Allen was born and raised in Buffalo, NY where four older siblings indoctrinated him into the twin cults high-fidelity and concept-albums. This was a home in which albums were works of art to be appreciated while sitting quietly in front of the speakers, and the speakers themselves (Magnaplaners) were to be keenly appreciated as well. For Allen, the photograph on the cover of the album Switched on Bach by Moog synth pioneer Wendy Carlos left a deep impression of what might be a possible future, and Farmelo spent a lot of time staring at it. Meanwhile, ear training through the Suzuki violin method and rigid classical piano training influenced Allen’s early sense of how accuracy and feel were deeply related.The 80s
Farmelo’s aesthetic liberation saw a major surge at age fourteen when he saw David Bowie live. A pink paisley Telecaster, British new wave albums and fashion explorations sustained him for a couple of years, and then at age sixteen he saw Sonic Youth play for a handful of people in a Polish Cadets Hall (this same show is fabled in Michael Azzerad’s book “Our Band Could Be Your Life”). This show triggered sustained fits of distorted pink Telecaster abandon, so much so that Farmelo was invited to play with free-noise improvisers like Jack Wright and Ralph Arrington before exiting high school. It was a noisy time, with naive anarchist philosophy informing swirling feedback and purposeful atonality.
But high-fidelity and conceptual structure were never far away, and by age seventeen Farmelo was layering his sonic anarchy onto the highly polished post-punk-prog band RedDog7. It was with RedDog7 that Allen stepped into proper studios to record the same album twice before finding the right sound and approach. The engineer on the second set of sessions was more interested in watching playoff hockey than recording some noisy band, so he showed the teenager, Farmelo, how to run the console and tape machine and left him to it. This was another life changing moment in which Allen’s feral musical abandon was rendered to the hi-fi standards with which he’d been raised. Because he now knew how to make an album in a proper studio, people starting asking Farmelo for his help making records, and it wasn’t long before he was overseeing other bands’ recording projects, a role he cherished as he approached his 20s.The 90s
Eschewing college for music, Allen delved into a relentless combination of factory work, running live soundt, touring with RedDog7, living and recording in band houses, and spending every penny he earned on recording gear. After four years of this life his band started to dissolve, the live sound company he worked for went belly up, and his partner in his recording rig fell in love, got married and moved south. Pending a final solo trip around the USA in the band’s van, Allen relented and tried his hand at college.
Under the controversial ethnomusicologist Charles Keil, Farmelo found himself helping to rewrite the central tenets of Western musical aesthetics, but the ultimate purpose of Allen’s academic work was to rewrite the history of Bluegrass music and, almost inadvertently, suggest an alternative racial history for all of American popular music. Parts of Allen’s Masters thesis have been reprinted numerous time and and are cited and taught in university settings to this day.
Eventually falling back in love with studio work, Allen dropped a full-ride offer to get a PhD. from NYU in favor of bouncing between studios in Buffalo, Toronto and NYC to further build up his recording chops and discography.The 00s
Allen finally settled into a job as staff engineer at Buffalo’s Chameleon West Studios (owned and run by The Goo Goo Dolls), where he wound up engineering sessions with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan in the abandoned studio Allen had originally recorded in as a teenager. (Because it was so cold, Ian renamed it “The Nipple Farm.”) Producing Ian’s record was the venerable Nick Blagona, a Toronto-based producer with a discography that includes Chicago, The BeeGees, The Police, Cat Stevens, Richie Havens and Count Basie. Nick’s generous mentoring had an enormous impact on Allen, tying him directly to a legacy of engineering that stretched back to 1960s London where Nick learned from the pioneers of early multitrack recordmaking.
Allen hadn’t been changed by an album in a long while, but when he heard Sigur Ros’ album ( ), he entered into an aesthetic reconfiguration as powerful as those he experienced as a teenager. Today, one can hear the impact of this album’s vast sonic and conceptual wholeness in some of Farmelo’s productions from this time. This album also rekindled an interest in Iceland, and Farmelo now makes regular trips to Iceland where he has struck up a friendship with Valgeir Sigurðsson and other members of Iceland’s fertile music scene.
Allen relocated permanently to NYC in 2004 where he hooked up with Mavericks Studio and began his freelance career in earnest. He also became a senior contributor to Tape Op Magazine around this time.The 10s
For all of the ‘oughts, Allen worked as a traveling freelance producer, mixer and engineer with bands like The Cinematic Orchestra, Pronto (Mikael Jorgensen of Wilco), The Loom, Talk Normal and more, making records that still reflect his commitment to unbridled creativity and the high-fidelity. In 2010, he collaborated with UM Project to build a custom API console, which has become the centerpiece of his mixing studio.The Teens
In 2013, Farmelo founded the record label Butterscotch Records. The label is dedicated to high fidelity productions of music that is not always presented with these concerns in tact. Bands include Mikael Jorgensen (of Wilco), Graph Rabbit, New Weather, Blurry, and Carolina Eyck. Butterscotch is distributed through Redeye Distribution and has gained a wide audience through a month-long art and performance series present in October 2013 in conjunction with Moog Music. In 2014, Allen moved to The Hudson Valley where he and his partner inhabit a one-room schoolhouse built in 1873. With 12′ ceilings and vast dimensions, the schoolhouse serves as tracking and mixing studio for most of Allen’s work in the US.