What I’m Listening To is a series where we talk to exciting artists, musicians, and establishment owners and get a five-song slice of their current playlist.

“I don’t know why I thought those people on the radio had some special power but when I realized that I could make those sounds on the radio I decided that I wanted to play guitar.”

Photo courtesy of Patrick Hills.
The first time Patrick Hills saw an electric guitar was in the seventh grade. It was in the hands of his friend Eric Cavanna who showed off his skills by playing songs he’d heard on the radio. “My mind was blown. I had no idea you could do that. I don’t know why I thought those people on the radio had some special power but when I realized that I could make those sounds on the radio I decided that I wanted to play guitar,” said Hills, owner and engineer at Earth Tone Studios, and this month’s WILT playlist curator.
To help him recreate the magic of the radio, Hills made Cavanna write out all the songs he knew. He then mowed his parent’s lawn until he could afford his own guitar from the JC Penny catalog. “The rest is I guess whatever they say about history.”
He got into recording as a necessity. “I was young and had ideas I wanted to document. I didn’t have money to record in professional studios so I would have to find more creative ways to record them. I enjoyed working on them and moving the mic around so I just continued to experiment and learn.”

Eventually, his self-taught recording became Earth Tone Studios. The when of it, however, is hard for Hills to pinpoint. “I’ve always been recording and as long as I’ve been writing music but I guess my first official release was in 2008 with Tera Melos Idioms Vol. 1.” The studio came about gradually. “Friends of mine [heard] recordings I had done for my own bands. They would ask if I would do the same with for them. After I had done a number of recordings for bands around Sacramento I figured I should come up with a name.  Everything I had come up with was taken including Earth Tone but I was over it. I hate naming things.” And so the one-man studio was born. 

Now Hills spends his days getting paid to make music, which he says is “pretty cool.” He enjoys recording all kinds of genres and exploring what each different artist brings to the table.”Luckily Sacramento has a really diverse music scene so it isn’t uncommon for me to record a black metal group and the very next day be working with a folk artist.” Some albums require more out of the box thinking than others though. “I made an album called X’ed Out for Tera Melos and one day we made a percussion track out of a McDonalds Egg McMuffin.”


So what is the mind behind Earth Tone Studios listening to? “I don’t think I listen to music the same way a lot of other people listen to music. I don’t really listen to the lyrics and a lot of the time the musical compositions aren’t something I pay attention to. I don’t really focus on individual songs. The production of the actual album is what intrigues and stimulates me.”

Joy Division-Unknown Pleasures “I know you can walk around any mall and find teenagers wearing the shirt but Martin Hannett’s productions always blow my mind and inspire me to be more creative.”



Muddy Waters-Folk Singer“Willie Dixon recorded this one and it is the most three-dimensional recordings I have ever heard. If you turn it up loud you really feel like you are in the room with the musicians.”



Cornelius-Point“Keigo Oyamada produced this himself and it is the definition of precise. It is so perfectly executed that at times I feel claustrophobic listening to it… It’s awesome.”



Pink Floyd-Dark Side of The Moon“I mean, let’s be real, this record is a masterpiece.”



The Clash-Sandinista!“This is not the popular choice as far as Clash records go but it still stands as my favorite. There are a million different sounds and each time I listen I notice something new. There are … weird moments and hit songs, it’s everything a record should be.”


When not recording, Hills plays with bands.”Some of them serious, some of them just one-off performances and not serious endeavors. I just like playing with different people it brings different things out of me.” This fall you can catch him playing bass with Tera Melos as they open for Minus the Bear’s farewell tour.


Learn more about Earth Tone Studios here.


Words: Katta Hules.

Leave a Reply