July 4, 2006 – Derrick Moore, general manager of Island SoundWorks, runs a serious sound studio, but he is quick to admit he has a lot of fun doing it.
Though he is now the lead man for ISW, he is only one part of the team that developed the island's cutting-edge recording studio.
Eleven years ago Moore founded Black Juice Records on First Avenue.
Meanwhile on the other side of town, Dan McGuinness had started Island SoundWorks in 2001 in a condo on St. Thomas' East End.
Around the same time, Richard Spenceley and McGuinness met while playing together with other musicians around the island – McGuinness on bass guitar and Spenceley on drums. Those gigs were the start of the next phase of Island SoundWorks.
McGuinness and Spenceley decided to join forces – and voilá — ISW found a new home in Spenceley's building on the Waterfront.
One day a couple of years ago, ISW began its next evolution when Moore decided to check out the competition. "Derrick had heard about us and came up to check us out," McGuinness said.
With Moore's skills, experience and contacts, McGuinness saw possibilities for a merger of some sort.
Moore says at first, when Spenceley and McGuinness approached him about joining them, he really had to think about it. He had been at the First Avenue location for 10 years, he says. "I was comfortable with where I was." But after only one more meeting, Moore says, "they made me feel like this could work."
And work it does – in four separate, fully-equipped studios where artists and producers can create everything they need: from the first cut of a CD to a slick, fully-packaged product.
Island SoundWorks is a "one-stop shop," Spenceley says.
McGuinness had built studio A before Moore came on board. The 48-track studio can accommodate live bands doing any type of recording, McGuinness says.
The 24-track Studio B, which is Moore's bailiwick, also works for groups or solo performers.
Studio C is for producers, DJs or even composers to mix or produce music, while studio D is where the graphics work is done.
When Spenceley calls Island SoundWorks a "one-stop shop," he means it. The studio can produce everything from CD jackets to videos – in addition to music. "If you need a poster done for a concert," Spenceley says ISW can do it – and has done it. "It helps that I own an office supply company," he smiles.
Advertising, pageant work, soundtracks for the National Football League, CDs – they do it all. Moore had developed a large and impressive client base at Black Juice, and he brought many of those clients along to his new venture. He expects the rest will follow and lead to even more.
One of the team's latest ventures – a video called "Brother," done by local artist FP and produced by ISW along with film producer Paul Cater Deaton – has everybody stoked.
FP, whose brother died as the result of gun violence, wrote the lyrics for the gut-wrenching piece that walks the viewer through a graphic tale of where gun violence can take a family.
When the DVD was shown recently on a large screen TV at Tutu Park Mall, people stopped in their tracks to watch it – some of them over and over again.
"Brother" is the most recent of many projects ISW has completed for local artists.
Included among the projects the studio has produced are: "The Sounds of St. Thomas" Vols. One and Two, a compilation of local artists; "Battle of the Bands 2006," the result of a competition between local bands and artists; and a CD by Of God, called "From the Heart."
Moore and McGuinness have been integral to the "Speak Your Peace" project developed by Project Safe Neighborhoods Virgin Islands. "Speak Your Peace" is a competition for young people to develop music with an anti-gun violence message. ISW will produce a CD of the competition winners and have also made themselves available for live remote recordings to make it easier for contestants to submit their music. Remote recording is another service ISW offers its local clients.
But thanks to the wonders of the Internet, ISW had plenty of work from clients on the mainland, as well.
They can produce soundtracks for movies and stadium events. "Just send us a draft of the film or show," Moore says, and they're on it.
McGuinness sees a time when major recording artists will choose Island SoundWorks as a preferred place to work.
Country artist Kenny Chesney, who owns a villa on St. John, comes to mind.
"The recording equipment we use is the same as he uses in Nashville," McGuinness says.
"And what we don't have," Moore says, "is probably on the way."
They see a time when artists of Chesney's ilk will come to the islands, rent a villa and record at ISW.
Seeing the studio and meeting the people involved makes that notion no stretch at all. They are emphatic about being a full-service, serious operation. "It's a nine-to-five studio," McGuinness says with a grin, adding, "it's really a lot more than nine to five."
But no one seems to mind the rigors of running ISW — especially not Moore.
"This is it for me; this is what I do," Moore says. "This is my sanctuary."
And as for the ISW team, he says, "It's a synergy thing here."
For more information, call 340-715-7711 and also check out ISW's Web site.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.