Zach Shipps' former Hamtramck apartment was a sight to behold. The Electric Six guitarist snaked wires through walls and along floors, as the tiny flat doubled as an improbable studio — lovingly dubbed the Hamtramck Sound Machine. There, Shipps (aka "The Colonel" in E6) produced huge-sounding records for Electric Six, Hard Lessons and Nice Device, among others. He also did the infamous "White Gold" milk campaign.
Shipp's production skills rose from on-the-job training as one of a few great rock 'n' roll guitarists the D has seen in the last decade.
He started in the late '90s with the unsung Atomic Numbers (the Hard Lessons' Augie Visocchi was a huge fan) and went on to play with Brendan Benson and the Wellfed Boys (Benson's best lineup), the Mood Elevator (with Benson), the Nice Device, Aquarius Void and, since 2004, the Electric Six. These days, when not touring with E6, or producing records in his basement, Shipps is a composer at Yessian Music's commercial studio in Farmington.
In August, after 10 years in Hamtramck, Shipps crated up the Sound Machine and moved to a much roomier place in Birmingham — there just wasn't enough space in his Hamtown digs for a studio, himself and his fiancee Amy Gay. The new crib's more couple-friendly and the large basement can house a whole band and the control room.
Shipps lifted bits of old Hamtramck for the new studio — "I tried to make my basement look like [legendary Hamtown eatery] Polish Village Cafe." There's even an eagle overlooking the mixing board. Though Shipps and Gay dig the fresh digs, the producer-guitarist still gazes fondly on the old Hamtramck Sound Machine — "It was a good home for 10 years, but a man can only eat so much pierogi."
The new Electric Six album, Flashy, hits retail Oct. 21, and you can see the Electric Six on Saturday, Nov. 29, at St. Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress, Detroit; 313-961-MELT. Look for the White Gold videos on YouTube.