Cactus House Recording The Needle Blog Page

Backwards Marathon

Backwards Marathon recorded two songs here at Cactus House Recording earlier this year and now they're available on all major streaming platforms!  I had played a couple shows with these guys before and knew this was going to be a fun project.  They were an instrumental band but while overdubbing the guitarist Dmitri added vocals to the song As I Say and I hadn't even heard him sing (or scream!) before.  This is one of the cool things about running a recording studio, watching friends challenge themselves and try new things.  I like to think that people feel comfortable to experiment here at Cactus House, rather than some bigger expensive studios where the pressure is on just to get it done without racking up too big of a bill!

"Shade of Shadows" Music Video

Dark Satellite's latest music video is for our new song Shade of Shadows - off our upcoming EP.  It's the first studio release to feature our new drummer Travis Drumm, whose musicianship and positive attitude has brought so much to the band.  The art and animation was done by South African artist Julia Mary Grey (Julia's Website) and the band footage is from our 2022 live performance at The Complex in San Francisco (The Complex's Website).

We didn't record the song to a metronome in the studio or play the song live at The Complex to one but they lined up almost perfectly and the footage from there always looks great.  Julia decided to rotoscope the band into the pop art animations which I know must have been seriously time consuming but it's honestly the highlight of the visuals in my opinion!

For recording, we tracked live at Cactus House and overdubbed some extra guitar and vocals, and a little bit of synth with my 80s Roland JUNO.  This was the first track I've released where I used my SSL Alpha Channel on electric guitar and it's now my go to for any guitar amp.  Charlie played his Lucille through an Orange 100 Watt Rockerverb head.  We ran that through my Marshall 1960A, miked with my Neumann TLM 49 into the SSL Alpha Channel and it instantly became my main signal path for guitar.  The EQ section of the Alpha Channel is streamlined to be quick to set, but precise enough to attenuate any unwanted resonant frequencies, meaning less EQing during mixdown!

Watch the video on our YouTube channel and let me know what you think in the comments section!


Periscope's fourth album "Memories" is now available for download on our Bandcamp store!  It was recorded, mixed and mastered here at Cactus House Recording and was a lot of fun to work on!  I used my PRS McCarty with P90s through an old Laney vh100r head / Marshall 1960A 412 cab to record all my guitar parts, and I'm especially proud of how the extended guitar solo at the end of the title track turned out!

This was the first album I mixed here without the analog mixing console and patch-bays.  For mixdown I now run all of my analog outboard gear as hardware inserts, sacrificing routing flexibility for a more streamlined setup.  This made switching in between songs much easier since there was no patching that needed to be done and only small adjustments required on a few of the outboard compressors.

I also have to mention how thrilled I am about the cover art.  Sam Marvel (marvelous.made) did a fantastic job, she made four different paintings with our symbol in the middle and mailed them over.  I scanned them and we decided we liked the layout of all four, since the contrast of colors and textures was so eye-catching.  Check out her Instagram page to see more of her work!

This album and the past couple shows with Periscope also marks my departure from the band.  As much as I've loved working with Matt for the past 8 years, recording, touring and playing over a hundred shows (I stopped counting around 100) I decided it was time to focus my energy on new projects.  I'm excited to see where they go from here though and am glad to be leaving on a high note, since the new album and last several shows went so well!  Here's a picture of us after our livestream at The Complex (SF) and the flyer from my final show with them (at our favorite local venue, Art Boutiki SJ)!

"Reflection Lost" 

After two years I am excited to announce that Disrupt the Paradigm's most recent full length album "Reflection Lost" is now available on our Bandcamp page and streaming on all major platforms!  The first recording session for this album was about a week before quarantine started here in California.  Quarantine threw a wrench in many projects but on top of that, the band ended up splitting ways with their original drummer, before finding and reworking the album with their current lineup.  It took about a year but once they were locked they came back and we were good to go!

I first heard Disrupt the Paradigm when Periscope opened for them at a Halloween show in 2016.  I remember liking their unique blend of heavy styles, and especially liking their bassist's dynamic and musical range.  They released their previous full length album "Conversion" that year as well and while it wasn't bad, I felt like it didn't live up to the band's sound when I played that Halloween show with them.  There will always be a difference between hearing an album and seeing a band you like live, but I do think "Reflection Lost" captures more of what makes their sound unique.  Of course as the producer, my opinion is biased haha

In the mixing process for this album I ended up deciding this would be my last album mixed on a vintage board (I've been using an 80's 24-channel Soundcraft board for years), as the time to reset the board manually in between songs was becoming too much of a distraction from the actual music.  I have since swapped out the vintage board with a Slate Raven touchscreen, which I'm loving so far.  I also now have all of my outboard gear (compressors, equalizers, etc) connected directly to my converters and set up as hardware inserts, rather than using the old school patchbays.  The patchbays did give me a lot of flexibility, but like the vintage mixing board things would have to be re patched manually in between projects.  This project and a few other smaller ones that have been going on simultaneously have showed me the value of a streamlined set up rather than having maximum flexibility.

Minting Cactus House NFTs

I have started minting NFTs to accompany Cactus House releases, mostly as an experiment.  Currently I have six that correspond to the latest Dark Satellite sticker designs.  I overlaid footage of us playing our livestream set at The Complex (SF) from October and included snippets from our album Alone with Everyone.  I think making these is an interesting process as it's built off the Ethereum blockchain, and appreciate that there is a 10% creator royalty, so if someone sells the NFT after buying it, we get 10% of the future sales.  All Cactus House NFTs will be one of a kind, I feel like minting duplicates would cheapen the art itself, but then again I am totally new to this medium so what do I know!

Currently they are all priced at 0.001 ETH each (at the time of writing this approximately $4.57) and will never be duplicated so for less than five bucks you can own a unique piece of the band's history!

Browse Cactus House NFTs

On the OpenSea platform

New Store Page and New Releases!

Cactus House Recording Bandcamp Page

To help keep up with growing demand for our releases - especially downloads, we have migrated the shop over to our new Bandcamp label page!  I consider Bandcamp the best platform online for handling digital downloads of albums, but also one of the best places for merch and finding new bands to listen to.

The page is integrated as a subdomain into the Cactus House site so the shopping experience should be smooth.  I'm still moving products over so if there is one you don't see yet and want to purchase, don't hesitate to tell me through the Contact page.  Two new releases are:

  • Dead Engine's self-titled first full length album, previously unavailable as a digital download.  Recorded, mixed and mastered at Cactus House Recording in 2019, this album was published before I had made Cactus House a publisher, which is why it hadn't been on my site for download until now!
  • Vicinity - Printed and bound booklet.  Each copy is comb bound with plastic covers on front and back, and comes with a handwritten inscription from the author Justin Kennedy!

VICINITY - Short Stories by Justin Kennedy

Vicinity Justin Kennedy Cactus House Recording

VICINITY is a collection of surreal horror short stories by Justin Kennedy.  This is both his first published collection of stories and Cactus House Recording's first eBook.  The stories cover 40 pages of dreamlike terror and satirical humor.  The cover design was done by Jonny Ashley, and is based off a creature from one of the stories - Thing.

Justin is also one of my oldest and closest friends, so getting the chance to help him edit and publish his work was an honor and extremely fulfilling.  The eBook is currently available on all major platforms, and will be also be made available in printed format on the Cactus House Recording store soon.

I think about the fact that in the five months I’ve lived here, I’ve never even opened this door before. In fact, this was the first time I had spent any good length of time down in the basement to begin with. I’m expecting rodents inside this closet that I’ve never seen the inside of, maybe a bigger animal that could have traveled through the vents of my house to an area that was warm and inviting. But what I open the door to is the same room that I opened it from, only the dimensions are mirrored and I’m staring ahead at an empty desk with a lamp and a piece of paper on it next to a pencil tilted slightly to the paper.

That is fortunate. I walk through the door and close it behind me. Everything appears just as I had left it in the last room, only of course in reverse. I cross the room and sit down at the stool to see quite charmingly that the schematic I had worked on previously was now simply reversed. It wouldn’t be too difficult to pick this up and of course, I definitely would gain perspective on the assignment as a whole by working on it from here.

My eyes are closed and I’m sighing again with the pencil in my hand hovering just slightly in the air. As soon as I put it down, I hear the doorknob on the door to the other room turning and the wood scraping over itself again.

-Justin Kennedy from "The Assignment"

Dead Engine Album and Singles

One of my guitar students back in 2015, who from the beginning clearly had a desire to pursue music, formed his own rock trio - Dead Engine. I produced their first album in 2019 during the fire season and because of the power blackouts was forced to track the vocal overdubs for the single Broken off the album while running a gasoline generator outside that I borrowed from my parents.

In early 2021 I tracked 5 new songs that we are now releasing as singles, with one coming out every Sunday this month (October, 2021). Next Sunday is Halloween, with the final single being released.

Dead Engine's drummer Justin Reid is also a professional tattoo artist and makes the designs for the band's merch. They currently have one canvas poster design that I print, as well as a 3-pack of stickers, with three of the cover art designs for the singles available at our store.

Tony Gennaro - Through Line

Tony and I met years ago in a college music theory class at California Institute of the Arts. During the pandemic he was able to get musicians together to record live several of his chamber music compositions, and then hired me to edit, master and publish them. This was the first chamber music album I worked on here at Cactus House and it was a really great experience as I enjoy his compositions and the quality of the performers - The Eclipse Quartet and Mills Brass Ensemble. I'm excited about working together again in the future, which may come together in the next couple months.

Dark Satellite - Alone With Everyone

This album, and band really evolved during the extended recording process here at Cactus House. When they first came in they were an instrumental trio writing an album of music.  After a while of recording them, I started adding some overdubs and eventually started singing in the band as well. For a couple months we were rehearsing as a four-piece with me on guitar and vocals, and finished the album with this lineup as well. We also recorded music videos for our songs Fatima and End Ons Unseen. The Fatima video was actually the first video I uploaded to the Cactus House Recording YouTube channel.

When recording the album, we felt one of the most important aspects was to track live as a band, all in the same room. Usually, I DI (direct input) the bass and sometimes guitars to re amp later but in this case we felt it was good to have everything there from the start and weren't concerned with signal bleed. The recordings then have a proportionally higher amount of room sound, which in the case of Cactus House I would say is a good thing.

We played an album release livestream at Art Boutiki and a couple other shows, but then because of schedules and priority conflicts, the band ended up becoming a trio with myself on bass and vocals, the founder of the band Charlie on guitar, and most recently Travis Drumm on drums. In between losing the original rhythm section and Travis joining, we had one livestream booked at The Complex where we had to scramble to get a fill in guy. We ended up having two weeks to put this set together but our first fill in drummer flaked and so we had three days to get a new guy. Luckily I was able to transcribe the drum parts for the set and we were able to hire a great local session player Frank Cavazos, the show must go on!

The bandleader Charlie Hanlon is also a talented visual artist, with a rather large portfolio. He and I have scanned several of his works for me to then print and cut to make canvas posters and vinyl stickers. You can see some of my favorite of his design work on our online store, with many more to come:

Black Pyramid Poster
Glasses Poster
VW Stickers

Periscope - Resurfaced

Back in early 2014 I was a founding member of the San Jose band Periscope.  We played quite a few shows, last time I added it up it was 77 as of 2021.  This includes 3 tours, with the most recent one in 2016 lasting a whole month and taking us all the way to SXSW in Austin, TX.  We also had recorded and released (not at Cactus House) a self-titled EP, and a full length - The Tide.

In early 2017, right as I was moving into Cactus House, the singer from Periscope - Matt Perri was moving with his girlfriend down to Long Beach.  We played our last show for a while, opening for the English Beat at a private event in Gilroy.

In 2019 Matt and I got the band back together, with a new drummer and bassist to back us up.  We were playing some shows again right before COVID forced us all into lockdown, so we ended up shifting gears to recording what would become our most recent full length album - Resurfaced.

Recording this album gave me tons of space to try different guitar and synth overdubs, and came out sounding very clear and consistent.  I also added two fretless bass parts in So It Goes and Your Life.  My favorite songs to play off the album are Time Traveler and My Disease.  A highlight of the production process was adding the keys and synths for songs like So It Goes, Your Life, Boomers and On the Run.  I also feel like Matt's vocal writing on this album was a step above the previous two, both in crafting catchy and interesting hooks and also delivering a fiercely vulnerable performance of the lyrics.

For our album release, we played a livestream concert at our favorite local venue - The Art Boutiki, Santa Clara, and had a limited run of shirts and CDs printed for the occasion.  The shirts and CDs sold out but the canvas poster I print for the band (featuring an original design by Dead Engine's Justin Reid) is always in stock at our store!

Since I take way too long to update my website, I am currently writing this entry after already having recorded another four songs with Periscope, which will probably be released early 2022 as singles!

Periscope Resurfaced Cactus House Recording

Remembering Dominic Miranda (1986 - 2020)

In 2020, our friend and fellow San Jose musician Dominic Miranda passed away.  While he and I were never close, we would see each other and talk regularly at local shows and were both familiar with each others' music.  I always respected his songwriting, especially since he had a unique lyrical style that was featured in all his bands despite being different genres.  In early 2021 Periscope recorded a live session cover of one of his songs, "Bucket of Blood" (originally recorded with his group Record Winter) for a streamed tribute concert.

For more about Dom and the legacy he has left behind, visit his website.


Mr. Refuse's first EP was actually my first recording project here at Cactus House.  I was teaching at a local music store called Starving Musician (Santa Clara, CA) and he had recently been hired and was told I was building up a studio set up in my home.  He asked in between students one day if I wanted to try recording some of his music and I knew it would be a great opportunity.  We recorded the EP Year of the Wikki Wikki in late 2017 and I started playing in his live ensemble as well.

The following year we recorded another EP called Serenade for the Queen of Death and eventually became roommates, as I had an extra bedroom available at Cactus House.

In 2019 and 2020 we recorded what I consider the best Mr. Refuse album - BETRAYOURSELF!

Unfortunately because of COVID and other things happening around that time, we never played a release show, but the album still stands on its own and is available to stream on all major platforms, for download on Bandcamp and is for sale as a CD in jacket on our online store.

This album, to me, combines the raw energy and experimentation of his previous compositions, but with more interesting song forms and richer musical layers in the production.  I also played bass on this album, and the tracks Pile of Wax, And the Sun Sang Sweetly, and Long Black Shadows were some of my favorite bass lines to record!

Cactus House Showcase October 10th 2020

Cactus House Recording Live Showcase

After months of building my 450 square foot redwood deck, it was time for it's maiden voyage concert.  With the stain barely dry, we put together a remote show with four Cactus House Recording bands, each playing three songs to be posted on YouTube.  Click the links below to watch the sets and see some footage of the new deck!

Mr. Refuse Showcase Set

Periscope Showcase Set

Dark Satellite Showcase Set

Dead Engine Showcase Set


Cactus House Recording Blog Entry

One of the most fun studio projects I have worked on was recording the 4 track Lazyboyz EP.  We had collaborated before on a Mr. Refuse single but it looks like the video has been taken down.  We played some shows with them too, but as it was getting harder for them to line their schedules up they decided they just wanted to record an EP and put the band on pause for a while.  The EP was tracked live at Cactus House in early 2020, and only took one day to finish!

Late Night District - Light of Day

After Divided By Seven broke up in early 2019, I was jamming with the singer from Late Night District and he mentioned that they had tracked an album while on their last tour but never had it produced or published.  Since I was working on several projects at the time I felt confident enough to ask if I could produce the album.  I had opened for his band in the past so I already knew I would like the music, and being able to help a friend get their art out into the worlds is what being a producer is all about!  The bass and drum tracks were recorded at Sprout City Studios and the guitar and vocals were overdubbed here at Cactus House Recording.

Divided By Seven (/VII) - The Only Constant

This project was a lot of fun for me even though it only lasted around a year.  Back in 2017 / 2018 I (Trevor Gabriel) was playing bass and singing with Yusef Barnard on drums and Ryan Acosta on guitar.  This was the first band I had played bass and sang in, and also was the first album that I recorded and produced.  We had some good times, filming a music video for my own original song Narrative and opening for Metalachi at a sold out show at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz.  All of the tracks were recorded here at Cactus House, before I had finished installing all of the soundproofing for the studio room...luckily I have supportive (and patient) neighbors!

The album is still available as a digital download on our Bandcamp page, and can now be ordered as a CD in jacket too (while supplies last)!