Todd Divel remembers Denver singer-songwriter Brent Cowles describing Divel's Silo Sound Studios as “the Abbey Road of Denver.” And Cowles was right. The studio boasts classic tape machines, vintage gear, Himalayan salt lamps, and decorations reminiscent of a bygone era of rock and roll.
Over the nine years that Divel has run Silo, he’s produced some of Denver’s most distinctive bands, including the Velveteers, Pink Fuzz, Boot Gun, Kind Hearted Strangers, the Drunken Hearts and Television Generation. He's also recorded national acts such as the late Neal Casal, Tim Carbone, John Carter Cash, the Hardworking Americans, Todd Snider and Cage the Elephant.
While Divel specializes in analog tape recording, he's also well versed in Pro Tools and multi-tracking. And his taste is wide.
“I like all kinds of music,” Divel says. “The rock thing is my forte, but when it comes down to it, I only want to make records that I want to listen to, to a fault sometimes. It’s very difficult to do what I do and turn something
Divel got his start as a musician in his home state of Kansas, writing songs, playing in bands, and learning the ins and outs of music production and sound design. He started Silo when he moved to Denver nearly a decade ago. He wanted to record his own music. Instead, the studio became a space where bands all across the country began to seek creative solace and inspiration from his old-school style of recording.
As a producer, Divel takes a hands-on approach with bands he’s passionate about, often taking on the traditional role of a producer, working with bands on their sound long before they enter the studio.
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“I often have a very significant hand in how a record ends up sounding,” Divel says. “I’ll play Devil’s advocate on certain tracks and ask the band why they decided to cut a song and why it’s special. I’m always waiting for someone to crack and say, ‘That’s my favorite song I’ve ever
One of Divel's goals is to help musicians navigate the industry.
“The music business fucking sucks," he says. "There used to be a dynamic where if you work hard, things will happen. None of that exists anymore. It’s just a shotgun approach for bands these days."
Many in Denver's music scene appreciate Divel's candor.
“Todd is 100 percent, maybe 200 percent honest when he doesn’t like something and he feels we can do better," says John Demitro, who plays in the Velveteers and Pink Fuzz. "It’s great for an artist to have a producer who pushes and challenges
Through collaborations with Pink Fuzz and the Velveteers, Divel has created a signature Silo sound: grit, noise, and straight-to-tape energy built on a foundation of classic rock and roll.
Pink Fuzz recently cut its new EP, Vitals, at Silo, with Divel behind the production. The record is a followup to Speed Demon, the band's debut EP, released last year. The group is celebrating the release of Vitals by playing a show at the studio on November 15.
“This is a studio first and foremost, but I want the space to be available to artists who record here and who I have a connection with," Divel says.
Artists appreciate the DIY vibe.
“Playing a show at a space like this is way more fun for the artist," says Demitro. "You don’t need to worry about selling enough presale, and everything else that comes alongside playing at a traditional venue. This way, it feels more like a celebration and a party, which serves the music really well."
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In addition to the occasional show he puts on, Divel also hosts producer and engineer meet-ups, listening parties, open houses, and other events designed to unite members of the music community. Eventually he plans to build a mobile studio in a van, so he can take his skills as a musician and producer all over the country.
“I’ve realized that I can’t get rich doing this, so the only thing I can do is work with artists who I love as people, who make music that I love,” Divel says. “It works if it’s one or the other, but when both happen, it’s awesome. It doesn’t feel like work. We’re just hanging out, having fun, and a record happens.”
Hear Pink Fuzz, 21 Taras, Star Garbage, Boot Gun, Kind Hearted Strangers, the Drunken Hearts, Television Generation and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.