These headphones were developed in conjunction with Grammy-winning audio engineer, Young Guru (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake, Alicia Keys), who personally designed and engineered a unique frequency response for the TMA-1 Studio.
The AIAIAI TMA-1 Studio reference headphones will be available worldwide July, 17th for $249USD MSRP. Here are more details from AIAIAI and Young Guru:
“The TMA-1 Studio Young Guru Edition is the latest professional headphone from acclaimed audio technology manufacturer AIAIAI designed and engineered in collaboration with Grammy-winning sound engineer Young Guru whose work includes Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake, and Alicia Keys. The Young Guru Edition is design for the highly discerning on-the-go producer and sound engineer in need of a durable reference headphone that delivers high-quality, full clarity, detailed audio for the studio and on the road use. The professional reference headphone is centered on a signature sound design by Young Guru offering an accurate audio representation of a physical studio environment in a pair of headphone whether producing, mixing or engineering music.
- Sound – developed in collaboration with the Grammy-winning sound engineer, the Young Guru signature sound accurately replicates the studio environment for discerning reference monitoring, supported by a high-grade 40mm titanium driver.
- Cushions – the interchangeable earpads are made of soft Japanese memory foam polyurethane ensuring maximum comfort for lengthy sessions, while a high-quality microfiber material covers the earpads adding durability and an extra layer of comfort.
- Headband – the one-piece headband is designed for high durability to withstand daily use, and the polyurethane headband cushion is covered in a high-quality microfiber material for added comfort, while the adjustable earcups offer perfect ear positioning,
- Reduced Weight – the Young Guru Edition of the TMA-1 Studio is the lightest weighing TMA-1 model at just 180 grams (0.4 lbs), resulting in minimal weight-stress on the head during mixing sessions, making for a more comfortable fit and reducing listener fatigue.
- Cable & Plug – a robust all-metal plug with polished finish is accompanied by a top-grade, high-gauge flexible headphone cable designed to withstand the rigors of the road as well as minimize cable memory for ease-of-use in any listening environment.”
When it comes down to it, drums are at the core of what makes an NYC studio essential.
A fiercely dedicated player who has played on GRAMMY-winning tracks, Wissing has set up his NJ facility to stand up as one of the top rooms for drum recording on the East Coast. From the looks of his client list – Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Drake, and many more – he’s met his objective and then some.
But there’s flexible strategies to go along with it: clients can work with Wissing remotely via his plugged-in drum den (don’t miss his diverse player-portfolio below). And what’s more, the stylish digs provide full-service recording, rehearsal, and podcast support.
Laser focus and versatility in one place – it’s a double whammy that makes Triple Colossal worthy of a Sweet Spot.
Facility Name: Triple Colossal Studios/Indie Studio Drummer
Location: Hoboken, New Jersey
Neighborhood Advantages: We’re five blocks from the Hoboken PATH train, one subway stop from Manhattan, surrounded by gourmet coffee shops and amazing restaurants, in a great town full of talented, creative people. And our Manhattan skyline views are unparalleled!
Date of Birth: 2009
Facility Focus: We focus on tracking drums, but function as a full service recording, rehearsal and podcast studio.
Mission Statement: Our primary objective is to excel as a remote drum room for artists and producers everywhere, through www.indiestudiodrummer.com. We provide Grammy winning, Platinum selling, #1 charting drum tracks for everyone!
Clients/Credits: We’ve tracked drums for clients such as Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Jay Z, Rick Ross, Fabolous, “Glee,” CKO Trainer, Alpha Kids, Kirsten Thien, Michelle Citrin, and Elizabeth Chan; producers such as Ken Lewis, Tommy Faragher, Riley McMahon and Steve Addabbo; and dozens of independent artists and producers around the globe. Recently won a Grammy for drums on “Take Care” by Drake, too.
Key Personnel: Primarily it’s Dylan Wissing (session drummer/engineer and owner) and Matt Teitelman (drum tech and assistant engineer). Cooper Anderson and Mike Judeh engineer here occasionally as well.
System Highlight: The centerpiece of Triple Colossal is a world-class collection of drums and percussion, both modern and vintage. We have amazing kits from GMS, Drum Workshop, Ludwig, Slingerland ,Tama, Pearl, Gretsch and so on. Over 15 drum sets, 40 snares, and a mountain of cymbals and percussion. We can cover just about any percussive sound you can imagine, from the entire span of recorded music!
For tracking we use an API 3124, A Designs Pacifica, UA 4-7110d, SCA rack with A12, N72 and T15 pre’s, and vintage Magnacordette Stereo Tube Pre’s, through an RME Fireface UFX into Logic 9. We have a nice collection of microphones from AKG, Audio Technica, Audix, BLUE, CAD, Cascade, E/V, and Shure, both vintage and new. And we have great-sounding compressors from dbx, Valley People and FMR. Everything is monitored through Dynaudio BM15As.
For rehearsals and writing sessions, we have a vocal PA by Bose, amps from Fender and Hartke, and a Privia electric piano.
We take great pride in the condition and maintenance of our studio and equipment, as well. Everything works as it should, and is immediately accessible.
The building is on fire, you only have time to grab ONE thing to save, what is it? After rebuilding our studio in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene (our original location was completely destroyed by flooding from the storm), then weathering the massive flooding from Sandy when our new location was surrounded by three feet of water, the only thing we would save in a fire would be any living creature in the facility. Gear is easily replaced, people are not.
Having said that – musicians, please INSURE YOUR EQUIPMENT!!! It’s way cheaper than you think, and you will never regret the modest expense on the day that you need to make a claim. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need advice on where to turn, we can definitely make suggestions based on our experience.
Rave Reviews: What do people tell you they like/love about your studio? Most importantly for us, people love the drum sounds that they get out of our studio. We have a nice, balanced neutral-sounding room that is very easy to configure for a wide range of sounds. And of course, we have a huge collection of drums, percussion and recording gear to achieve just about any sound imaginable.
We’re passionate fans of great graphic and industrial design as well, and have designed the room inspired by both Machine Age 1930s and groovy analog 1970s. People seem to instantly get what we’re going for here, and dig it. That definitely translates into the music we make.
Most Memorable Session Ever: Recently had the Rolling Stones’ horn section in to track for a client – that was pretty damn fun (and exhausting – those guys are amazing, and FAST). We hosted a roundtable podcast discussion with professional kickboxers arguing diet with a nutritionist, which got fairly heated – the nutritionist had them on the ropes for a while there…
Session You’d Like to Forget: While there have been a few long and difficult tours I’d prefer to erase from memory, we’ve found something interesting and compelling in every recording client that has come through the door.
Dream Session: If John Legend and the Roots record a follow-up to “Wake Up!” I’d love to host and play drums when Questlove is on a coffee break. If I could get Duke Ellington’s Blanton/Webster-era band in here as well, that would be ideal. And after having tracked drums at Alicia Keys’ personal studio, I’d love to have her out to Hoboken to do some tracking at my place!
Dylan Wissing — for more information on Triple Colossal Studios, or to contact Dylan Wissing for drum tracking, please visit www.indiestudiodrummer.com.
PARK SLOPE, BROOKLYN: Role reversal can be a beautiful thing in the music world. When world-class musicians step out of the live room and into the producer’s chair, the possibilities are tantalizing.
One of the elite players of NYC experiencing this fluid situation is Bashiri Johnson, a highly sought-after percussion maestro who gets the call when it’s GOT to be right: A microsampling of his no-nonsense clientele includes James Taylor, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Angelique Kidjo, Madonna, Jay-Z, Sting, Bob Dylan, Herbie Hancock, Rancid and Black Uhuru.
Tune into the Grammy Awards or any other top-tier gala and you can count on seeing Johnson in the orchestra pit. And yes, that’s him completing the rhythm section in the riveting documentary of Michael Jackson’s final tour preparations, This Is It – need we say more?
With thousands of sessions under his belt – hundreds of which have become platinum or gold-selling recordings – Johnson has been constantly exposed to the best practices of the world’s great producers, and the lessons have stuck.
“A common thread of great production, that stands the test of time, is having a clear and an exact vision of what you’re shooting for in the project,” he says. “The road to that vision might have some twists and turns — you may have to get out of the vehicle and climb into another one – but they all have a definite vision of how that project is supposed to sound.
“I also I think a producer is someone that is able to assemble greatness and then realize it into an end result,” he continues. “They can say, ‘I need this bassist, because they give me this vibe. I need this drummer, this percussionist, this vocal team, this studio, this mixer…’ A great producer is someone who’s able to assemble all of those great elements into his pot, and then they’re the one stirring it. At the end of their process they come out with an incredibly tasty product.”
Johnson points to icons like Quincy Jones, David Foster, Gamble and Huff, Colonel Tom Parker, and George Martin as standard-setters that he actively studies. “I try to decipher and decode records. I’ll put on a Beatles record and break down specifically what the rhythm section or the vocal choir is doing, and say, ‘Why did they place the reverb only on the right, or suck out the EQ so its sounds like an AM radio?’ All of this affects the listener in a deep psychological way – all of the great producers know that, and I’m constantly studying that.”
Applying it to Anjali
The latest outlet for Johnson’s hard-earned studio lessons is the Bayside, Queens-based vocalist Artiste Anjali. Classically trained in Indian vocals, harmonium, and sitar, Anjali is emerging in the U.S. after a fast start in the world of Bollywood.
Her self-titled debut album was made in the buzzing cultural hub of Chennai, Madras India with the musicians of the extremely prolific Indian producer/composer A.R. Rahman. Working with Rahman’s drummer Sivamani, Anjali created “a bouquet of Bollywood” with the collection.
The first English language release for Anjali will be the EP Big Human, dropping on May 12th. The songs evoke the universal connectivity of Sade and the thick immersion of Portishead, interwoven with space, advanced world sounds, and often-aggressive electronic elements. Deep within are Brooklyn whispers of her earliest childhood (she was born in Bushwick), and the Latin rhythms and Soca vibes of her parents’ native Guyanna.
In 2011 Anjali was in search of a producer for Big Human, and was directed to Johnson by mutual friend Darren Moore, one of the head engineers at midtown’s Manhattan Center complex. With his own deep roots in world soul music, Johnson and Anjali quickly clicked, then got to work refining her adventurous concepts into full-fledged songs.
“Having such a great experience producing an album with a drummer lead me to the door of Bashiri Johnson for my second offering,” Anjali explains. “I knew my second album had to be a crossover project. I wanted to communicate with the entire universe.
“I had recently met Darren Moore from the Manhattan Center and his exact words were… ‘He’s the best I know.’ Bashiri was right for this EP because I wanted to capture something classic — I wanted these records to stand the test of time. Timeless music is hard to create. One has to be so open and honest. These qualities of his, to be true, is what I admired the most. His work is also visually stimulating and I am always directing the video in my head.”
The pair started out in Johnson’s personal studio in Park Slope, a well-equipped artist’s haven overlooking Prospect Park. “She came in with different sketches,” he says, “but many of them weren’t complete songs. I’m good at putting the frame around the sketch so it can exist as one piece of work. Take a song like ‘No Need,’ which is a rock/power pop song. When she came to my studio and first performed it for me, it was an almost mystical, slow lullabye at first.
“I said, ‘This is the way we should look at it’ – we gave it a power pop groove, I showed her how I thought she should sing it, and that’s when the song came alive and made sense. My strength is in helping an artist to realize a vision which is under construction. I’m kind of a good contractor who can see what the final work will look like.”
Running Pro Tools 9 and equipped with Neve mic pres, mics like a Neumann U-87, Microtech Gefell M-92 Tube mic, various Audix and Sennheiser mics, an array of soft synths and – of course – percussion instruments galore, Johnson’s studio space is ideal for songwriting, as well as the numerous TV, film, commercial and video game projects that he works on.
But even though he has the front end and expertise to capture a perfectly clean vocal in Brooklyn, Johnson felt it was important to book Anjali into Manhattan Center’s Neve VR72-equipped Studio 4 for lead vocal tracking. Teaming up inside the environs of “The Log Cabin,” Johnson and Moore took advantage of more than just the superior acoustics in the sizable live room.
“If you give the artist the sense that they’re in a million-dollar facility, then they feel they have to give a million-dollar performance,” he observes. “If they’re in an indie studio, they may feel they only have to give an indie studio-performance. But at a room like Manhattan Center’s Studio 4, they’re more likely to say, ‘I have to dig deep here, because the Empire State Building is right outside the window.’”
Preview the entrancing first single from Big Human, “Lali Lai” right here:
Staying in the Lane
With Johnson’s intergalactic expertise as a percussionist, you’d expect to hear djembes, shekeres, cajons, and gourds galore beefing up the rhythms in Anjali’s Big Human EP – and you’d be wrong. Many of the songs highlight the singer’s uniquely intense vocals with a lean-and-mean electronic backdrop, noticeably absent of the bells and whistles that Johnson could have easily provided.
“I looked at the project from a production standpoint, as opposed to looking at it as a musician with an opportunity to groove on someone’s record,” says Johnson. “I had to utilize some restraint and discipline, and not make it an Anjali-and-Bashiri record, because the hat I was wearing was the production hat.”
Johnson’s ability to strike that balance between ace musician and music producer is a key achievement. Its one that numerous studio pros must master as superstar sessions become further and farther between, and the players adapt by making themselves available as producers for the next round of ambitious artists.
“In my tradition this is how music is passed down, through the guru/student relationship,” Anjali reflects on the experience of making Big Human. “Someone who was in the presence of greats like Michael (Jackson) and Whitney regularly was enough for me! I took every minute with Bashiri to learn how he would arrange and choose sounds and tones. I wrote the melodies and lyrics to the material and he made them come to life.
“I learned above all else that it takes the right ‘performance’ of the song, delivered with the right emotion and honesty, that makes a record. Bash made sure we were ready for it when it came, and always urged me to go deeper into my emotions to find the right expressions for things.”
Start Again — Again
Applying his wisdom to producing is a natural thread in Johnson’s career fabric, which also includes musical mobile app design, master classes, and motivational speaking for people in creative fields.
“The challenge for me is daily reinvention – we have to constantly recreate, reinvent and redesign our careers, our services, our roles, our revenue streams and our voice,” Johnson confirms. “Sometimes that can be frustrating. Change is constant and you have to keep up with it on a daily basis. But I like that fact that the playing field has been leveled, and that everyone who has amazing talent can get on that playing field today.”
With a discography that starts in 1977, Bashiri Johnson’s experienced ears have heard the changes washing over music as so much of its creation and production goes inside the box. He can program with the best of ‘em, but Johnson also emphasizes maintaining natural components as sound marches forward.
“I think that as long as we continue to include organic performances in all of our music, then our music will be relevant, and we will get a following who want to consume that music,” he says. “When we keep human interaction and live performance in the mix, people really feel that.”
– David Weiss
Experience a remix from Artiste Anjali’s Big Human:
CHELSEA, MANHATTAN: The right piece of fatherly advice can last a lifetime.
Just ask Ken “Duro” Ifill, who got some priceless guidance growing up in the bustling multi-culti neighborhood of Queens Village, New York. “My dad told me: ‘Whatever you do, be the best,’” says Duro, scanning New York City’s skyline from the terrace of Jungle City Studios. “He said, ‘If you want to be a garbage man, fine. But you should plan on owning the sanitation company.’”
True to form, young Duro was listening – very carefully.
Flash forward to 2011, and his name is synonymous with success. As a mixer and engineer he’s worked in service of a client list that any audio professional would envy, including Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, Diddy, Alicia Keys, Nas, Ja Rule, Ashanti, The Backstreet Boys, Ruff Ryders…the list just goes on and on. GRAMMY Award wins for the massive Jay-Z and Alicia Keys hit “Empire State of Mind”, and his work with Erykah Badu, Will Smith, Jay-Z, Ashanti, Usher, back up his value – built up from a discography that now spans two decades.
On the executive side, Duro has shown equal endurance. As the CEO of Desert Storm Records, he and his partners Skane Dolla and DJ Clue have been responsible for exposing extreme talent like Fabolous to the masses, with more on the way from recent signings like Dose and 1st String.
The final quarter of 2011 has, not surprisingly, proven busy for him, evidenced by the recent releases of the Duro-mixed Jay Sean mixtape The Mistress, and rapper Professor Green’s ear-grabbing new collection At Your Inconvenience. But before he reached his state of in-demand grace, the unassuming Duro had to get inspired – REALLY inspired. That event unfolded with his first listening of 1991’s landmark The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest.
“The reason why I wanted to be a mixer was because of Bob Power and The Low End Theory,” Duro confirms. “It’s the first album I heard with a clear difference sonically. I heard it and I said, ‘Why is the bass so big?’ It had an acoustic sound to it, but it was still hip hop. So I started to dig in and try to find out exactly why it sounded like that.
“When I actually started mixing records, for any record I was working on I would find a song that Bob Power mixed that was similar: I’d put it in the CD player, hit ‘repeat,’ and while I was mixing my record, I’d A/B between his record and my record to get the kicks sounding the way I wanted, and the snares.
“I was like most artists, who start off emulating someone, and then grow into their own. Eventually, I stopped using his mixes as a reference. I thought, ‘I love his stuff, but I want my records to sound more aggressive, less jazzy, a little harder knocking.’ I began to prefer bigger kicks, and bigger snares.”
The grand, multifaceted elements he balances in “Empire State of Mind” are a different dimension from the intimately spare, raw sound that he supported with his mix work on Erykah Badu’s entrancing 1997 hit record Baduizm – a personal evolution he readily acknowledges.
“As I got better, and my ears became more trained, I started listening more to not just one big stroke of the brush, but all the finer details as well,” says Duro. “My change has been to gradually pay more attention to the details, and then identify what needs to be changed in the details – how to make things sit together, and have all of the social elements live together in the sound spectrum.
“Every song is different because there are different elements. I’ll hear something and say, ‘That should be the focus of the record,’ and I build it from there. Put another way, I’ll say, ‘This song would be great if… And I attack the ‘if.’”
A Duro mix has a way of falling effortlessly into place – for both the artist and listener. On a cinematic album like Fabolous’s 2009 Loso’s Way, the separation between each element, dirty or clean, unfolds naturally between the speakers. The result is a direct translation of the artist’s vision straight to the eardrum, via an intuitive, tuned-in approach to mixing that Duro can more easily demonstrate than explain.
“I try not to think too much when I’m mixing,” he reveals. “If something feels good, it’s right. It’s that simple. If I mix a song today, it will sound one way. If I mix it tomorrow, how I feel then, or even the weather could affect it. I don’t look at knobs, and mixing is not a technical process for me. I view it as the last creative process in the making of the record.”
Working strictly by feel, Duro keeps extraneous hardware and software out of the signal path – an efficient approach that brings him straight to the sound. “On my mixes, there’s only about three or four plugins that I use,” he says. “A lot of times I don’t use EQ, and I’m not using a lot of compression either. It’s about balance – moving levels up and down, panning left and right. If you’re working with a good producer, then he picked the sounds he wanted for a reason, and so it’s about putting the pieces in a puzzle together coherently.”
Fresh off applying his touch to the dark acoustics of Professor Green’s Inconvenience, Duro sees how the mixer’s identity shows up in each work, even as it’s performed in the service of each clients’ unique artistry.
“I think I have a sound — there are pieces of me on everything that I work on,” he says. “But there are also certain things I won’t do. A lot of times people want to squash their records with brick-wall limiting. I won’t do that, even if it means I’m not doing a project. I don’t think that people who do that sell out, but it’s not what I’m going to do. I’m not going to do anything and everything.”
Like Jay-Z and Picasso, Duro sees the mixer as an artist in their own right, sporting a clear signature that comes with their territory. When pressed, he can identify those differentiating factors about himself.
“I think my mixes are dynamic, warm and organic,” says Duro. “If I do use compression, it will come from a tape machine – it’s not going to come from an L2. I believe in leaving a lot of headroom. If you want it louder, I leave space for the mastering engineer to do his piece. And if you still want it louder…maybe you need more amplification in your stereo.”
Hear some of Duro’s latest work in Professor Green’s UK #1 single “Read All About It” (featuring the emerging singer Emeli Sande):
An established hitmaker on the label side with the proven success of Fabolous, Duro doesn’t simply define his role in terms of selling records. Just as important is taking up the task of artist development – a task long ago abandoned by what remains of the established record companies.
For Desert Storm artists like 1st String and Dose, Duro and his partners try to keep track of their big-picture responsibilities. “We want to do the same thing with them as we did with Fabolous and DJ Clue – give them careers, not just one single and done,” he explains. “A part of that is artist development, which major labels now don’t have the time or desire to do. The label system has become more and more corporate, more hands-off, and less connected to the artist. They really have no problems with putting you on the shelf, or just dropping you.
“But I always felt that these young people are putting their lives in your hands. It’s no different from a child – one traumatic situation in their life can seriously affect them. You’re dealing with people’s sense of pride: You sign an artist, they feel great, they tell all their friends, and people expect big things from them. But it doesn’t always work out, and it’s hard to be up on stage one day and then the next day you’re back on your block.
“That’s why my partners and I want to work with people that we genuinely like. We have to feel good together, because you want to feel good about helping someone take their art, and life in general, to the next level.”
The Empire State of Mind
While the fast-shifting state of the music industry presents plenty of challenges for all involved, the Queens-borne Duro sees NYC slowly re-emerging as a land of opportunity.
“Sometimes you need things to crumble in order for them to get better,” he observes. “I thought several years ago that there were a lot of speculators in the business – they were there to make money and not interested in the music at all. When the business went flat, all those people left, and now they’re speculating on something else.
“I think the people who remained — the ones who really love music — are still here. I only want to work with the best of the best, and that doesn’t necessarily mean the most successful. The best means the most talented. I think the opportunity is here now: There may be less work, but the competition has been thinned – there are fewer pretenders to sift through.”
For Duro, Ann Mincieli’s Jungle City Studios demonstrates this survival-of-the-fittest traction in action, with its tuned-in facilities serving as his preferred mix HQ. “Since they’ve opened, this is my home base,” Duro states. “I think that the environment they’ve created is very pro-artist, pro-creativity. It’s well designed, and the vibe just feels right.
“A lot of people thought Jungle City was a bold undertaking, but it was needed. We need studio owners like Ann who don’t have the baggage of an older business model, older gear, and debt from years ago. People have fresh energy, and now is a great time to come in (to the studio business). There’s a lot of great technology, the gear is more affordable, and if you have the right staff and the right environment, you can be very successful.”
Duro speaks with the quiet air of confidence that accompanies having nothing to prove. Platinum track record established, the priorities for this hit mixer are to keep driving and diversifying. And just like his mixes, he’ll steer to the next level of his career with feel – no overthinking it.
“I’m going to start experimenting with other quote-unquote ‘genres’ of music,” he says. “The elements of hip hop and R&B – there are other influences in those genres, and vice versa, working with each other. I don’t necessarily have a blueprint. I just want to continue to work on great records.”
– David Weiss
Joe D’Ambrosio, founder and CEO of Mamaroneck, NY-based producer/mixer management firm Joe D’Ambrosio Management, Inc. (JDMI) has announced the opening of a European office based in Paris, France: Joe D’Ambrosio Management/Europe.
Former EMI Continental Europe and Capitol France executive Emily Gonneau will be running the European office as liaison between the JDMI roster and their European clientele. Ms. Gonneau is a graduate of the Sorbonne and speaks English, French, Spanish and German.
Now in its 10th year of operation, Joe D’Ambrosio Management represents such talent as Tony Visconti, Hugh Padgham, Elliot Scheiner, Kevin Killen, Joe Zook, Larry Gold, Rob Mounsey and Thom Monahan among others.
JDMI’s clientele have worked with U2, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Rihanna, David Bowie, Beyonce, OneRepublic, Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, Sting, Shakira, Pink, Kaiser Chiefs, Peter Gabriel, Morrissey, Ayo, Raphael, Norah Jones, Modest Mouse, Beck, Justin Nozuka, The Roots, Fujiya & Miyagi, Little Joy, Angelique Kidjo and hundreds of others.
MIDTOWN, MANHATTAN: The massive motivation of hip hop artists like Wiz Khalifa is only half the story of how they storm the world’s stages: Behind every live touring success is a booking agent that knows their territory.
Khalifa is about to kick off the Campus Consciousness Green Carpet Tour, running March 31-April 22, followed by the rapper’s first brief European tour from May 16-24. Along the way, he’ll be benefiting from the sage experience of Peter Schwartz, NYC-based VP of international booking specialists The Agency Group: his nearly 20 years of experience have had him plotting out live jaunts for the likes of Jay-Z, Method Man & Redman, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Run DMC and Wu Tang Clan, Big Sean and Big Boi.
Khalifa is on a hot streak: his single “Black & Yellow” hit #1 on the Billboard charts, and his new album Rolling Papers drops on March 29th – the same day he’ll grace the Roseland Ballroom stage right here in NYC.
In 2010, 135 of Wiz’ 140 shows sold out: our five questions with Schwartz explains why, and provides sharp touring advice for the next round of hip hop upstarts.
What about being a booking agent gets you out of bed each morning?
I truly enjoy being an agent, so getting going each day is really not that hard. Success is no doubt a driving force, especially when working with clients like Wiz Khalifa with such exciting growth and potential. It really makes the job fun, and I look forward to waking up just to see how well tickets sold overnight or where a client is charting that day.
His upcoming show at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC sold out in 16 minutes – that kind of thing fires me up for sure. Of course, it’s very rewarding to be standing at a sold-out show, watching the crowd go bonkers and seeing all the hard work pay off and come together in the end.
Bonkers is always the objective, we agree. How would you describe Wiz Khalifa’s live show?
Wiz’s live show is amazing: He puts his heart and soul into every performance — usually shirtless and drenched in sweat by the end of the show. His work ethic is unreal. His set is always fun and energetic, with his Taylor Gang team jumping around him to create even more hype. And the fans are always going insane!
We’ve been slowly growing his production with each tour, so his fans should expect to see him develop in that respect as well. They definitely get their money’s worth.
Each tour has a specific objective for the artist: Why is the Campus Consciousness Green Carpet Tour important for Wiz?
The Green Carpet Tour is basically a college tour, which made sense to do for a variety of reasons. It timed well within our plans for the year and the album release, and the college market is one of Wiz’s largest demographics.
The “Campus Consciousness” – environmental — tie-in was really a nice perk. The last “CCT” tour featured Drake and the one prior had Passion Pit headlining, so it seemed like a good brand had been established there.
Our main goal for this tour is pretty much the same as always…sell it all out! Ticket sales look incredible already. We’re going to follow this up with a summer headlining tour to support the new album.
You’ve booked a lot of hip hop tours. What are the differences between booking for hip hop and rock? What makes booking for hip hop and rock the same?
There are some small differences in booking hip hop and rock, but I really approach all my bookings the same way: good old “rock’n’roll style”.
The goal is to build the artist a long-lasting touring career by plotting the right moves and developing them to larger venues and guarantees. Each move should be made for a reason, with the next step already in mind. It is really important to know your fans and be very conscious of picking the right size venue, ticket price and other details like age restriction on the show.
That definitely makes sense – for a lot of business avenues besides just touring! Lastly, What tips do you have for emerging hip hop artists who want to bolster their careers with a live tour?
If an emerging artist has a strong live show, going on tour is a great way to promote themselves and build a fan base.
That’s really the key to success: building a fan base and a faithful following. This can be done through social networking, good press, releasing great music and of course touring is a great vehicle as well. Try and deliver the best performance you can. Keep your set short and sweet in the early stages. Network with any of your fans before or after the show. Connecting with your fans — old or new — is very important. And stay connected too!
Wiz Khalifa plays Roseland Ballroom on Tuesday, March 29th.
– David Weiss
CHELSEA, MANHATTAN: NYC is quite literally the backdrop to Ann Mincieli’s brand-new Jungle City Studios. One step into the top-of-the-world Studio A, with panoramic views uptown along the High Line and west to the Hudson River, and you’re hitting the Alicia Keys chorus of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind;” it’s a cinematic moment.
This is how Mincieli — Keys’ longtime engineer and studio coordinator — conceived of the deluxe studio facility, incorporating the best of everything she’s encountered in studios around the world to her own vision for a top-of-the-line and uniquely “New York” studio experience.
She’s quick to reference Hit Factory Studio 1 as her all-time favorite live room, but also mentions immersive destination studio experiences in France and Germany, as influential in her designs for Jungle City, located on W. 27th Street.
“I wanted to find the ultimate location that really represented New York City with the views, the art and culture,” Mincieli shares. “This is such an up-and-coming neighborhood — you have the art galleries, the High Line, views of the Empire State building and the water. And there’s a luxury hotel [Hotel Americano] opening right next door which benefits us so much because people will stay there and work here.
Looking at the post-Hit Factory/Sony/Chung King/Clinton NYC studio landscape, Mincieli saw a void. “I wanted to bring something back to NYC, to the industry here, give people something they can be excited about. A real experience. Not just to bring back the clients from NYC, but from around the world.
On the day of our visit, in fact, the Japanese pop band Dreams Come True were recording in Studio A with Ed Tuton. Downstairs, Swizz Beatz had been working out of the Euphonix room, and Keys has been in working on a couple projects, including material for her next album. Like Keys’ Long Island recording studio complex, The Oven, Jungle City was devised by Mincieli with superstar artists in mind, and designed with signature features by John Storyk and Walters-Storyk Design Group (WSDG).
Jungle City Style, Sights, Sounds
Situated on the top two floors of a brand-new building, Jungle City’s three studios provide distinctly different environments, though all feature the custom Augspurger mains with Aura subs — an expensive custom system (painted at a car dealership for extra flash) but a necessary expense as Mincieli sees it.
“The Augspurgers sound incredible,” she notes. “They’re loud, the image on them is great. It’s a no-brainer. People come in and it’s psychological — they’re relieved to see them. You have to give the clients what they want.”
For that matter, Mincieli sourced what she determined was “the best of everything” for every aspect of this facility — that is three impeccably equipped studios, lounges, kitchens, bathrooms, the works. And though she knows her audience well, she did her homework.
“I co-designed the studio with a lot of research, input from artists, labels and producers on what they felt the industry was missing,” she explains. “I’d ask them, ‘What would you like to see in a studio in NYC?’ ‘We want light. We want it to feel like home.’” From the Louis Vuitton wallpaper and fabrics in the control rooms to the tastefully appointed lounges, to the unique acoustic treatments, the Jungle City interior design — coordinated by WSDG’s Beth Walters — lends that opulence of a high-end hotel, or home.
And then there’s the gear. Knowing what her network of top-tier artists and producer/engineers would expect, Mincieli handpicked all the gear with attention to every last detail for different users and workflows.
“There are so many ways to work now,” she notes. “Different mixers mix in different ways — some have migrated all in the box, some are half-in half-out, some are SSL, some are Euphonix. So I wanted to give people a few different flavors. The two mix/overdub/production rooms are very versatile with both the retro and cutting-edge technologies.”
And each has its own flavor of console: one with an Avid D-Control, and the other a Euphonix Fusion System 5. Both have Pro Tools HD3 rigs loaded up with plug-ins and corresponding iso booths. Along with the 32-input D-Control, the ICON room highlights include “the newest Avid HD IOs, Dangerous summing and the great [Antelope] OCX-V clocks.” Across the way, the Euphonix room offers a whole ‘nother experience.
“The integration between Avid and Euphonix is just incredible,” Mincieli says of the S5 Fusion.
“They’re taking advantage of the EUCON control so the features and plug-in channels that you see in Pro Tools show up on the desk. It’s a dual-purpose desk and control surface. I have 16 channels of Euphonix mic pre’s, and running at 96K, I can still get 64 channels of EQ and compression. And when you want to be all in the box, you can use the EQs, compressors, the bussing, and it’s all digital — it all converts via the new Avid Digi I/Os and Avid also made a new MADI converter specifically for this desk.”
Mincieli adds, “I love the way it sounds: the EQs, compression, the stereo bus. You can pull a compressor up in Pro Tools and control it without having to look at a monitor. And the 7.1 surround and film panning is insane — I can do a 12.2 mix in here. This is the wave of the future.
Upstairs in Studio A, Mincieli went retro-futuristic with the centerpiece 48-input SSL Duality analog console, Pro Tools HD3 and a rare 1968 EMI TGI 12345 Mark 3 console she’s completely restored. The EMI sits to the right of the SSL, side-car-style. “You can use it in a variety of ways,” Mincieli notes. “The EMI console can be used for mic pre’s, for the EQ/compressors, and it’s a fully patchable console.”
And of the sizeable control room, Mincieli shares, “I wanted one big old-school control room so we could accommodate artists who want to have their four guitar heads, or several keyboards in there with them.”
With the unique clear glass diffusion panels across the back wall windows, the clients are working inside a North and South facing top-floor studio.
On this, the studio’s ultimate wow factor, John Storyk describes, “To maximize the impact of the studios’ expansive North and South picture windows, we floated the custom Augspurger Dual 15 Vertical main speakers in an outsized glass speaker baffle. This is only the second time we have done this, creating a kind of transparent ‘wall of sound’ between the live and control rooms.
“This provides artists and engineers with the creative advantage of full visual connectivity plus, NYC’s ultimate eye candy, views ranging from The Empire State Building to the Hudson River. The audio sound field is extremely accurate throughout the full frequency range, particularly at the critical low end, necessary for many of Mincieli’s demanding urban music clients.”
Monitoring accuracy is paramount in these environments, as Mincieli points out more than once during our tour. Just prior to opening, in the first week of January, she worked closely with mastering engineer Dave Kutch and WSDG’s Dirk Noy to tune all three Jungle City studios over four days. For an inside look at Jungle City, check out this video documenting that tuning process:
Jungle City’s Studio A live room — with 14’ ceilings, inspiring views and glass-encased iso booth — is tempered by entirely custom acoustic treatments and programmable color LED mood lighting. “Drums sound great in the big room,” Mincieli assures. “And the shades are remote-controllable via the Crestron system. You can close the shades for 40% deadening.”
Clients on both floors can easily access a terrace, and if that’s not enough fresh air, they can hit the 2400-square-foot rooftop deck. Sweet!
Jungle City was an ambitious design/build carried out by an expert team. “Our project manager, Joshua Morris; systems designer Judy Elliot-Brown and studio builder Chris Harmaty of Technical Structures all fully embraced the complexity, and scope of this project,” Storyk notes. “The ultimate goal was to realize Ann’s dream of making Jungle City a significant addition to NY’s recording industry.”
The Future Is Now…
The Jungle City layout provides ample space for the modern artist doubling as producer a la Keys, Kanye West, Jay-Z, in that they can maximize production by running two rooms at once and jumping between projects. And the construction will continue.
When all is said and done, Mincieli reports, Jungle City will encompass five studios, including a second Studio A-style room. Inspired by Jungle City, Keys will build an Oven Manhattan location.
To continually tailor the studios to top-tier clientele, Mincieli draws insight from everyday experience with these artists while always looking ahead. “With a new studio, I’m looking to see what’s next,” she notes.
“What can I do? How can I be out front of everything that’s coming. The record labels didn’t do that, and it hurt everyone. We’re catching up now, but artists [at this level] need to have people in place with that foresight. And the artists and the labels need to be looking to the future.”
In this age of major releases leaking early and often, security is a huge concern, and protocols are in place at Jungle City. “I don’t have any of my rooms networked together,” Mincieli points out.
“Artists bring in their own drives and I don’t have copies of anything when they leave. I will have the ability to store anything the labels need me to store (in a fireproof safe) but until then, I have these internal SATA drives on the computers. You can’t pull them out so you are forced to copy your stuff onto an external drive and take it with you when you leave. And then we’ll erase SATA drives. You don’t want to be the studio who leaks someone’s album.”
Leak-proof, airtight and on top of the game, Jungle City has arrived. Records are made to be broken, and elite studios are designed to be outdone. Just don’t be surprised if it takes the world a minute to surpass the new standard that’s been set on West 27th Street.
To book Jungle City, visit www.junglecitystudios.com.
And for more on the Walters-Storyk Design Group, visit www.wsdg.com.
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THE FIVE BOROUGHS: 2010 has been busy all right. For anyone involved in New York City’s expansive business of music – producer, publisher, entrepreneur, engineer, artist, and many more – the environment remains fast-paced, ultra-competitive and constantly changing.
With 2011 looming, SonicScoop looked for the news, trends and topics that stood out to us over the past 365 days.
In audio post, it was grow or die in the uppermost echelon. The biggest facilities, including hsr|ny, Nutmeg, and Sound Lounge made serious expansions into audio and/or video:
Large and mid-sized recording/tracking/mixing studios kept making capital improvements and expanding:
Advanced smaller studios – independent and within larger facilities — and producer rooms also opened up at a peppy pace:
Avid capped off a furious year of reinvention and new products with the release of Pro Tools 9.
Music houses and composers still had a ton of TV, film and video game work to go after and win:
Production music and synch licensing remained a solid business, especially for those who got in at the right time or had a smart approach.
One of NYC’s most controversial music business plays, peer-to-peer file sharing network Limewire, appeared to be finally finished.
Tracking, mixing and mastering at NYC’s established facilities did a relatively healthy volume of A-level and independent work throughout the year:
New software and hardware happiness abounded:
NYC suffered losses when beloved people and places left us:
NYC-based producers, mixers, engineers and artists became businesses in their own right:
Producer Chris Coady worked on some hugely acclaimed records this year, including Beach House Teen Dream and Delorean Subiza, as well as records with Hooray for Earth, Zola Jesus, Smith Westerns, Cold Cave.
The studio scene got a lot more socialicious and FUN:
What big stories would you include? And what do you see next in 2011? Don’t be shy – leave a comment and let us know!
– Janice Brown and David Weiss
HARLEM, MANHATTAN: As artistic as the purpose of New York City recording studios may be, it’s fair to compare these houses of sound to modern-day warriors. Every one goes into battle with the belief that they’re invincible. Many fall – but some grow stronger.
Uptown, the facility known as Stadium Red became convinced that there was only one sure strategy for thriving in the battle-scarred landscape of NYC: expand, and you’ll be in demand. Marking steady gains since its inception in 2007, when Stadium Red owner Claude Zdanow took over the highly respected but troubled former studio of jazz legend Ornette Coleman at 125th and Park, 2010 sees Stadium Red placing a bold bet that bigger really is better – even when paying NYC prices for your real estate.
The result is a recently completed 2,500 sq. ft. Frank Comentale-designed expansion that sees big names and powerful new capabilities added to the facility. A focused new B-Room is home to hip hop super producer Just Blaze (Jay-Z, Eminem, Saigon, Fabolous, Jamie Foxx, Talib Kweil, Kanye West) and an SSL AWS 900, Augspurger mains, and a digital/analog hybrid production/mix approach. A world-class mastering suite has also been added to house Herb Powers-protégé Ricardo Gutierrez (Justin Timberlake, Usher, John Legend, Jill Scott).
Meanwhile, Stadium Red’s accommodating A-room has gotten its own facelift, swapping in the classic SSL G+ board from Baseline Studios (RIP). Another pair of Augspurger mains with dual 18” subs, a custom Dangerous designed 7.1 surround monitoring system, 24-track tape machine and more are all in there. Mix engineer Tom Lazarus (Ray Charles, Bjork, Yo-Yo Ma, Chicago Symphony), mix engineer Ariel Borujow (T.I., Black Eyed Peas, Puffy, Kanye West), engineer Joseph Pedulla (Thursday, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Mos Def, Kid Cudi) and producer Sid “Omen” Brown (Ludacris, Mya, Drake, Fabolus) also maintain their respective residencies throughout the studio. A host of old skool elite amenities – from upgraded lounge to private chef/spa services – are in the mix for good measure.
While the idea of an all-encompassing studio environment of writing/tracking/mixing/mastering is not new, Zdanow believes that it’s the rare human resources he’s gathered – and what they’re on board to do – that will make the Stadium Red expansion stand out. “The idea is that more heads are better than one,” he says. “In studios it can become a stale environment, where the engineer is just a button pusher. What we take pride in is something the artists and labels don’t offer anymore, which is artist development.
“Artists come in here, and when they walk out our brand is attached to them. It’s about letting them know that all these ears are around, whether it’s Yo-Yo Ma, Eminem, or the emerging people we work with. We want to make records here that matter, and the idea is to bring back that creative community — we’re a growing team of NYC engineers and producers that care about NYC and the music scene.”
Zdanow’s energy – driven equally by his spirit of adventure and copious amounts of caffeine – was enough to convince Just Blaze to relocate to Stadium Red after closing his beloved Baseline. “I had known Ariel from before, and he said, ‘You should come look at this space and have a conversation with Claude,’” Blaze relates. “Claude explained his vision, what he wanted to build, and I said, ‘Maybe we can make something work.’ It made sense: The overall vision of the place and the appeal is that it’s a one-stop, end-to-end solution, from recording to mixing to mastering, even doing surround 5.1-7.1.
“So he physically expanded the space, and we combined our resources. It’s a win/win I get a little bit of the stress off my shoulders from running the day-to-day. That allows me to be more creative, but at the same time I have my own space.”
Whether for intensive writing sessions or serious mixing, the new B-room that Just Blaze inhabits was designed to be distinctively accommodating. “It’s gotta be something special — if it’s going to be this meeting of the minds, then it’s got to be something worthwhile,” he emphasizes. “It can’t just be a Pro Tools setup. The way I work, I need all the resources available all the time – I couldn’t go from a G+ to a writing room. And if we’re talking about partnering up and joining our resources to build a business, there’s no point in building something that’s just a production room. That’s something people can put in their houses these days. So you’ve got to take a step further and make it a destination.
“My room is the best of both worlds. If you want to walk in and get down to business in the box, you can do so: We have every plug-in, plus Augspurgers and other monitors. But if you’re a little more old school, you have the SSL and all the gear to go out of the box. Or you can go the third route, in that the AWS can go in and out of the digital world.
“By keeping it smaller we could keep it more affordable. Clients have the SSL, a full suite of plug-ins, Augspurgers – everything that would usually cost you $2500 or more a day, at the fraction of the cost. I think we really hit that sweet spot in terms of sizing. Sometimes you just need a room for production, with a controller or a laptop, but if you’re in this big huge room that’s a waste of money. Or it’s the other way around, and you’re feeling cramped. This place is small enough to feel like a production room, but big enough to feel like a room you can mix comfortably in.”
Arguably, the Stadium Red formula was working already: The studio and its personnel had a part in ten 2010 GRAMMY-nominated projects including Eminem’s Recovery (Album of the Year, Best Rap Album), Drake’s Thank Me Later, (Best Rap Album, Best New Artist), and Steven Mackey’s Dreamhouse (Best Classical Album, Best Orchestral Performance, and Best Engineered Album, Classical).
A good year, all right, but that’s already in the past. Although he’s young – still just in his early 20’s – Zdanow understands that part of moving forward is understanding what didn’t work before, and making adjustments. In that regard, the difficult decision to swap out the A-room’s ICON for the SSL G+ dovetailed with the concept of adding new faces, spaces and capabilities at Stadium Red.
“We’re in an ever-changing industry,” he observes. “When we started out I had a very strong opinion about being versatile and trying to do it all in one room. People appreciated the ICON, but over time we weren’t doing anything as good as we could have been doing it.
“By adding these two rooms, we’ve come to critical mass. People want a lot of options. The ‘A’ room has a big live room where people can track through the console, and mix with tons of outboard gear. Just Blaze’s ‘B’ room is its own environment for production, with the SSL AWS. If you want a powerful controller-based system, you have that in the ‘C4’ room where Ariel Borujow works. So what we realized was that it wasn’t just about one room. There are certain things that need to be in place to do everything — and do it well.”
– David Weiss