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Success, right on cue

Wed., May 23, 2007

Whether you watch national or cable TV, see movies or play video games, chances are you’ve heard music made by the artists at Spokane’s Cue 11.

The sound-recording studio a few miles north of downtown recently expanded its offerings to include video by Marlin Video Productions Ltd., a one-man shop Dave Marlin opened in Spokane about 20 years ago.

Cue 11’s owner Dave Cebert, a keyboardist and sound engineer, met Marlin a few months ago and learned they shared a number of the same national clients. It didn’t take long for the two to team up on projects calling for images and sound.

Recently they relocated to a former Spokane firehouse off Division Street to work more closely together.

Clients include The Discovery Channel, National Geographic channel, HGTV, all three major television networks, PBS and many more. Regional customers range from Gonzaga University’s athletic department to Yoke’s Fresh Markets.

Cebert established Cue 11 in 2004, changing its identity from Vu Music, the parent company he co-founded. Cue 11 is one of the company’s divisions. The company draws its name from “cueing up music” and a funny line about amplifiers that “go to 11” in the film “This is Spinal Tap.”

In November, Cebert moved his company from the basement of his Spokane home, where he and co-workers “cranked” out products for about eight years.

Cue 11’s new building boasts a sound stage, high-definition video editing bay, recording studio and a client waiting room offering Nintendo’s video game console, Wii, on a plasma screen TV and a kitchen.

Creating music to support TV shows is Cue 11’s specialty.

Discovery’s “The Deadliest Catch,” National Geographic’s “Amazing Planet” and “A Man Among Wolves,” NCAA Sweet 16 coverage and New York City TV newscasts all feature Cue 11 riffs.

Gold and silver statuettes, including some from the prestigious Emmy and Addy awards, shine from Cue 11’s client lounge.

Cebert said rapid technology advances make it ever easier to keep clients happy in Los Angeles, New York and points beyond.

“We’re very lucky to be able, from Spokane, to do what we do,” Cebert said. “And we never take it for granted.”

Jobs may run anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, Cebert said. Company revenues have tripled since Cue 11 opened it doors. Cebert declined to disclose the numbers.

Filling out the creative team are composer and keyboardist Joe Brasch, who’s been with the company for eight years and manages the band Celebrate and plays with the local band The Trailer Park Girls.

Executive vice president and agent Shawn West, who represented actors like Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford, joined the company a few years ago after moving to Spokane to marry and start a family. Brent Oty handles the financial side.

Cue 11’s break came in the mid-1990s when an NBC executive commissioned music on the fly for the then-new TV show “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

After that, word of mouth spread and one job led to another, Cebert said.

Creating sounds to enhance images may take days. But Cue 11’s creators thrive on the quick turn — like the morning NBC called and needed original music to air at 2 p.m. for their 2004 coverage of the winter Olympics, Cebert said.

“That when it gets really fun,” Cebert said with a laugh.

While most of the sounds that come from the company are custom compositions created on site, Cue 11 makes about 40 percent of its earnings by licensing canned music made by some 60 U.S. composers clients can download from the Cue 11Web site.

Though Cebert said his company puts in as much time as necessary to satisfy clients, he also wants the company’s work environment to be conducive to creativity.

Dimmed lights, lava lamps, a plethora of musical and recording instruments, giant posters and even a talking Donald Trump doll are some of the fun fixtures of the place.

And other professionals can rent the facilities, too.

“We wanted to create a cool hang for producers, editors, musicians and ‘creatives,’ ” Cebert said.


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