RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — Adding that little extra something can make good bands great and turn decent albums into legendary pieces of work.
While musicians handle the writing and performing of their music, a producer’s input and recording techniques can have an immense impact on the final product released by a band.
George Martin transformed The Beatles from just another rock group into a cultural phenomenon by pushing them beyond their creative imaginations and producing songs exactly how the Fab Four wanted them.
Martin Birch put in painstaking work with metal bands Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Iron Maiden by getting the most out of bands he worked with, regardless of how many recording takes it required.
In the modern age, Benny Blanco is manufacturing hit after hit with artists like Justin Beiber, Halsey, Juice Wrld by placing catchy beats on chart-topping songs.
And in the RGV, Joshua Lopez is churning out bombastic records in his McAllen studio for bands across the country.
Lopez runs Widowmaker Studios, a recording studio he started in 2016 where he’s made a career out of producing records for metal bands.
From the age of 5, Lopez took an interest in music when he first learned to play guitar. In middle and high school, Lopez played in various bands and started producing music for bands in the area.
In the mid-2010s, more and more bands started coming to Lopez to work on their albums and he started committing full attention to his work.
“Once the first few bands started coming, it was like a snowball effect,” said Lopez. “With every album, I work on I get just a little bit better.”
Lopez says the way he stands out as a producer is by giving bands honest advice and getting the most out of a band on each recording.
“Every single band that’s gone through [Widowmaker Studios], I’m coaching them through it,” said Lopez. “What I do is tell them what they’re doing wrong and show them how to do it right.”
Whether it’s placing a guitar player’s hand in a better strumming position, suggesting how a song’s structure should flow, or just replacing bass strings, Lopez is there every step of the way to guide bands to their dream album.
He even provides valuable advice for bands’ singers, challenging them to provide as much emotion and conviction with their voice as they can.
“I want to be convinced of the notes they are playing, hitting, or singing,” said Lopez. “I want to know you meant to play that note. I want to feel it. Every band that comes here gets put through a little boot camp.”
The bands Lopez has worked with typically only have positive things to say about their experiences in Widowmaker Studios. Many of the metal bands featured on RGV Sounds like Kryptik Mutation and Overt Enemy were more than happy with Lopez’s work.
Lopez typically only works with metal bands as he feels he has an ear for the music and knows what it takes to make metal bands sound as thrashing or melodic as they want.
However, he does venture off with other types of bands that request to work with him and has worked on pop-punk and synth-wave albums in the past.
The full list of groups he’s produced work for is immense as just about every metal band in the RGV has had his hand in the mix at least a little bit.
But he’s stretched even further beyond the local scene as bands across the country have called on Lopez to produce their albums.
Whether it’s New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or elsewhere, Lopez has attracted attention from just about everywhere.
When a band outside the RGV asks Lopez to work on an album, he’ll typically fly out to their area and help them make their record.
One of the Las Vegas bands, Immortal Guardian, similarly started in the RGV and as of February 2020, features Lopez on bass.
Lopez was well acquainted with Immortal Guardian before he joined the band. He produced the power metal band’s debut album, Age of Revolution, in 2018 and joined last year when the vacancy was open.
Immortal Guardian was slotted to make an international tour in 2020 shortly after Lopez joined, but the COVID-19 pandemic shot down those plans.
Still, Immortal Guardian spent their time off from touring recording their second full-length album, Psychosomatic, which was released in February 2021.
The band has scheduled a tour across America in August and September 2021 in support of the album.
Immortal Guardian’s current location in Nevada, Lopez’s constant producing commitments, and his sponsorship deals with two California guitar companies have him planning to move out to Las Vegas in 2022.
Even though he’s leaving the RGV, he feels a lot of pride for the area and knows bands from here can succeed if given the right push.
“There’s a lot of talent in the RGV. I have a lot of friends that are great musicians here,” said Lopez. “If enough people go out to see these bands at shows, what’s to stop us from being another Seattle like in the 90s grunge movement.”
Lopez encourages those interested in pursuing music to push themselves to be the best that they can and to not wait on anyone else to motivate them.
“Don’t make excuses, everyone has a hard, busy life,” asserts Lopez. “It’s up to you to sacrifice some of your time to work on your art to get to the next step. You’re working today to see the benefits years from now.”
In addition to working with Immortal Guardian and producing, Lopez performs with progressive metal band Levatio, whose two singles “Aficionado” and “Ad Infinitum” sample some atmospheric shredding reminiscent of Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen.
Widowmaker Studios has worked with dozens of bands including Archangel A.D., Lost Sacrament, The Profused, Unholy Desecration, and Vibrahaven.
Their music can be found on Apple Music, Bandcamp, Spotify, and more.
The Rio Grande Valley is full of musical talent that deserves exposure. If you know a band who should be featured, email KVEO-DigitalDesk@nexstar.tv.