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Feature length documentary about the legendary recording facility, Smart Studios, and the Midwest link to American rock history.
Smart Studios
looked like  another Midwestern warehouse left behind
by the economic decline of the 1980s. No one viewing its depleted
exterior could have guessed what was going on inside - and how it
would change the sound of music forever.
Smart Studios looked like  another Midwestern warehouse left behind by the economic decline of the 1980s. No one viewing its depleted exterior could have guessed what was going on inside - and how it would change the sound of music forever.
787 backers pledged $122,230 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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The Smart Studios Story

$122,230

787

The Smart Studios Story 

If you've ever been touched by the music of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, L7, Killdozer, Die Kreuzen, Tar Babies, Against Me!, Death Cab For Cutie, etc. you've been touched by the music created at Smart Studios, the legendary Midwestern recording facility owned by Butch Vig and Steve Marker. The music and the scene all collided in a two-story brick building sitting virtually unnoticed on the east side of Madison, WI. (Click on above photo for film trailer!) 

Smart Studios
Smart Studios

Winter of 2010, the studio closed after 28 years. And while the death of Smart marked the end of an era, it also started people talking about the life of the studio and profound influence it had on music history.

How did Nirvana end up in Madison, WI? How did they find Butch Vig? Could the noise-rock band Killdozer be the Midwest's link to the biggest genre shift in rock music history? 

VIDEO LINK  ** Click here for a taste of history **

It's the story you never knew you didn't know - Join our DIY campaign and be a part of this powerful project. Let's give rock history what it deserves - a Midwest makeover!

"Hallowed Ground" or "Noisy Little Shithole"?

Dos Hombres De Wisco (Steve Marker and Butch Vig)
Dos Hombres De Wisco (Steve Marker and Butch Vig)

In 1983, two Midwestern audiophiles, Butch Vig and Steve Marker, began their partnership in Steve’s basement. While the studio was established in part as an outlet for Butch’s band, Spooner, their first warehouse space quickly attracted the attention of local bands that infused Madison’s diverse live music scene and typified other underground, “satellite” scenes around the US which defined early ‘80s independent music.

Milwaukee's Die Kreuzen © Ron Faiola, MilwaukeeRockPosters.com
Milwaukee's Die Kreuzen © Ron Faiola, MilwaukeeRockPosters.com

The Smart Studios Story covers the Midwest's post-hardcore scene, the early relationships of now-legendary indie labels (Touch and Go, Caroline, Frontier, Sub Pop, Slash, SST, Alternative Tentacles), and the circulation and broadcast of local music. Butch and Steve helped promote the bands and the shows with community radio airtime and cassette compilations that paralleled those of other regional, indie music disseminators like the Seattle-based Sub Pop Singles Club. 

Smart weathered - literally - fires, floods and the foibles of a generation of rockers. The film captures what the space meant to the people who worked there and celebrates the recordings and experiences that, in the words of an interviewee who grew up in Indonesia, made Smart “hallowed ground.”

The film so far...

"I sang 'She Knows' for 8 hours....." - Billy Corgan
"I sang 'She Knows' for 8 hours....." - Billy Corgan

I started shooting in 2010 with seed money and a credit card. Traveling around the country, I interviewed dozens of people who shared amazing stories about Smart Studios; the independent music scene over the past 30 years; and what it all meant to them. 

Amazing artists, record producers, and engineers have already given their time to this project, including Dave Grohl, Billy Corgan, Shirley Manson, Donita Sparks, Chris Walla, Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace, Butch Vig, Steve Marker, Duke Erikson, Ben Sidran, Jeff Castelaz, and members of the bands Killdozer, Die Kreuzen, Tar Babies, Young Fresh Fellows, Appliances, Ivory Library, Bongzilla, Appliances SFB.... the list goes on. 

The film is a people's history and now we need people like you (and your friends) to get it to the next phase. 

NEW EXCLUSIVE REWARDS ! 

NIRVANA NEVERMIND GOLD RECORD!
NIRVANA NEVERMIND GOLD RECORD!
NIRVANA NEVERMIND UK 1992 300,000 sales_Presented to Butch Vig
NIRVANA NEVERMIND UK 1992 300,000 sales_Presented to Butch Vig
GARBAGE_Platinum Status Reward presented to BUTCH VIG
GARBAGE_Platinum Status Reward presented to BUTCH VIG
GARBAGE CANADIAN PLATINUM Presented to Butch Vig
GARBAGE CANADIAN PLATINUM Presented to Butch Vig
Nirvana Nevermind GOLD RECORD presented to B. Vig 1992 w/small cover image
Nirvana Nevermind GOLD RECORD presented to B. Vig 1992 w/small cover image
GARBAGE PLATINUM - First Record 1996
GARBAGE PLATINUM - First Record 1996
Garbage GOLD RECORD ! Beautiful Garbage 2001
Garbage GOLD RECORD ! Beautiful Garbage 2001
GARBAGE - "Beautiful Garbage" Gold Record presented to Butch in 2002 - WOOD FRAME
GARBAGE - "Beautiful Garbage" Gold Record presented to Butch in 2002 - WOOD FRAME

LISA JOHNSON ROCK PHOTOGRAPHER SIGNED ROCK PRINTS!

**MUSEUM QUALITY ARCHIVAL PRINT***  

Prints are on 16x20 paper *actual image on paper is smaller than 16x20 to account for sloppy black line*

GOOD LUCK  - THESE ARE STUNNING and VERY RARE!


NIRVANA August 1993 Edgewater Hotel in Seattle Lisa Johnson Rock Photographer LIMITED Rock Print - very rare.
NIRVANA August 1993 Edgewater Hotel in Seattle Lisa Johnson Rock Photographer LIMITED Rock Print - very rare.
BILLY CORGAN - 1994 Last Day of Lollapalooza - Lisa Johnson Rock Photographer - LIMITED
BILLY CORGAN - 1994 Last Day of Lollapalooza - Lisa Johnson Rock Photographer - LIMITED
BILLY CORGAN - Silver Suit - Lisa Johnson Rock Photographer
BILLY CORGAN - Silver Suit - Lisa Johnson Rock Photographer
L7! - Lisa Johnson Rock Photographer - LIMITED
L7! - Lisa Johnson Rock Photographer - LIMITED

3 NEW REWARD TIERS - ALL IN ONE PIC !

**Exclusive Tier** Sure SM 57 Microphone from SMART! This mic has recorded the likes of many a snare and guitar at the studio. Whether you want it for your alter or your studio - it's a piece of serious history AND just about one of the coolest microphones in the world. All previos rewards included (exept for exclusives) See pic on story page GOOD LUCK!

**Exclusive Tier** Original Studio ads from the mid-90s! These are all from the "Not For Geeks" logo stage AND are all flood damaged - ha! All signed by Butch and Steve and very cool to frame. (quantity 11 - 1 per pledge)

**Exclusive Tier** 1/4" Splicing Block from STUDIO A! Another item for the alter or the studio if you're cutting tape. We've all spent hours and hours using this bloc to cut the old 1/4" masters - NIRVANA, SMASHING PUMPKINS, etc.....

NEW TIER ITEMS- 57, Splicing block, ads
NEW TIER ITEMS- 57, Splicing block, ads

NEW REWARD TIER!

**EXCLUSIVE TIER** SMART'S FIRST TAPE DECK! The oldest relic in the history of Smart Studios has been added to the tier. THE ORIGINAL TEAC 3440 ANALOG TAPE DECK (not currently operational) has been pulled out of storage by Steve Marker and has gone up on the block! Good luck on this one.... it's MAJOR.

Original Smart Studios control room
Original Smart Studios control room
 

NEW REWARD TIER!

LIMITED RUN, HOME MADE "BUTCH VIG REMIX COMPILATION"

Butch Vig home made artwork for CD compilation - see rewards
Butch Vig home made artwork for CD compilation - see rewards

 From the Vig Vault: A CD of 15 classic remixes personally compiled by Butch including House of Pain, Beck, NIN, Depeche Mode, Garbage, U2, Against Me!, Killdozer and more. Each CD compilation includes original artwork created and signed by Butch along with a handwritten note.

All 20 of these limited addition CDs are for promotional purposes only.

All previous pledge gifts will be included in this package. Share the campaign love (TWO WEEKS TO GO) and good luck to everyone!

NEW REWARD TIER ADDED!

Original Smart Studios FLOOD DAMAGED BOOKING CALENDARS! Garbage scheduling dates all the way back to their FIRST RECORD - many more! Check rewards.... Good Luck. 

Original STUDIO BOOKING CALENDARS - ** flood damaged **
Original STUDIO BOOKING CALENDARS - ** flood damaged **

NEW EXCLUSIVE PLEDGE TIER: 

NEW VIDEO POST SHOT 3/4/14: Wendy promotes doc on Max Ink Radio's The Jimmy K Show!

NEW EXCLUSIVE PLEDGE TIERS ADDED !  

We've added 27 amazing B&W prints of live shows featuring bands that recorded at Smart in the 1980s and 1990s. Nirvana, Die Kreuzen, Killdozer, Laughing Hyenas, Cosmic Psychos, Urge Overkill. Check'em out ! All photos by Jay Brown (jfotoman.com).

SEE "PHOTO VIDEO" BELOW

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What's my connection?

My connection to the story began in 1992 – I was a young engineer who walked into a dilapidated brick building and once inside was completely transformed. These Wisconsin folks and their hardcore approach to making records was both intimidating and intriguing. They had a casual style rooted in a Midwestern work ethic that almost went un-noticed - until you heard the music.  It was why everyone was drawn to Smart – and to Butch and Steve - and it was why I started to work there. In 2007 I shifted gears and produced my first documentary. I've been working in production ever since. 

Where will the money go?

At this stage of production your funding will support:  Editing :: Logging :: Research :: Shooting/Scanning :: Production office rental :: Production Staff :: Kickstarter's share and Incentives.  

The goal is to have a successful campaign and spend the next 6 months editing all of the existing footage we have - about 70 hours worth. We'll be one major step closer to finishing The Smart Studios Story 

If we raise more than $120,000? 

If we raise more then our goal for this campaign we'll continue working after this next phase is complete. There are still some key interviews to shoot plus post-production, titles, sweetening, and licensing. 

What happens after the film's done?

The Smart Studios Story will be submitted to film festivals that embrace the spirit of music, art, independence, culture, American history and all things underground. 

Risks and challenges

The biggest challenge has been riding out the stretches of time when the project really needed funds to keep going. But the wait was never a deterrent - the stops and starts over the past 4 years only prove that the film's not going away.

And the risks? The biggest risk is not telling the story of Smart Studios and leaving one hell of a chapter out of the history book on American Rock Music.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

FAQ

Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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  1. Select this reward

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    You will join the project by having your name included in The Wall of NOISE - The Kickstarter credits of the film.

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    A digital download of the film plus a pack of (10) Hi-Rz, beautiful & unique Documentary Film Screen Savers. PLUS previous reward.

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    Everything included in the previous pledge PLUS a digital copy of the soon to be written and recorded anthem of gratitude,"We Are The Noise!" featuring artists in the documentary.

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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: KILLDOZER_01: Live
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
    AND includes everything listed in previous pledges!

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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: KILLDOZER_02: Promo Shot
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: URGE OVERKILL_01: Americruiser Tour 1990
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    Rock Print: URGE OVERKILL_02: Americruiser Tour 1990
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: COSMIC PSYCHOS_01
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: COSMIC PSYCHOS_02
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: COSMIC PSYCHOS_03
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: DIE KREUZEN_01: 1985
    Original 8 x 10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    Rock Print: DIE KREUZEN_02: 1985
    Original 8 x 10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    * EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: DIE KREUZEN_03: 1987
    Original 8 x 10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    Rock Print: LAUGHING HYENAS_02: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH
    Original 8 x 10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    Rock Print: LAUGHING HYENAS_03: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH
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    * EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: DIE KREUZEN_03: 1987
    Original 8 x 10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    Rock Print: LAUGHING HYENAS_01: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH
    Original 8 x 10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    * EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: COSMIC PSYCHOS_04: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1992 (Horizontal)
    Original 11x14 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    Rock Print: LAUGHING HYENAS_04: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH
    Original 11 x 14 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    You will receive everything included in the previous pledges plus an exclusive download of interview outtakes from The Smart Studios Story production.

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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Butch Vig / GARBAGE Vic Firth Drum sticks! These have a printed BV signature HOWEVER - Butch will actually sign these - so you'll have a double-signed, fresh pair of beaters. Good Luck.
    All previous gifts (other then exclusives) included.

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    *GARBAGE EXCLUSIVE*
    We're releasing 40 pages from the studio's ORIGINAL SCHEDULING BINDER - now flood damaged, so extra special. 40 different months between 1995 and 2001 with GARBAGE's studio "lockouts" are available. PICTURE ON CAMPAIGN PAGE - Good luck!
    **all previous pledge rewards included :)

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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: NIRVANA_01: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1991and Butch Vig SIGNED COPY OF NEVERMIND CD.
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
    AND includes everything listed in previous pledges!

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    Rock Print: NIRVANA_02: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1991and Butch Vig SIGNED COPY OF NEVERMIND CD.
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    * EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: NIRVANA_04: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1991 and Butch Vig SIGNED COPY OF NEVERMIND CD.
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: NIRVANA_06: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1991and Butch Vig SIGNED COPY OF NEVERMIND CD.
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: NIRVANA_07: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1991and Butch Vig SIGNED COPY OF NEVERMIND CD.
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    Rock Print: NIRVANA_08: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1991and Butch Vig SIGNED COPY OF NEVERMIND CD.
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: NIRVANA_09: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1991and Butch Vig SIGNED COPY OF NEVERMIND CD.
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    **EXCLUSIVE TIER**
    11 BRICKS from Smart Studios are now available!
    ONE PER REWARD PLEDGE FOR THIS TIER
    Gnarly and old - but if you want a piece of the building - it's yours!
    All previous gifts (exept exclusives) included. GOOD LUCK!

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    You will receive all previous gifts PLUS an 8 x 10 color photograph of the studio signed by owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker, A Smart Studios patch and a pack of 5 promotional stickers.

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    $250
    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: NIRVANA_03: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1991
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
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    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: NIRVANA_05: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1991
    Original 8x10 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
    AND includes everything listed in previous pledges!

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    ** EXCLUSIVE GARBAGE TIER **
    GARBAGE Vow single - mint condition and signed by the entire band.
    A side: Vow
    B side: Subhuman
    These are almost 20 years old and impossible to track down.
    Includes previous rewards (except exclusives).
    Good luck -

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: NIRVANA_10: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1991 (Horizontal) and Butch Vig SIGNED COPY OF NEVERMIND CD.
    Original 11x14 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
    AND includes everything listed in previous pledges!

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: NIRVANA_11: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1991 (Vertical) and Butch Vig SIGNED COPY OF NEVERMIND CD.
    Original 11x14 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
    AND includes everything listed in previous pledges!

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  37. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    *EXCLUSIVE TIER *
    Rock Print: NIRVANA_12: live at Stache’s in Columbus, OH 1991 (Vertical) and Butch Vig SIGNED COPY OF NEVERMIND CD.
    Original 11x14 Print signed by photographer Jay Brown and studio owners Butch Vig and Steve Marker (See Photo Video to see all prints)
    AND includes everything listed in previous pledges!

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    **Exclusive Tier**
    Sure SM 57 Microphone from SMART!
    This mic has recorded the likes of many a snare and guitar at the studio. Whether you want it for your alter or your studio - it's a piece of serious history AND just about one of the coolest microphones in the world.
    All previos rewards included (exept for exclusives)
    See pic on story page
    GOOD LUCK!

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    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    LIMITED RUN, HOME MADE "BUTCH VIG REMIX COMPILATION"

    From the Vig Vault: A CD of 15 classic remixes personally compiled by Butch including House of Pain, Beck, NIN, Depeche Mode, Garbage, U2, Against Me!, Killdozer and more. Each CD compilation includes original artwork created and signed by Butch along with a handwritten note.
    CDs are for promotional purposes only.
    All previous pledge gifts will be included in this package. Share the campaign love and good luck to everyone!

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    You will receive all previous gifts PLUS a salvaged moldy relic from the famous studio flood of ‘96, AND a Smart Studios skull cap!

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