (there were stands in Dawson already). With everything hooked up to his laptop computer and nicely set up in the cultural centre, he was ready to roll tape, digitally speaking.

During his two week stint he was able to get approximately 30 original songs recorded, including work by Barnacle Bob Hilliard, Clive Betts Connor Jerzy, Drea Nasager, Ecka Janus, the Hän Singers, Josh McCallen, Nijen Holland, Noosa Tronic, Peter Menzies, Richard Halliday and Whoa Bear.

Having a well-recorded demo is essential when applying to festivals or to recording companies says Tinkham.

“It used to be all you needed was a good 8×10 photo of the band, but not any more,” he says, chuckling over coffee at the Bonanza Dining Room in the Eldorado Hotel.

He will take the tracks he has recorded back to his home studio and tweak them a bit, adding some supporting instrumentation where needed, but nothing to alter the honesty of the artists’ original intentions.

In the near future, he says with a satisfied grin, festivals are going to be swamped by some very good applications out of Dawson City.

After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.

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