A large-scale operation in a relatively small-town setting just minutes away from the George Washington Bridge, the converted 100-year-old Victorian railroad station housed two world-class rooms in the Neve VR60-equipped North Studio and SSL4080 South Studio.
Although the facility was often bustling with activity for elite artists including Trey Anastasio, Rob Thomas, Teddy Riley, k.d. lang, and – of course – Tony Bennett – ultimately the one-two punch of escalating overhead and shrinking major label budgets proved too costly for Bennett Studios to overcome.
“I’ve been doing this for over thirty years, and I’ve been through many ups and downs,” Dae Bennett said. “The economic downturn, combined with the collapse of the music industry, was a little more than I could get through. We managed to stay busy, but the industry itself isn’t trending well.
“We tried to hold the rates as much as we could, but the costs keep increasing,” Bennett continued. “The energy costs have literally doubled over the last three years. Without the record companies being interested in records anymore, the math doesn’t add up.”
Bennett applied “a little poetry” in curtailing operations on September 6, 2011 – ten years to the day after the Andy Munro-designed studios opened its doors. The facility went out in style, hosting the entirety of mixing and editing for Tony Bennett’s “Duets II”, the highly anticipated album from Dae’s universally respected father which features pairings with Andrea Bocelli, Natalie Cole, Sheryl Crow, Aretha Franklin, Lady Gaga, Willie Nelson, the late Amy Winehouse (in her final recording) and many more. Michael Bublé and Josh Groban tracked their songs for the record, which will be released September 20th, at Bennett Studios.
The closing puts four full-time staffers out of work, and leaves NYC’s area freelance engineers and artists with one less resource for large-scale, world-class tracking and mixing. “We were one of the last facilities in the tri-state area with the space to do the kind of projects we did here,” Bennett notes.
A 30-year veteran at running recording facilities – he previously helmed New Jersey’s Hillside Sound Studio – Bennett will continue to maintain his focus on engineering, working on select recordings as well as an ongoing regimen of location and TV post production projects.
The rooms in Englewood may have gone dark, but the sense of optimism and adventure with which Bennett lighted them is worthy of note. As much a laboratory for adaptive music industry ideas as it was an audio facility, Bennett Studios will be missed by the many artists and sound professionals who had the opportunity to work there. “18 records from here won GRAMMY Awards, and one of them won an Emmy,” Dae Bennett concludes. “I’m very proud of the accomplishments here.”
— David Weiss