CLINTON HILL, BROOKLYN: If there’s one thing New York City needs more of, it’s gardens.
Just the word itself has a therapeutic effect, invoking a harmonious convergence of beauty and order. So it’s no wonder that stepping into the Clinton Hill studio that calls itself The Garden evokes a similar feeling.
A place where new sounds and creative relationships are actively nurtured, The Garden is more than just a facility – this is a collective that aspires to combine artists and music possibilities in an inspiring way. Founded by the highly experienced drummer/engineer/studio designer Drew Vogelman, its arrival represents an exciting new audio option for composers, mixers and producers in search of a different Brooklyn vibe.
Vogelman’s colorful career in the entertainment industry has included everything from drumming for comedian/intellectual-turned-Senator Al Franken and Matthew Sweet to designing audio & VFX post facilities such as JWTwo for J.Walter Thompson and K5 Productions for BBDO. He took a decade-plus break from studio proprietorship after owning Dessau Studios, a well-equipped audio outpost in the Financial District. But after he and his family occupied a Brooklyn brownstone, the opportunity to build out the 1,400 sq. ft. space, including the namesake outdoor garden, was too tantalizing to ignore.
The result is The Garden, where an SSL AWS 900 SE+ console and an extremely expansive selection of analog outboard meld seamlessly with digital tools and humans – the more of the latter, the better. “People are stimulated by other people,” Vogelman says. “When you get into a room with other people and you start bouncing ideas off of each other, or just intuitively/ instinctively reacting, that’s when the most interesting stuff happens.
“As people get to know this space, they always react positively to it,” he continues. “It’s really comfortable, really private, and there’s good equipment. I hope that, as people get to know that this is here, they’ll feel comfortable and know that the idea is one of collaboration – social and creative.”
True to form, word is starting to get around, and the group around the garden is growing larger. The varied clientele includes Producer/Engineers Ben Kane (D’Angelo), Tony Fennell (Ultravox, Edwin Starr), and Russell Elevado (Jay-Z, The Roots, Alicia Keys); and artists including jazz/hip hop drummer Chris Daddy Dave, Chicago neo-soul artist Wendell Ray, R&B singer/songwriter Emily King, Dutch R&B artist Alain Clark, and even sound artists Kristen Oppenheim (check out her piece in the current New Museum show “Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star”) and Bruce Pearson.
Deep Design and Inventory
Situated on one of those pastoral Brooklyn blocks, The Garden is on the bleeding edge between Clinton Hill and the Brooklyn Navy Yards, a stone’s throw from Pratt Institute. While engineers and producers definitely have personal spots nearby, Vogelman’s facility occupies a zone not yet saturated with commercial studios. With the artistic beehive nearby, The Garden’s location is a double bonus.
Upon arrival, those visiting The Garden instantly enter a calming but creative headspace. Pass by the small-but-mighty drum room on the left, and you’ll find yourself in The Garden’s extremely well-equipped control/mix room.
Designed with the help of Vogelman’s friend, the legendary Al Fierstein, the spacious suite is appointed with maple parquet floors below and a birch ceiling above. A marble and walnut fireplace adds to the ambience, as does the exposed brick rear wall, and the vintage armoire which holds The Garden’s sharp mic collection.
While engineers, producers and artists may feel the vibe, what they’ll see – and then hear – is the gear. Acquired over the course of his multiple decades in audio, Vogelman currently sports seven full racks of mic pres, dynamics, EQs, effects and converters ranging from classic to cutting-edge. Far too numerous to list, highlights include rack units and 500 modules from Neve, API, Shep, EMI, GML, Langevin, Theremonic Culture, Langevin, Helios, and Burl.
Across the room, the lucky Gardener tending to all this bounty pilots the aforementioned SSL AWS900E + v4 with AFADA automation. Pro Tools 10, Logic, & Ableton are on hand, and there’s plenty more in the box, with soft synths such as NI Komplete 7, Arturia Omnisphere and Trillian, and plugins including Sound Toys, the Waves Platinum bundle, Massey, Sonnox, Melodyne, Kontact 4/5. An unusually deep sound sample library is also available, collected over the years while working with producers like Fred Mahr, Mike Thorne, Alan Friedman, Dave Sardy and others – including the Mellotron from Sear Sound, various grand pianos, even drums thru the PA at CBGBs.
All the better to listen to via a selection of monitors that includes Barefoot Sound MM35’s, Genelec 1030A’s, Yamaha NS10M’s powered by B&K 442 200w per side twin mono-block with Dynaudio M9 sub woofer, and Avantone mix cubes. Lust for tape? Studer A80 MKII, Studer A810, Studer A807, and Revox PR99HS machines are all available.
Should inspiration be sought, the instrument list will get you started. Drew’s three personal Gretsch drum kits, including one from 1959, and 12 snares are there, as are guitars and basses from Martin Acoustics, Fender, Stratocaster, Telecaster, a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top and Les Paul custom, plus Fender Twin, Blues Jr, Bassman, Marshall amps, GK amps, and a Leslie cabinet.
Vintage keys include Arp Solina Strings, Wurlitzer, and Clavinet Duo, along with more synthetic goodies such as the Korg M-1, Korg MS2000, Korg Triton, Korg Wavestation, Yamaha Piano, Sherman Filterbank 2, Dave Smith Mopho & Tetra, and the Analogue Solutions’ Station X & Y.
Cultivating a Hybrid Approach
If you don’t know whether to start with The Garden’s plethora of real-world instruments and analog gear, or go for the comprehensive collection of soft synths and plugins first, don’t worry.
“It’s not about analog versus digital, it’s about analog with digital,” Vogelman says of his studio. “I think the two of them combined are more powerful than either of them apart. The SSL AWS 900 is the perfect template: They took the sound of an SSL analog console, and then put the power of digital into it. I see the studio as the same idea.
“What you can do with sound in a computer is phenomenal,” he adds. “Some music records beautifully strictly to digital, and how you can manipulate it is just amazing. Being a drummer, I think there’s nothing like playing real drums with good mics, good pres, and capturing to a DAW – I don’t miss the hiss, that’s for sure. But what’s the most fun for me is looking at how you take all that digital capability, integrate it with the old analog, and make it so they work seamlessly.”
While artists and audio pros of all stripes can find a use for The Garden, Vogelman sees composers and mixers especially benefitting from what the studio has to offer. “Most bands won’t have a budget to record and they end up recording some in a studio and a lot on their own,” he says.
“Bringing those tracks to a place like this to mix can have a huge impact on the finished record; you can really bring those tracks to life.”