Written by: Jill Tham
Photographed by: AJ Harlond
Are you familiar with the unwanted humming sound that can sometimes come from a microphone or other audio equipment? It is called a ground loop. The term was on Dean Malton’s mind the day he went to register his business. “Perhaps it is because I am the son of a comedian, or my own tongue and cheek humour, but that is the name I wrote down,” he explains. Many years later, the name Groundloop Productions has a grassroots definition, as Malton works closely with many great Niagara artists.
When Dean Malton graduated from Fanshawe College in London, Ontario, he thought he knew everything about the record industry. In 1988, Malton moved to Huntsville, opened up his own recording studio while living with his father, Wayne Malton of Malton and Hamilton Comedy Team. Malton and Hamilton were the top class of the Canadian entertainment scene, or supper clubs as they were called, in the 1970s and 80s. “I ended up working with my dad at Deerhurst Resort north of Toronto as a sound technician. My career started when I met Shania Twain, back then she was known as Eileen Edwards, we worked together and wrote songs,” says Malton. “She got her record deal in Nashville with the recordings we had done. I learned my first really big lesson in this business, which is, when an artist gets their deal their phone number changes and you never hear from them again. It’s happened to me more than once,” he laughs.
For the next five years, Malton focused on Groundloop Productions and kept himself busy song writing and producing in the Huntsville area. “Having two young children, I needed to pay the bills, so I wrote jingles for every business north of highway 60.” Living in a city with a population average of 13,000, Malton quickly ran out of singer-songwriters to produce. He knew he needed to make a geographical change to further his business. “I knew more people in Niagara. It just made sense to move back home,” he says. Malton set up shop in on Kent Avenue in Niagara Falls and from 1995-2003 he worked around the clock to produce music for various genres and media(s).
Groundloop Productions quickly became a stepping stone for many musicians. Niagara Falls native, Joel Zimmerman, aka Deadmau5, was in high school when he became a regular at Malton’s studio. “The relationship I had with Joel was an important one at the time because I was moving out of analog and computers were starting to take over the process. With Joel being an absolute genius with a computer, I learned a lot from him and he learned a lot from me about how analog works,” he states. “Now he is the biggest D.J. in the world.”
In 2003, Malton began working as part of the team responsible for the artists and entertainment that perform at the Fallsview Casino. Many artists don’t travel with their own equipment and Malton provides and sets up the equipment for the Avalon Ballroom. Malton relocated Groundloop Productions to Ridgeway, Ontario, and his business began to flourish. “For the first time I no longer felt like a studio owner, but a record producer,” he says.
Malton sympathizes with the struggles musicians face in today’s changing industry. “It’s a different type of business now than when I started,” he states. “Long record deals that gave artists the chance to grow no longer exist.”
Elton Lammie, is a gifted artist who sings in four different genres. He has worked with Malton to record original songs. When Lammie received some criticism about his music, he refrained from sharing his next set of songs with anyone. Dean convinced him to try again. “The four new songs Dean and I collaborated on are the best songs I’ve ever written or recorded. He knows what good music is and didn’t allow me to cast my art away,” says Lammie.
Although some would say Malton excels in country music, his down-to-earth approach allows him to successfully work with a wide variety of artists and genres. “I am not trying to fit them into a mold, or trying to put my stamp on it as a record producer,” he says. In some instances, Malton sings background vocals and plays the bass guitar on tracks for the artists, helping reduce the financial strain.
Malton has worked closely with Niagara born band, The Black Flies. He has produced all three of their albums. “Dean is full of amazing ideas and is able to push you the right amount to get the best performance out of you,” states The Black Flies. “He has such an ear for music and the foresight and capability to help you put out a great record.”
Even though Malton is well established and highly knowledgeable in his craft, he still learns from each artist or piece of music he produces and engineers. “I am learning in my later years not to overproduce. Let the song breathe,” he says.
“I am more excited now because I am not concerned with becoming the next Mutt Lange. I am just concerned with making great music. Looking at what I have done in the last 5 years. I am proud of it,” he says. It is just a matter of time before Malton’s Niagara Music Awards are displayed beside a Juno.
For more info on Dean and his recording studio, check out www.groundloop.ca