GREATER NYC AREA: We’re all over the local and musical map in this month’s epic Session Buzz, as we trace recordings by the likes of Yoko Ono, Talib Kweli, John Zorn, MGMT, Wale, Hole, Okkervil River, The Joy Formidable and more back to their studio sessions. Find out where several busloads of notable artists have been recording, not to mention film scores and Broadway Cast Albums, and who’s all engineering and producing these sessions. Below.
Warner Bros artist Wale has been working on his upcoming LP out of Daddy’s House Recording Studios in the SSL G series Room. Daddy’s House also hosted sessions with French Montana, tracking and mixing his upcoming album with Steve Dickey and Duro CEO, Bad Boy artists such as Machine Gun Kelly, Cassie, Red Café, Los, and Megan Nicole, and sessions with Fabolous, Wacka Flocka, Q-Tip, DJ Khaled, T Pain, Jose Feliciano and more.
Nearby at Area 51 NYC, Jordin Sparks and Ryan Beatty recorded a song written and produced by Artie Green (Ashanti, Ja Rule…), with engineer and studio co-owner Roey Shamir at the console, and rapper/producer Doug E. Fresh on hand. The song is being used on an album to benefit Hip Hop Public Health and The Partnership for a Healthy America/Let’s Move initiative. Area 51 co-owner Tony Drootin is a board member of HHPH and is a co-executive producer on the album.
In other Area 51 sessions, A$AP Rocky and A$AP F3RG were working on songs from their upcoming records with Bad Boy engineer Steve Dickey at the controls; and Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, and Galadrielle Allman (Duane Allman’s daughter) were in recording a radio interview to promote the Duane Allman box set being released on Concord Records.
Uptown at David Kutch’s studio, The Mastering Palace…it was a “tale of two Justin’s” this winter – with Justin Timberlake in to put final touches on The 20/20 Experience with Kutch, and Justin Bieber’s new Believe (Acoustic) LP mastered only days before its release in January. Some other big albums Kutch has mastered of late…Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox, Alicia Keys’ Girl on Fire and the new album by The Strokes, Comedown Machine.
Meanwhile, Mastering Palace engineer Tatsuya Sato has been working closely with Sony Mexico, mastering for artists Los Daniels and Aleks Syntec. And Michelle Mancini just completed mastering the Deb Oh & The Cavaliers EP and a new artist Josh Franklin who’s album was executive produced by Peter Wade (MNDR, WonderSound).
Urselli also tracked vocals for three different all-star collaborations with Italian pop star Jovanotti, along with a new acoustic song for a movie soundtrack; recorded a few new songs with Wilco guitarist Nels Cline for his Nels Cline Singers band; tracked and mixed four new albums for John Zorn featuring guests such as Bill Frisell, Thurston Moore, Joey Baron, Kenny Wolleson and John Medeski; and produced/engineered a new album by former Luca Carboni musical director and keyboard player Fabio Anastasi for an upcoming solo release on TempoPirata Records.
And at Germano Studios in the East Village…singer/songwriter Loren Benjamin was in mixing in Studio 2, with Steve Jordan producing and Dave O’Donnell engineering, and the artist Moxie recorded piano and vocals in Studio 1 with Freddy Wexler & Pheenix producing and Wexler engineering. Sara Bareilles recently recorded vocals at Germano for her upcoming album, being produced/engineered by John O’Mahony, and Gavin Degraw was in to record some new material with Ryan Tedder producing and engineering.
Germano Studios also hosted sessions with singer Paloma Faith – writing and recording in Studio 1 with John Legend producing and Dave Rowland engineering; Trace Adkins recording the Harlem Gospel Choir in Studio 1 with Frank Rogers producing and Richard Barrow engineering; Yoko Ono recording vocals with Sean Lennon producing and Kenta Yonesaka engineering; John Legend recording with Dave Tozer producing and Jason Agel engineering; and Fred Armisen cutting basic tracks in Studio 1 for Saturday Night Live, with Kenta Yonesaka engineering.
Meanwhile at Terminus Recording Studios in Times Square, actor Michael Cera and Kelis were shooting an awkward recording studio scene for Cera’s upcoming short film, Brazzaville Teenager – for the new YouTube-based Jash Network. While Studio A was being prepped for filming, the team also recorded a vocal for Kelis’ song that appears in the film in Studio B.
Also at Terminus, DJ Khaled tracked vocals for his upcoming album, Suffering From Success, with engineer Ben Diehl. Guest vocalists included Akon, Anthony Hamilton, Meek Mill, Jeremih and Vado. Maino and The Mafia also cut vocals for two new tracks – one, “So Cold,” featured CashOut, and the other, “Real Recognize Real” was, according to studio manager Christian Rutledge, “released on XM Satellite Radio on the night it was tracked, showing up on Rap Radar and lighting up the blogs by the next day.” The Maino and The Mafia sessions were run by Terminus staff engineers Justin Rodrigues and James Yost.
Jumping over to Jersey for a minute, the two-studio Union City facility housed in an old sewing factory, Kaleidoscope Sound, has been hosting recording sessions for improvisational jazz violinist Regina Carter, with engineer Joe Ferla manning the API. And Kaleidoscope recently completed the 25th Anniversary Cast Recording for Nunsense.
Several other Cast Albums were recently tracked at MSR Studios in Midtown Manhattan, including that of the new Cinderella: The Musical with engineer Todd Whitelock, Cyndi Lauper’s Kinky Boots with engineer Bill Whitman, Sh-K-Boom! Records’ Dogfight with engineer Lawrence Manchester, Giant: The Musical with engineer Joel Moss, and Pippin (engineered by Lawrence Manchester), and Natasha and the Great Comet with producer/engineer Dean Sharenow, and Kathy Lee Gifford’s Scandalous (produced by David Lai, engineered by Isaiah Abolin).
And some other recent action at MSR includes…Producer Salaam Remi working with Jennifer Hudson on material for her new RCA record, with engineer Gleyder “G” Disla, and MSR assistant Gloria Kaba; Engineer Todd Whitelock mixing new releases from Mack Avenue artist Kenny Garrett and Nonesuch recording artist Audra McDonald, assisted by Brett Mayer and Fred Sladkey; and the recording and mixing of David Sanborn and Bob James’ forthcoming follow up to their 1986 Grammy Award winning album Double Vision with engineer Ken Freeman with MSR assistant Brett Mayer.
Nearby, the landmark Avatar Studios played host to a couple of big film score sessions – composer Howard Shore’s score for director Arnaud Desplechin new film Jimmy Picard (starring Benicio Del Toro), with engineer Sam Okell, assisted by Tim Marchiafava and Tyler Hartman, and composer Teddy Shapiro’s score to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (directed by and starring Ben Stiller), engineered by Chris Fogel assisted by Marchiafava.
Audra McDonald also recorded out of Avatar’s Studios A, B and C with producer Doug Petty and engineers Todd Whitelock and Roy Hendrickson assisted by Bob Mallory and Mike Bauer. And Depeche Mode, Jonatha Brooke and Thompson Square were also recently in session at Avatar.
In SoHo, SweetSounds welcomed Brooklyn’s own Talib Kweli into the studio for some vocal tracking and sampling in the Crosby Room. Head engineer Brian Cid manned the room’s Neve 5088 console for the session as Kweli recorded in the studio’s windowed Live Room. And Crosby resident engineer Jason Finkel also tracked a full-on session with Brooklyn psychedelic chamber-pop band Friend Roulette. The tracking sessions included two drum kits recorded simultaneously, violin, bass, clarinet, electronic wind instruments and vocals.
In other Sear sessions, German actress and chanteuse, Ute Lemper, recorded an album with Chris Allen at the Sear/Avalon console and Todd Turkisher and Lemper producing. The tracks were mostly Spanish and French traditional songs utilizing an array of exotic percussion instruments; Tracks for a new film directed by George C. Wolfe, You’re Not You (Hilary Swank) were recorded with Ted Tuthill piloting the Neve 8038 and Todd Kasow producing; Jazz singer Gregory Porter recorded his new album with large string and wind ensembles – Brian Bacchus produced and Jay Newland engineered; Yoko Ono and Antony continued recording at Sear with Allen engineering, and Yoko producing; and Mack Avenue Records tracked and mixed a new album for the jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez with James Farber engineering, Al Pryor producing in Studio ‘C’, and Esperanza Spaulding singing and playing bass.
Masterdisk worked on a number of notable projects, including The Great Gatsby soundtrack for Interscope – produced by Jay-Z, and mastered by Tony Dawsey, assisted by Tim Boyce; a new album by The Brian Blade Fellowship Band, Landmarks, for Blue Note – mastered by Andy VanDette and mixed by Chris Bell; and Linda Thompson’s new first album since 2007′s Versatile Heart, mastered by Scott Hull and produced/mixed by Ed Haber.
Also mastered at Masterdisk recently…Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society’s Brooklyn Babylon for New Amsterdam, mastered by Randy Merrill, mixed by Brian Montgomery and produced by Beth Morrison Projects, and Kermit Ruffins – ‘We Partyin’ Traditional Style’ for Basin Street Records – produced by Tracey Freeman, recorded and mixed by Chris Finney, and mastered by Vlado Meller.
All the way downtown at Engine RoomAudio…alt-rock band The Joy Formidable (Atlantic) filmed a live recording session of their song, “Silent Treatment” with engineer Ben Lindell. Also at Engine Room…Anthony Daniel mixed Kat Dahlia’s (Epic) debut EP, Gangsta, 50 Cent mastered his latest single, “We Up” (feat. Kendrick Lamar) with Mark B. Christensen, and Austin band Boyfrndz mastered their new Ikey Owens-produced album, Natures, with Dan Millice.
Producer/engineer John Agnello mixed three new albums at Fluxivity in Williamsburg, including Kurt Vile’s new Walkin on a Pretty Daze. In keeping with John and Kurt’s appreciation of analog sounds and following on the mixes made at the studio for his last record Smoke Ring For My Halo they returned to mix on the Neve 80 series console, and as before, the mixdown masters were recorded on ATR Magnetics tape using the studio’s Ampex ATR-102 tape machine.
Agnello also mixed the new Okkervil River album at Fluxivity, as well as the new record by Canadian band Your Favorite Enemies Between Illness and Migration, the tracks for which were recorded in the band’s studio in Quebec, and brought to New York for John to mix through the collection of vintage gear in the Fluxivity mix room.
Mastering engineer Joe Lambert recently mastered a new Moby album at Joe Lambert Mastering in DUMBO, which by the way recently added a Buzz Audio REQ 2.2 Mastering EQ to its arsenal. Other new albums recently mastered at Joe Lambert Mastering include the latest album from Washed Out, mixed by Ben Allen; the new Deerhunter record, Monomania; and some Kronos Quartet songs composed by Bryce Dessner of The National.
Down the block at Saltlands, disco band Escort recorded with engineer Nick Stumpf; Aussie singer/songwriter Scott Matthew recorded his latest with engineer Augustus Skinner; model-turned-singer Hannah Cohen spent a couple days writing and recording new songs with producer Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) – the producer of her debut, Child Bride – and engineer Jon Altschuler; and Audioms – a new (coming soon) “indie rock licensing company” tracked music with Shannon Ferguson from Longwave. Audioms founder Kevin Mazzarelli produced the sessions, with Jesse O’Connor engineering.
Back in Williamsburg, Grand Street Recording has been busy with a number of album projects, including Jared Saltiel’s upcoming The Light Within – an album of “magical realist” songs weaving layered instrumentals with “elaborate orchstrations and clever, Beatles-esque production” and featuring musical contributions from a talented lineup of players, including Max Moston, Rob Moose, Olivier Manchon, Clark Gayton and Rich Hinman. The album was engineered by Ken Rich and Tomek Miernowski, mixed by Rich, and mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound.
In other Grand Street sessions, Diane Birch was in recording stripped down piano and vocal sessions with Miernowski engineering; Bluegrass artist (fiddler) Michael Barnett (The Deadly Gentlemen, Tony Trischka) tracked the basics for his upcoming album with engineers Dave Sinko (Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck) and Miernowski, mandolinist Dominick Leslie, and Punch Brothers members Paul Kowert & Chris “Critter” Eldridge laying down basics; John Andrews (Nena, PeterMurphy, Botanica, Morley) brought in his rock band, Loudboy for a week to track the basics for a new release (13 songs in a day and a half) with Ken Rich engineering and Jake Lummus assisting; and Rene Lopez recorded his latest album with a world-class rhythm section including Bill Dobrow, Brett Bass, Daniel Sadownick and Avi Bortnick. Working in tandem with producer Daniel Collas (the Phenomenal Handclap Band) and Miernowski engineering, the group was able to track 15 songs in 4 days, with overdubs to follow.
In gear related news, Grand Street has added a matched pair of Coles 4038 Ribbon Mics, a Placid Audio Copperphone, 1965 Ampeg Reverberocket II, and a Danelectro Series D amp from the 50′s (on loan from friend and tech John Charette).
Adds owner Ken Rich: “We’ve also expanded our studio to include a “B Room” Pro Tools rig that can be used for light tracking/overdubs and editing. We’re running Pro Tools 10 with an Apogee Duet 2 and can offer clients last minute time slots at a significantly reduced rate (50% off!) while still offering access to our extensive mic and amp collection. In addition, we’re also revamping our FX Rack, and have acquired some classic reverbs and delays including a Lexicon PCM 42 delay unit as well as PCM 60 and PCM 70 reverbs.”
Nearby at GaluminumFoil in Williamsburg, producer/engineer Jeff Berner was juggling a bunch of records, including finishing the new album by Naam, Vow, that’s due out on TeePee Records on 6/4. Berner produced, engineered and mixed the record, tracking to GaluminumFoil’s Sony/MCI JH24 2″ machine and transferring to Digital Performer for overdubs and mixing), and added some additional guitar/synth/percussion/backing vocals along the way. The record has been mastered by Alex DeTurk at Masterdisk, and was “co-produced by X-Box the dog and many strong pots of coffee.”
Berner also recently engineered and mixed Dead Stars’ new EP, “High Gain” (also mastered by DeTurk and due out – via Uninhabitable Mansions – on 6/4; co-produced and engineered the new full-length album by Gunfight!, Stripes, which will be released later this year; and recorded new material by Weird Owl. “They came in super-prepared and finished four tracks in less time than it took to get a snare drum sound in 1987,” Berner noted of the session, which took place last weekend. Really excited to mix these great tunes in the forthcoming weeks!”
Meanwhile over at producer/engineer Matt Boynton’s Vacation Island Recording…sessions have been steady going. Most recently, Carsick Cars recorded and mixed a new record with Pete Kember (Spacemen 3) producing and Boynton engineering.
Over the last few months…Boynton also engineered sessions with MGMT – tracking vocals for their new album – and Andrew Vanwyngarden (one half of MGMT) recording and mixing songs for a movie; Bad Girlfriend – tracking basics with Aaron Phenning (Chairlift) producing; Kurt Vile tracking for waking on a pretty daze; Free Blood finishing mixes; Zachary Cale, tracking and mixing new material. Jolie Holland also tracking basics at Vacation Island for a new record with Doug Jenkins engineering.
Mastering engineer Julian Silva has worked on a number of new releases out of his Greenpoint studio, On Air Mastering. Silva’s recently mastered products for Bennett Jackson – “Texana” – Noah Lamech/ Jazz Cafe, and Heyerdahl, and all the “Live at Braund Sound” series, featuring Fall of another year, Lazer Cake and Tim Daoust.
And finally, it just makes sense to end at The End – also in Greenpoint – where The Daptones recently tracked new music with engineer Rocky Gallo, and Dirty Projectors and Holy Ghost! have been rehearsing for their upcoming sets at The Governor’s Ball in June. Also at The End…engineer Chris Boosahda has been busy working with Shakey Graves to track their album, finishing up mixing on Liam Finn‘s new record and Monogold’s upcoming new album. Boosahda’s also been recording demos for Kevin Devine’s new record.
And we know there’s so much more going on out there! If you’d like to be featured in “Session Buzz,” please submit your studio news to email@example.com.
GREATER NYC AREA: There have certainly been some down years in recent recording biz history, but 2011 was not one of them.
By all accounts, this was a big year for recording in NYC: There were the major mainstream Made-in-NY albums, i.e. Lady Gaga’s Born This Way (Germano Studios), John Mayer’s upcoming release (Electric Lady), Beyonce 4 (MSR, Jungle City), Sting’s latest (Sear Sound) and Tony Bennett’s Duets II (Avatar). There were the critically-anticipated indie releases, i.e. Bjork (Sear Sound, Avatar, Atlantic Sound) and Beirut (Vacation Island) and of course a ton of indie activity emanating out of Brooklyn, as well as big moves in the way of new and newly renovated high-end facilities for record production.
Drink it all in with this “Best of 2011” session highlights and studio hits:
We’ll start uptown at StadiumRed in Harlem – home to a team of engineers and producers that includes David Frost, Just Blaze, Sid “Omen” Brown, Ariel Burojow, Tom Lazarus, Joe Pedulla, Andrew Wright and mastering engineer Ricardo Gutierrez.
StadiumRed hosted Chris Brown (Jive Records) for a stretch as he worked on his Grammy-nominated record, F.A.M.E. and a future album. The single “She Ain’t You” produced by Free School was recorded in Studio A at StadiumRed, and two additional songs off his upcoming album were produced by Just Blaze. Rick Ross also worked quite a bit with Just Blaze and StadiumRed this year – his albums Self Made Volume 1 and I Love My Bitches were both produced, mixed and mastered at Stadium Red with Just Blaze producing, Andrew Wright mixing, assisted by Keith Parry, and Ricardo Gutierrez mastering.
The track “Lord Knows” off Drake’s acclaimed new album, Take Care, was produced by this same StadiumRed team – Just Blaze, Wright and Gutierrez. The choir in this song was recorded in Studio A.
Other highlights include Ariel Borujow mixing three tracks for Chiddy Bang’s (EMI) debut album Breakfast, Joe Pedulla and Andrew Everding producing and engineering the new album by rock band La Dispute (click to read our feature about this album produced with no artificial reverb) and the Grammy-nominated Mackey: Lonely Motel – Music From Slide (David Frost, producer and Tom Lazarus, engineer); Far Away: Late Nights & Early Mornings by Marsha Ambrosius (Just Blaze, producer and Andrew R Wright, engineer); and J. Cole (Keith Parry, assistant engineer).
Rufus Wainwright (Universal Music Group) tracked portions of his new album “Out of the Game” in Studio ‘A’ (Neve 8038) at Sear Sound in Midtown, with Alan O’Connell engineering and Mark Ronson producing. Sear’s own Ted Tuthill assisted on these sessions.
“During his sessions at Sear, Rufus’ new opera Prima Donna premiered at the New York City Opera,” says Sear Sound manager Roberta Findlay. “They recorded using our Studer A827 2″ 24 track with BASF 911 2″, as well as Pro Tools. Tracking and overdubs varied from piano and vocal, whole band takes (piano, bass, drums, vocals), to piano overdubs, bass overdubs, keyboard overdubs, electric guitar overdubs, choir overdubs, drum machine overdubs, and many more. Mark Ronson brought in a wide variety of his personal vintage synths.”
Sear also hosted recording sessions for Bjork’s latest Biophilia, with Damian Taylor co-producing/engineering, and Sting tracking for his latest with engineer Donal Hodgson and co-producer/arranger Rob Mathes. And Iron & Wine tracked and mixed their song “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” which can be heard in Twilight: Breaking Dawn. Tom Schick engineered with Brian Deck producing. Rob Berger wrote the arrangements. [Click for a video of this session.]
In other highlights, Joss Stone tracked new material at Sear with an all-star band (Ernie Isley on guitar, James Alexander on bass, Latimore on piano and Raymond Angry on B3 and keyboards), and Steve Greenwell engineering and co-producing with S-Curve’s Steve Greenberg. “At Joss’ s request, we built a western version of a resplendent ashram for her, to stimulate her creative juices,” says Findlay. “I believe it worked!!”
Meanwhile, mixing sessions for Regina Spektor’s anticipated new album What We Saw From The Cheap Seats went down in Studio A at The Cutting Room – with producer Mike Elizondo, and engineer Adam Hawkins, assisted by Matt Craig. The album is due out in May 2012 on Warner Bros Records.
At nearby Germano Studios – where Joan Jett & The Blackhearts have been recording this month – it’s been a huge year of pop, rock, rap and R&B. In addition to Jett, who’s been in with longtime producer Kenny Laguna, and engineer Thom Panunzio, Germano’s hosted writing and recording sessions with Ne-Yo, OneRepublic and Alexander Dexter-Jones recording with engineer Kenta Yonesaka for his The Last Unicorn album, and mixing sessions with Sony Italy artist Fiorella Mannoia with Dave O’Donnell engineering.
Highlights from the year include the recording for Lady Gaga’s Grammy-nominated Born This Way, Adele’s Grammy-nominated 21, “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 ft. Christina Aguilera, Beyonce’s 4, and the new will.i.am album…The studio also added new Exigy subs, and launched a joint-venture into Tampico Mexico, creating RG Germano Studios Tampico.
2011 has also been an epic year of releases out of The Lodge. Mastering Engineers Emily Lazar & Joe LaPorta mastered Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light, which received six Grammy nominations including nominations for Lazar and LaPorta in “Album Of The Year” category. And the team mastered countless records released to critical acclaim, including Tuneyard’s Whokill, mastered by LaPorta, Liturgy’s Aesthethica, mastered by Heba Kadry, the Cults debut, mastered by Lazar and LaPorta, EMA’s Past Life Martyred Saints, mastered by Sarah Register, and albums by Dum Dum Girls, Cold Cave and Hooray for Earth – all mastered by LaPorta.
As covered here on SonicScoop, LaPorta also mastered the huge Neutral Milk Hotel release, the band’s first (an all-vinyl complete box-set) since ’98′s classic In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Lazar and LaPorta also mastered Boy & Bear’s award-winning Moonfire, produced by Joe Chiccarelli.
For EastSide Sound and chief engineer Marc Urselli, it’s been a year of recording some of NYC’s finest avant-garde, jazz, fusion and acoustic music greats like John Zorn, Bill Laswell, Chihiro Yamanaka with Bernard Purdie, and more recently John Zorn, John Medeski and Mike Patton. Citizen Cope and Swiss crossover jazz band The Lucien Dubuis Trio have also been recording albums with Urselli at East Side Sound.
In the Fall, Broadway veteran singer Wren Marie Harrington teamed up with arranger/producer jazz wunderkind Art Bailey to record a collection of jazz and Latin infused American and world standards at EastSide with Lou Holtzman engineering and Eric Elterman assisting. Bailey, Dave Acker, Marty Confurius and Diego Lopez formed the band for this record.
Plenty of jazz, avant and orchestral sessions recorded at Avatar Studios this year, including Stanley Jordan, James Carter, Steve Reich / So Percussion, Joe Jackson with Elliot Scheiner, Esperanza Spalding with Q-Tip and Joe Ferla, Chick Corea, Zak Smith Band. One of the big, ongoing sessions of the year at Avatar was Tony Bennett’s Duets II album, produced by Phil Ramone and engineered by Dae Bennett. In March, Bennett and Sheryl Crow recorded “The Girl I Love” in Studio A. In July, Bennett sang and recorded “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” with Aretha Franklin in Studio C, and at the end of July, he recorded “The Lady is a Tramp” with Lady Gaga in Studio A.
Other pop/rock artists recording at Avatar this year include Paul McCartney recording a Buddy Holly tribute, Ingrid Michaelson recording her upcoming album, Human Again – both with producer David Kahne and engineer Roy Hendrickson – Elvis Costello, James McCartney, and VHS or Beta.
And Avatar’s Studio A and C were used on many a Broadway cast album, and TV and film score/soundtrack recording sessions, including: Boardwalk Empire featuring Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks with producer / engineer Stewart Lerman, and Mildred Pierce, also ft. Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, with producer Randy Poster; Louie, produced by Louie C.K. with engineer Robert Smith assisted by Bob Mallory; Glee, with producer Tommy Faragher and engineers Bryan Smith and Robert Smith; and the films Moonrise Kingdom (the new Wes Anderson), A Late Quartet, Friends with Kids, and So Undercover.
Across town, some of the biggest pop artists were working out of Stratosphere Sound in Chelsea, where songwriter Amanda Ghost and producer Dave McCracken were stationed much of the year working on new material with Florence and The Machine, Santigold, John Legend, the Scissor Sisters, The xx and Daniel Merriweather.
Ever the awesome rock recording studio, Stratosphere hosted several album projects this year including Canadian band Jets Overhead with producer/engineer Emery Dobyns, Japanese band The Telephones with Alex Newport, The Static Jacks with Chris Shaw, and Delta Spirit with Chris Coady. And, switching gears, both Sarah Brightman and Aaron Neville recorded at Stratosphere – both tracking vocals with Geoff Sanoff.
Finally, The Sheepdogs, a rock band from Saskatchewan, were paired with Stratosphere owner/producer Adam Schlesinger for Rolling Stone’s “Choose the Cover” contest. They worked on several songs with Adam…and they won!
BIG YEAR FOR BROOKLYN
In 2011, Manhattan saw the opening of Ann Mincieli’s impressive, golden-age-reviving Jungle City Studios, and major renovations and new rooms at the legendary Electric Lady Studios, but Brooklyn has been the real hotbed of new studio activity. Converse opened its Rubber Tracks Studio this year, and The End in Greenpoint recently opened the doors to its recording and live performance complex. And much building has been underway elsewhere…
2012 will see three new serious recording facilities open in Williamsburg – all three bigger/better versions of existing local indie favorites.
The Bunker, for one, has already held inaugural sessions at its impressive new two-room facility which features an exciting new Studio A with large live room with 25-ft ceilings and three isolated sections which can be closed off by sliding glass doors.
In one of the room’s first sessions, Bunker co-owner John Davis tracking the new record for funk band Lettuce (featuring Soulive members Eric Krasno and Neal Evans). “I tracked all the basics live to 2″ ATR on my Studer A80, and we had drums, bass, 2 guitars, keys (B3 and clav) and one sax going down live,” Davis describes. “Additional horns were later overdubbed. It was a great, super funky party in there the whole time, with a bunch of friends hanging and generally great positive creative vibes going on. We went for (and captured) a live, raw, authentic funk vibe.”
Meanwhile, across town on the Williamsburg/Greenpoint border, Joel Hamilton and Tony Maimone are preparing to open the new Studio G – this is one of the original recording studios in the ‘Burg now expanded into 5,000+ square feet. Studio G will house one of the city’s only commercially available Bosendorfer grand pianos (to our knowledge), and three full featured studios – a 48-input SSL 8048 “A” room, and an equally spacious Neve 5316-equipped “B” room – with ample tracking space and isolation…built by musicians for musicians. (Look out for our upcoming feature on Studio G!)
According to Hamilton, they’re booking the A room for January and beyond, but “things are already booked in super tight, so call now!”
Besides building an insane new studio, Hamilton’s been making records all year too. He worked with the electronic artist Pretty Lights tracking the band in a live-to-two-track analog scenario – all analog and vintage signal chains with no isolation. The band played live in the room together and the masters went straight to vinyl – only to ultimately be sampled by Pretty Lights (Derek Smith) for his album, I Know The Truth. It’s a production style the artist calls “analog electronica.”
Another engineer/producer with an ambitious new studio in the works for 2012 is Marc Alan Goodman who you may recognize from his “Building Strange Weather” blog here on SonicScoop. While work has been heavily underway at his studio’s new location on Graham Ave in Williamsburg, sessions have continued across the ‘hood at the existing Strange Weather Recording. Among the year’s highlights were Here We Go Magic recording overdubs for their upcoming album with producer/engineer Nigel Godrich who was over doing television sound for Radiohead.
The band Friends also recorded two singles and an upcoming full-length album at Strange Weather with co-producer/engineer Daniel Schlett. And the band Lakookala made an EP at the studio (“start-to-finish in 3 days”) with Goodman co-producing and engineering.
Over at Fluxivity, 2011 was the year that the studio’s recently-completed tracking room got a workout, with everything from full tracking with drums to guitar, vocals and all manner of overdubs. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion has been working at Fluxivity, with Spencer and engineer Brian Thorn mixing the new album. Ed Mcentee assisted.
Says Fluxivity owner Nat Priest: “This was primarily a tape-based project, mixed to the studio’s Ampex ATR 102 tape machine in the ½” stereo format. Jon Spencer and Brian Thorn used quite a few pieces of the studio’s vintage analog equalizers, compressors and delays including the 1/4″ slap machine and EMT plate reverb.”
Black Dice also made a new record in Williamsburg with Matt Boynton recording, mixing and producing at Vacation Island Recording. Free Blood (members of !!!) and Suckers also made new albums at Vacation Island with Boynton this year. And, Zach Cale is currently in the studio completing mixes for his latest EP, Hangman Letters.
A couple 2011 Vacation Island highlights were Beirut mixing their latest release The Rip Tide with engineer/producer Griffin Rodriguez, and the “Recorded for Japan” compilation which saw Ariel Pink, Kurt Vile, Chairlift and R. Stevie Moore through the studio. Boynton recorded and mixed a lot of this record, and the rest was mixed by Jorge Elbrecht. Vacation Island engineer Rob Laakso mastered the album.
Over at The Brewery Recording, also in Williamsburg, members of breakthrough rap group Odd Future tracked vocals for three songs and started mixing for their new side project The Internet, due out in early 2012. Matt Martians and Syd tha Kyd produced and Andrew Krivonos engineered on these sessions.
The Brewery reports they had 700 sessions through their one-room facility in 2011, running round the clock. Another highlight is happening currently with WZRD, the rock duo formed by Kid Cudi and producer Dot Da Genius. Noah Goldstein has been engineering these sessions.
Brooklyn producer/engineer Allen Farmelo – who you may remember designed this awesome custom console with Greenpoint designer Francois Chambard for his own studio The Farm – just finished mixing a record with noise duo Talk Normal, a project by artist/engineers Sarah Register and Andrya Ambro, with producer Christina Files.
Farmelo also produced/engineered an album for Brooklyn-based children’s musician Elska, out of Mavericks Studio in China Town and back at The Farm, and mixed/mastered two new film scores by Cinematic Orchestra, produced by band-leader Jason Swinscoe for Ninja Tune Records. “These two scores were for films from the 1920s: the Dada-ist masterpiece Entr’acte and the early city portrait called Manhatta. Both were performed live to a packed house at London’s Barbican Center this year, a beautiful night of music and film.”
And, as covered this month in the New York Times, Farmelo produced and mixed a new album by 85-year-old jazz pianist Boyd Lee Dunlop which was tracked at Soundscape in Buffalo by Jimi Calabrese, mixed at The Farm and mastered at The Magic Shop by Jessica Thompson
“An old friend and photographer met Boyd in a state-funded nursing home in Buffalo and began recording him on his cellphone and sending me MP3s and asked if this was any good,” says Farmelo.
“I was blown away by what I heard and arranged to record Boyd with bassist Sabu Adeyola and drummer Virgil Day. Buffalo has few studios, but thankfully I found a room tucked away on Buffalo’s West Side with a Steinway and amazing vintage mics and pres (RCA 77s, Neumann U47s, Neves, etc). I put up and tracked the session in one day and mixed on the API/Studer combo here at The Farm. I aimed for a vintage sound (late 50s Atlantic Studios in particular), and feel I got it (mono is a big part of that). Jessica Thompson just nailed the mastering perfectly.”
Next, to Greenpoint where Joe McGinty’s unique Carousel Recording – with its heavenly collection of vintage synths – recently hosted Finland electronic act Husky Rescue. Led by Marko Nyberg, the group booked a week at Carousel to lay the groundwork of their next record, utilizing many of the vintage synthesizers in the studio. “They were ace analog synth programmers,” says McGinty, of Psychedelic Furs, Losers Lounge fame. “It was great to see them in action, and I learned a few things as well!
Carousel has also opened a second room to accommodate that ever-expanding keyboard collection, which we featured earlier this year. Recent additions to the collection include a Moog 15 Modular, Freeman String Symphonizer, Yamaha YC-30 organ, and Yamaha CP-70 Electric Grand Piano.
In DUMBO, Joe Lambert Mastering had a record year. First off, Chief Engineer/Owner Joe Lambert was nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Engineered Album, Classical” category for the aforementioned Lonely Motel: Music From Slide by Steven Mackey and Rinde Eckert.
And other highlights include: mastering the major label debut by Fanfarlo (Atlantic Records/Canvasback), produced by Ben H. Allen, and recorded by David Wrench, the popular Washed Out (SubPop) album Within and Without, also produced by Allen, the Atlas Sound (4AD) record Parallax, produced by Bradford Cox and Nicolas Vernhes, and the Panda Bear (Paw Tracks) album, Tomboy, produced by Noah Lennox and Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember.
Over at The Fort, engineer/producer James Bentley has been working a bit with Brooklyn-based Goodnight Records, including tracking for the new KNTRLR LP, and recording/filming an in-studio performance with the venerable Brooklyn band The Big Sleep. “There were about 40 people and a keg, it was an amazing party,” says Bentley.
OUTSIDE THE CITY
Emerging Brooklyn band Thieving Irons trekked up to The Isokon in Woodstock to make a record with engineer/producer D. James Goodwin, Nate Martinez and Josh Kaufman co-producing. “Incredible songs, deconstructed, then put back together in a left brain way,” says Goodwin of the project. “Very few cymbals, tons of space. Lots of Kaoss Pad!” Stream a track “So Long” from the album.
Goodwin also made an album up at the Isokon with art-folk group Bobby – tracked and mixed the full LP for Partisan Records.
In Jersey City, Big Blue Meenie is still going strong, and hopping with sessions all year. Highlights include Rainey Qualley mixing her EP with Tim “Rumblefish” Gilles and Matt “Dasher” Messenger (the single “Peach In My Pocket” is featured in the 2011 Sundance-winning film To.Get.Her), and Alright Jr tracking their new EP Scratching At The Ceiling with Chris “Noz” Marinaccio, Colin “Gron” Mattos, Matthew “Debris” Menafro, and Jeff “9/11″Canas, and mixing with Gilles and Messenger.
Also six-piece NJ prog-rock band The Tea Club mixed their “Live at Progday 2011″ show with Messenger, Marinaccio and Gilles, and – most recently – the jazz-fusion oriented Dennis Haklar Project tracked new material (9 songs in 2 days) with Marinaccio engineering, assisted by Colin “Gron” Mattos.
What a year, and those are just some of the highlights! We can only imagine what 2012 will bring to NYC in the way of new recordings — and we can’t wait to hear them.
GREATER NYC AREA: Summer sessions were all over the map this year. Now – just a week into September – we take a look back at some of the later-summer recordings happening around town…
Just last week at East Side Sound in the Lower East Side, Irish rock band Preacher’s Son were in recording and mixing with engineer/producer Marc Urselli. The Preacher’s Son sessions at East Side Sound featured Dubliner Brian Hogan (from the band Kila) on bass, guitar and vocals, and NY-based session drummer and percussionist Kenny Wollesen (Tom Waits, Bill Frisell).
In East Williamsburg at Vacation Island Recording, Matt Boynton has been producing and engineering the new Black Dice record. Boynton’s also been recording with Zachary Cale, and working with Free Blood on their next album. He also tracked and mixed two songs for Tearist, and worked on an upcoming release with Golden Animals.
Recording engineer and drummer Christina Files was at Vacation Island tracking a new record for Talk Normal with Rob Laakso assisting. Laakso has also been plugging away with the studio’s new mastering facilities.
Says Hard…“It’s an old-timey country album and Jonathon had other mixers try it and did not feel they captured the authenticity he was looking for. I called in a friend who has a “portable” record lathe and bounced the individual tracks to vinyl and back into Pro Tools. Worked like a charm.”
Meanwhile in Midtown, Manhattan Transfer was recording vocals at Skyline Studios, with Janis Siegel producing and Rick Perez engineering… Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernandez and Italuba were in recording percussion, horns, piano and vocals for an upcoming release, and Billy Paul and Chimene Badi recorded a vocal duet, produced by Yves El-Baze, and engineered by Rick Perez and Lionel Elmaleh. Perez also engineered sessions with Wayne Krantz (guitar), John Pattitucci (bass) and Charlie Drayton (drums) recording as a trio. And recently re-formed rock band Fuel is recording new material at Skyline, with engineer Argel Anaya.
Skyline has also hosted a few film sessions, including Janeane Garofalo recording voiceovers for the film Mojobuddy, Al Pacino (as Phil Spector) filming scenes for the HBO Phil Spector biopic, directed by David Mamet, and engineered by Jonathan Mover, and Julianne Moore and Alexander Skarsgard filming scenes for the film ‘What Maisie Knew’ – directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel.
Across the river at Rough Magic in Greenpoint, tracks were being laid down on Jean Grae’s “Cookies or Comas Mixtape” – hosted by DJ Drama – featuring production by Royce da 5′ 9″, Pharaoh Monch, DJ Drama, Styles P and Boogie Blind. Alby Cohen engineered. And Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet produced a remix for Malian desert-guitar band Tinariwen’s latest album featuring TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone. Listen to the track at Pitchfork.
Additionally at Rough Magic, Talib Kweli has been working on his upcoming solo record for Blacksmith / EMI with Alby Cohen engineering. The Brooklyn native rapper has been utilizing many of Rough Magic’s string and horn players for his sessions.
Back over in Midtown at Sear Sound, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski – co-hosts of Morning Joe on MSNBC – recorded tracks for the 9/11 tribute in N.Y. Mika produced, Joe, sang and Sear Sound’s Chris Allen was the engineer. They also began work on Joe Scarborough’s own new album.
In other Sear sessions, producer Brian Deck and engineer Tom Schick worked on tracks for Iron & Wine, with arranger Rob Berger, Universal / Paris artist Laika recorded with Jay Newland engineering and co-producing with Gil Goldstein, Jac Holzman produced tracks for an upcoming Bob Dylan tribute, recording the group Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Stewart Lerman returned for ongoing music recording for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.
Downtown, Germano Studios has been typically pop-star-studded, with Lady Gaga recording her next single – which she’s co-producing with Mutt Lange – in Studio 1 with Dave Russell engineering, singer/rapper K’naan writing and recording in both Studios 1 and 2 with Steve Jordan and Chuck Harmony producing, Dave O’Donnell, Ben Chang, Ryan West and Yohei Goto engineering, and Alicia Keys writing and recording with Ryan Leslie producing and Ann Mincieli engineering.
Steve Jordan was also in recording with his band The Verbs, with O’Donnell engineering.
Germano also hosted dobro master and singer/songwriter Jerry Douglas recording with Russ Titleman producing, rock singer Zander Bleck recording vocals with Mutt Lange producing, and Conor Maynard writing and recording with producer/songwriter Sandy Vee. Kevin Porter engineered all three sessions. Michael Buble also recently recorded a duet with Thalia at Germano, with Humberto Gatica producing/engineering.
And singer/songwriter Javier Colon (winner of NBC’s The Voice) was at Germano writing and recording with Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly producing for an upcoming Universal Republic release.
Gaga was also recording up at Avatar Studios – in a duet with Tony Bennett for his upcoming Duets II album. The session was produced in Avatar’s Studio A by Phil Ramone, engineered by Dae Bennett, and assisted by Fernando Lodeiro and Tim Marchiafava. Tony Bennett also sang and recorded a duet with Intergalactic Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin in Studio C for the same project.
Also in Avatar Studio A, Jean Morrison recorded for her upcoming album with help from Nile Rodgers and Vernon Reid. Diego Paul produced the session and Hillary Johnson engineered, assisted by Charlie Kramsky.
And Detroit-borne jazz great Kenny Garrett recorded some transcendent new songs (SonicScoop received a special preview – story to come) in Studio C with producer Donald Brown and engineer Todd Whitelock.
The Gaddabouts returned to Avatar to record with producers Steve Gadd and Edie Brickell, engineered by Andy Smith. And Studios A and G were rocking with the bluesy jams of The Zak Smith Band, recorded by producer Zak Smith, engineer Milan Sudzuk assisted by Aki Nishimura.
Evanescence also recorded at Avatar recently, with Nick Raskulinecz producing, and Scarlett Johansson recorded vocals for a Dean Martin project, with producer/engineer Eric Rosse.
Over at The Spot Mastering in Brooklyn Heights, Greg Vaughn has recently mastered Princess Superstar’s new album, The New Evolution, and Kiko Navarro “A Long Hot Summer” for King Street Sounds. Vaughn also just cut the vinyl masters for an album he mastered in February for Brooklyn-based psych-rock outfit, Artanker Convoy.
And we know there’s so much more going on out there! If you’d like to be featured in “Session Buzz,” please submit your studio news to firstname.lastname@example.org.
GREATER NYC AREA: Heading into Summer, the city’s recording studios show no signs of slowing down. The following is but a sampling of recent sessions, and works in progress…a snapshot of what’s going on around town:
Aventura – the Bachata band out of the Bronx – has been at Daddy’s House tracking and mixing a new release with Justin Sampson engineering. Pop artist One Love has also been recording at Daddy’s House – tracking basics and vocals with producer/engineer Jon Thimple for his upcoming full-length album on Intrepid Music.
Meanwhile, Daddy’s House is currently undergoing a complete overhaul of infrastructure, operations, and aesthetics – with extensive work being done to both the SSL G Series and Neve VR consoles. Stay tuned for more on this, as the studio prepares to re-set as a full-blown commercial operation.
Queens born rapper Ja Rule was at Area 51 tracking and mixing for his upcoming LP with producer Seven Aurelius and engineer Darren Moore. Also at Area 51: Jacob Latimore recorded new material with producer “CJ” and engineer Alberto Vaccarino, and David Banner was in to mix his upcoming release with Pat Viala (50 Cent, Mariah Carey).
Downtown, Christina Aguilera was recording vocals at Germano Studios for a duet with Maroon 5 – the song “Moves Like Jagger” – with Manny Marroquin (Kanye West, Alicia Keys) engineering. Aguilera has also been writing and recording with producer/songwriter Sandy Vee at Germano in sessions engineered by Kevin Porter.
Vee – whose songwriting/producing credits include Katy Perry’s “Firework,” Rhianna’s “Only Girl in the World” – was also working at Germano with Disney ingenue Demi Lovato, and with pop artist/singer Dev, writing and recording new material with Porter engineering.
Other Germano sessions include will.i.am, Beyonce, The Kin recording with producer/engineer Thom Panunzio, DJ/producer/remixer Chew Fu, and Tiësto mixing with engineer Ben Chang. And Chris Taylor (Grizzly Bear) brought his new solo project, CANT – featuring George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow – to Germano to mix with Jake Aron (Yeasayer, Jamie Lidell). The new album will be released September 13 via Taylor’s own Terrible Records.
Up the block, experimental Toronto punk band Fucked Up mastered their conceptual sophomore LP David Comes To Life (on Matador Records) at The Lodge. An epic 18-song rock opera, David Comes To Life was produced by NYC’s Shane Stoneback (Cults, Sleigh Bells, Vampire Weekend).
Other records mastered at The Lodge and released this month include Hooray For Earth’s True Loves, Ford & Lopatin’s Channel Pressure, and both The Postelles’ and Cults’ debut albums.
Vernon Reid has been through to play guitar on several tracks on the album, and Nuno Bettencourt will be adding guitars on this project as well.
This week, Universal Japan artist Chihiro Yamanaka recorded at EastSide Sound in the Lower East Side. The recording session, engineered by Marc Urselli, featured Yamanaka playing (piano) with legendary drummer Bernard Purdie and upright bass player Larry Grenadier.
Urselli has also been engineering sessions with John Zorn this week – recording soundtrack music for a play featuring Zorn on sax, Bill Laswell on bass and effects, Kevin Norton on vibes and percussion and Rob Burger on piano/organ/Rhodes.
Also at Spin, Andy Wallace mixed Natalie Findlay’s upcoming album for Polydor, guitarist-producer Alex Skolnick (Testament) worked on Adrienne Warren’s upcoming album with engineer Nik Chinboukas, and Jeff Kazee (Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Bon Jovi) produced Jersey rock-and-rollers Outside the Box for their upcoming release – also with Chinboukas engineering.
And south to Williamsburg, indie rock band Nada Surf recorded basic tracks for their upcoming LP at Headgear Recording with producer/engineer Chris Shaw. Also at Headgear… Virgin Forest tracked and mixed their second full-length album (for Partisan) with Alex Lipsen engineering; Lipsen produced some new music by Sam Marine, which John Agnello mixed; Kelli Scarr did some tracking with Scott F. Norton; and Male Bonding mixed their upcoming SubPop album with Agnello.
Chris Shaw and Nada Surf also recently booked Joe McGinty (Psychedelic Furs, Loser’s Lounge) at Carousel Recording in Greenpoint to play and record keyboard parts on new songs. McGinty added Hammond Organ, RMI Keyboard Computer, Mass-Rowe Vibrachime, ARP Strings, Modular Moog, and Fender Rhodes to their forthcoming record. McGinty also recently recorded Piano, Hammond, Combo Organ, and others for Lianne Smith’s debut record, being produced by Anton Fier.
Back in Manhattan, Carol King has been at KMA Studios mixing her upcoming holiday album with producer Louise Goffin and engineer Nathaniel Kunkel.
Also at KMA recently… Pianist Eric Lewis recorded and mixed an album with Bryan Williams engineering, Mike Posner recorded songs for his upcoming Sony album –producing/engineering the sessions himself – hit songwriters Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony wrote/recorded for CJ Holland with engineers Ben Chang and Conrad Martin, Corey Gunz cut vocals for his upcoming Cash Money/Universal release with S. Dot engineering, and Yo Gotti recorded vocals for his album on Sony with Leo Goff engineering.
Yo Gotti’s new album – Live From The Kitchen – is scheduled for release on Sept 6th, and is expected to have guest appearances by Lupe Fiasco, Lil Wayne, Nicky Minaj, Ciara, Rick Ross, Waka Flocka and Young Jeezy.
John Lithgow was also at KMA doing voiceovers for a children’s book – Trumpet of The Swan – with Jayson Brown producing and Ian Kagey engineering for PS Classics.
Out on Long Island at PIE Studios in Glen Cove…NYC rock band Lion in the Mane recorded a new EP, taking advantage of Pie’s Neve-equipped, George Augspurger-tuned control room and 35’ x 28’ x 18’ live room. NYC-based producer/engineer William Wittman oversaw the sessions.
Back in big town, Joe Jackson recently recorded his upcoming self-produced release at Avatar Studios with engineer Elliot Scheiner, assisted by Aki Nishimura. Other recent sessions at Avatar include… Esperanza Spalding recording her upcoming release co-produced with Q-Tip in Studio A with engineer Joe Ferla, assisted by Fernando Lodeiro; Honor Society recording on the SSL 9000J in Studio B with producer Adam Blackstone and engineer Jon Smeltz, assisted by Tim Marchiafava; and the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra recording with producer Howard Cass and engineer David Merrill.
Also in Midtown, Foreigner checked in at Threshold Recording Studios NYC to cut acoustic versions of ten of their greatest hits — Mick Jones and Jeff Pilson produced, with Jeremy Sklarsky (Freelance Whales) engineering. And Dave Eggar and Heather Holley produced a track for singer/songwriter Jacob Baine Fields at Threshold recently, also with Sklarsky at the controls.
On the way west side, Santigold was at Stratosphere Sound working with songwriters Amanda Ghost and Ian Dench in Studio A. Ghost, Dave McCracken and Andros Rodriguez also worked with Daniel Merriweather in Studios A & B, and Louis C.K. was in Studio A, overseeing music recording for Season Two of his FX sitcom Louie. Ruddy Cullers engineered.
And staying on the west side, mastering engineer Vlado Meller is up and running in his new studio at Masterdisk.
Here, Meller recently mastered the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ single “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie,” produced by Rick Rubin and engineered by Andrew Schoeps for Warner Bros, and a Harry Connick, Jr. album, The Happy Elf, produced by Tracey Freeman and engineered by Vince Caro for Marsalis Music.
And we know there’s so much more going on out there! If you’d like to be featured in “Session Buzz,” please submit your studio news to email@example.com.
Who remembers being electrified by great singers and their great performances? We all do. They were all around us at least until 1997 when Antares’ Auto-Tune showed up: the license to sing out of tune and still find the courage to release a record!
Advances in digital music technologies have been amazing and exciting but undoubtedly they have also lazy-fied musicians worldwide (the “we’ll fix it in the mix attitude”) and contributed to the dropping levels of musicianship. One used to have to put in hours of practice to deliver a great performance, and a mistake or two might even have contributed to the character of the song.
Now we live under the tyranny of perfection, everything needs to be fixed… I’m not immune myself, been there, done that. It’s what the client wants — because supposedly it’s what the listener expects.
The problem with Auto-Tune is that people rely too much on it. They don’t want to rehearse longer to avoid using it, and they’d rather go into the studio knowing they just will fix their mistakes.
Do You Guys Have Auto-Tune?
I’ve gotten calls to my studio (EastSide Sound) where one of the questions was: “Do you guys have Auto-Tune?” What’s wrong with that picture? They used to ask about drums, mics, board… now they ask if we have Auto-Tune!!! What the hell? You lazy bastards, get up an hour earlier in the morning and sing your butt off… and if after a year (that’s 365 hours of singing practice, by the way) you still can’t sing, then maybe it’s time you get the hell out of the way and make room for somebody with far greater skills than yours!
Then came Cher (and whoever in her team twisted all the Auto-Tune knobs) who in 1998 released the hit single “Believe”. To their credit, that was probably the only artistic and creative way AutoTune was ever used, but they also created a monster we now all have to run from. Every other R&B singer abuses that so-called “Cher effect” (trying to be cool or trying to make up for lack of singing abilities) and it makes me sick! Enough of that, it’s been 13 years, get over it. MOVE ON.
But it goes beyond that. What drives me crazy is that nowadays you can hear Auto-Tune everywhere… Besides the annoying “Cher-effect”, the use of the plug-in on vocal performances is ubiquitous. The untrained might not hear that, but those of us who spend some time with music and computers can. And it’s awful.
Later came Melodyne (by the German company Celemony), a pitch correction software that takes tuning vocals to a whole new level (closer to the graphical mode in Auto-Tune, as opposed to the ubiquitous Automatic mode) and so the floodgates of untalented’s crap have opened even wider! Although Melodyne allows for greater control, you can still hear the pitch correction at work on soooo many records, it’s just sad.
Be Like Mike…PLEASE
A few weeks ago I did a session with one of the greatest singers of our time — Mike Patton — for an upcoming Christmas record by John Zorn. We recorded a version of “The Christmas Song” and Mike’s first take was just gold! I thought about how refreshing it was not to have to even think about opening the Auto-Tune plugin.
Patton sings with the confidence, pitch, skill and attitude of those who came before the Auto-Tune generation and learned the craft of singing by… (can you guess?) Singing! I even told Mike after his first take: “Thank you for not making me use Auto-Tune”! He smiled.
Learn Something Here
For those who are reading my first SonicScoop column and would rather read about the nitty gritty than hearing me rant, I’ll let you in on how I do things to minimize the damage — assuming I am not being rushed by the client.
I listen down to the vocals and manually pitch shift (without Auto-Tune) the really offending notes. Only when all the notes of the performance are in the ballpark I might open Auto-Tune. This way the adjustments Auto-Tune needs to do are a lot smaller and you’ll hear those artifacts a lot less, or not at all. The goal for me is to hear a vocal that’s in tune and not to hear Auto-Tune.
Auto-Tune has unfortunately become a necessary evil. When people hire me as a producer or engineer they want me to make them sound perfect, and I’m good at that. It’s what I do.
But guess what? Even if I get paid more for sessions where I have to spend hours Auto-Tuning or Melodyning vocals, the sessions I love and remember the most are the ones where the use of talent surpasses the use of technology!
Marc Urselli is a three time GRAMMY Award winning engineer and producer. He is chief house sound engineer at New York’s EastSide Sound studios and he does live sound for major artists as well.
Facility Name: EastSide Sound
Location: Lower East Side of New York, since 1972!
Neighborhood Advantages: The LES is the heart of live music; there are musicians everywhere, rehearsal spaces, venues etc so musicians are very familiar with the area and feel right at home… no uptown traffic hell and office scene…plus EastSide Sound is in on the ground floor and right in front of a park so you can avoid elevator gear load ins and you can go take a break surrounded by greenery, shoot some hoops, throw a football or kick a soccer ball in the nearby courts.
Date of Birth: We’ve been in business since 1972 when Lou Holtzman opened the original EastSide Sound on Allen St. In 2001 Lou Holtzman partnered up with Fran Cathcart and we moved to Forsyth St, just a few blocks away.
Facility Focus: We are primarily a tracking and mixing facility although we occasionally do mastering sessions and we do have a production suite often used as a writing room. We are also set up for audio post and to sync audio to video for film/TV work.
Mission Statement: EastSide Sound believes that your music and your vision come first and we are committed to working hard until you are satisfied with the results. Many Gold, Platinum and Grammy award winning records have come out of EastSide Sound which shows how many artists have made EastSide Sound their home.
Clients/Credits: Gold and Platinum records, 5 Grammy Awards; clients include Les Paul, Lou Reed, John Zorn, Santana, Sting, Joss Stone, Eric Clapton, Pat Metheny, Jeff Beck, Laurie Anderson, Luther Vandross, Sevendust, Mariah Carey, Cindy Lauper, John Leguizamo, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Buddy Guy, Keith Richards, Joe Perry, Goo Goo Dolls, Edgar Winter, Chico Freeman, Peter Frampton, Beyonce, Herbie Hancock, Toni Braxton, Hanson, MeShell Ndegeocello, Joe Claussel, Steve Torre, Robin Eubanks, Isaac Mizrahi, Randy Brecker, Frank London, Violent Femmes, Twisted Sister, Gravity Kills, System of a Down, Leela James, Lila Downs, Estelle, MTV, VH1, HBO, BBC, Comedy Central, Target, Grupo Latin Vibe and many, many more.
Key Personnel: Lou Holtzman (owner/engineer/the oracle), Grammy-winning Fran Cathcart (owner/producer/engineer), Grammy-winning Marc Urselli (producer/chief engineer/studio manager), Eric Elterman (producer/engineer/multi-instrumentalist)
System Highlights: EastSide Sound is the perfect hybrid between analog and digital. We believe in and offer the best of both worlds. We have a fantastic Harrison Series Ten B board, a warm and punchy sounding 96 channel true analog board with total digital recall and full automation (no converters, the sound stays analog but you can automate anything and everything: faders, EQs, sends, inserts etc). The Harrison is complemented by a 64 output Pro Tools HD system and by a vast amount of analog outboard gear (LA2, LA3, LA4, 1176, Altec’s etc) and pre-amps (API, Neve, Trident, Ampex, Universal Audio, TF Pro, Summit, Altec’s etc).
Is this a trick question? Of course I will risk my life throwing water, milk, coffee and juices at the fire to save everything! …but if in the fire I were to spot a wild dragon running at me I guess I’ll grab the hard drives with all the sessions and get the hell out!
Rave Reviews: When people keep coming back, record after record, it must mean something, right? John Zorn has made hundreds of records and the last 30 or so were done at EastSide Sound. He also said that his records have never sounded so good, and others have said the same thing.
Everyone that comes by EastSide Sound always comments on what a cozy and relaxed vibe there is and everyone that records at EastSide comes back for more. They love the ability to choose between recording in the same space or being isolated in different booths so that they can later edit all the tracks without leakage. They love the ability to have total recall to instantly continue working on something unfinished a month later, with no downtime. They also love our professional, award-winning, cool and down to earth staff. And last but not least they LOVE the sound we get!
Most Memorable Session Ever: Too many… but one I recall is when Les Paul was over for some tracking and we were about to order in some pizza and he said something like “1947, Corona NY, First Pizza: I was there!”
Session You’d Like to Forget: The no-shows, the guys that think they own the world and arrive 4 hours late, the singers who can’t sing for the life of them but think that Autotune and capable audio engineers are an excuse for them to attempt a career in music anyway!
Dream Session (if you could host ANY session with any client, living or dead, what would it be?): Some of my personal favorite sessions are the ones with John Zorn, an incredible composer, genius and fantastic personality. Every session is always populated with incredible musicians.
Living or Dead? Would love to have worked with Hendrix, The Beatles and a… how about a Led Zeppelin reunion? But I guess we can’t complain considering many of the other giants have worked here (Les Paul, Eric Clapton, Sting, Lou Reed and many others). – Marc Urselli
Visit www.eastsidesound.com for more information and to get in touch!
You may be familiar with the National Association of Record Industry Professionals aka NARIP‘s Brunch’s from their West Coast counterpart, but on Sunday April 1, SonicScoop attended NARIP’s NYC Music Biz Brunch at the spacious and welcoming East Side Sound on the Lower East Side.
It was an intimate gathering where Artist Managers, Producers, Designers and other industry professionals were able to network and connect with each other. We’ve mentioned NARIP before and were excited for this event to seal the weekend with East Sound Studio’s manager Marc Urselli as the host.
The event started off with quick 30-second introductions by all the attendees to help break the ice and allow everyone to quickly get to know each other. “NARIP NYC Biz Brunch is great because I’m interested in expanding my work to music clients, and there are a lot of cool people here,” said Graphic 927′s Diane Shelton. “You need to be close to people and this is a great place to also get feedback.”
Feedback is a necessity for any business, and as NYC’s audio professionals grow and the industry continues to take shape with new technologies and new ideas, audio professionals are finding that the best way to stay in the know is through the people – not just the news. And Jennifer Vazquez, a singer/songwriter from NYC, tends to agree, “There’s no tension. NARIP just simply keeps you educated and updated.”
But as our days are filled mixing down our tracks, placements, doing promotion, and keeping up with the news, when do we find time to network? The in-person connection is the key, because hugs and handshakes make the difference. As NYC’s role in the audio world continues to grow, so do the opportunities, ideas, and industry as a whole.
We were glad to be at the NARIP Biz Brunch, and will keep as always SonicScoop will keep you all updated of future events like this and others throughout the city. See you at the next one!
Who’s been recording at Avatar Studios recently? Check it out:
Lou Reed recently recorded “Peggy Sue” for a Buddy Holly tribute project in Avatar’s Studio A with engineer Mark Urselli assisted by Fernando Lodeiro. And Bobby McFerrin recorded in Studio G with longtime producer and manager Linda Goldstein, engineer Bob Power assisted by Rick Kwan.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp was held at Avatar recently, with producers Mark Hudson, Rudy Sarzo; engineers Steve Greenwell, Robert Smith assisted by Bob Mallory and Charlie Kramsky. Roger Daltrey came in to record with the campers.
A performance by Kurt Elling was recorded in front of a live audience in Avatar Studio A for broadcast on WFUV. The session was produced by Dave Einstein and engineered by Brian Montgomery assisted by Aki Nishimura and Charlie Kramsky.
The Christian McBride Big Band recorded and mixed at Avatar with engineer Joe Ferla assisted by Rick Kwan, Michel Camilo recorded with engineer Phil Magnotti and Fly recorded and mixed with producer Manfred Eicher and engineer Aya Takemura.
Music for Fox’s Glee continues to be recorded and mixed at Avatar with producer Tommy Faragher, engineer Bryan Smith assisted by Charlie Kramsky. And Carter Burwell continued recording his score for HBO’s mini-series Mildred Pierce with engineer Todd Whitelock. Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks also recorded for the show in Studio A with producer and music supervisor Randy Poster and engineer Stewart Lerman.
Visit www.avatarstudios.net for more information, and booking.
Anderson developed many of Homeland’s songs while on the road, constantly re-working them and creating or improvising new and different versions. Instead of hiring a producer to remix the song, a remix from Indaba Music’s community seemed fitting of Anderson’s innovative album process.
Through May 13, Indaba has provided a special link for those who wish to craft and remix their own version of “Only an Expert.”
The remix submissions will be reviewed by a jury of experts, including Anderson and Lou Reed, from May 13 to May 27. Afterwards, Indaba will announce the jury’s choices of Grand Prize Winner, two Runners-Up, and the public’s choice of ten Honorable Mentions.
Those chosen will receive prizes:
(1) Grand Prize: $1,000 / Remix will be included on iTunes edition of Homeland / One year free Platinum membership to Indaba Music
(2) Runners-Up: One year free Platinum membership to Indaba Music
(10) Honorable Mentions: One year free Pro memberships to Indaba Music / Remix streamed on Anderson’s official site / Signed deluxe package: 12-inch “Only an Expert” single and Homeland CD
Homeland features Anderson on vocals, playing the keyboard and percussion, as well as performing newly fashioned violin sounds. Her vocals can be heard through one of her many musical device inventions; this one is called “audio drag” where she reveals her male alter ego, Fenway Bergamot. He appears on the album’s cover and narrates the song “Another Day in America.”
The album also includes Tuvan throat singers and igil players of Chirgilchin; New York experimental jazz and rock players including Rob Burger (keys), Omar Hakim (drums), Kieran Hebden of Four Tet (keys), Shahzad Ismaily (percussion) Eyvind Kang (viola), Peter Scherer (keyboards), Skúli Sverrisson (bass), Ben Wittman (percussion/drums) and founder of Tzadik, John Zorn (saxophone). Antony Hegarty sings additional vocals on the album.
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The free flow of creativity from New York music force John Zorn never ceases to inspire. If he can create what must be thousands of recordings by now, and head up the extremely productive Tzadik label, then you should be able to get your own catalog moving as well.
Along for the learning right now is NYC engineer/producer Marc Urselli. This is one of the guys that’s always busy, a three-time GRAMMY winner with credits that include Les Paul, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Sting, Joss Stone, Lila Downs, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Mike Patton, Keith Richards, Buddy Guy, Richie Sambora, Johnny Rzeznick (Goo Goo Dolls), ZZ Top, Sam Cooke, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall, Luther Vandross, Simple Minds and a bunch more (www.marcurselli.com/music).
Being a go-to guy for Zorn, whose nonstop contributions to jazz, world sounds, and experimental music just keep on coming, keeps Urselli’s schedule even busier.
Q: I kind of think of you as having an audio “practice”. Is this correct? What are the different things you do professionally?
A: Ha ha., the doctor will see you now! Well, sometimes I do feel like a doctor. Some of my patients have serious illnesses, such as “I-suck-but-I-wanna-be-a-star”-itis or “I-can’t-sing-and-you-need-to-fix-my-voice”-it is. Or hallucinations such as “Yo-this-is-gonna-be-a-hit-man-so-you-should-work-with-me-for-free”.
Luckily, I am also blessed to work with some of the most incredible artists of our time who don’t require much or any doctoring of that kind at all. But if you like the doctor-metaphor, I guess I can say that I use my tools to make people be as healthy as possible. There must be a reason why “healthy” is synonymous with “sound”!
To answer your questions exactly, though, I do a lot of things professionally: Primarily I engineer, mix and produce records — which of course includes all the editing that is necessary to make everyone sound perfect. I also do quite a bit of live sound and touring, I do sound design for commercials, I compose, I write for some music magazines, I run my own music website and do a few other things.
Q: Seems like everyone I know these days is doing either just one thing, or a wide variety of projects. Are you primarily based out of East Side Sound, where I first met you? Why do you like to work at that facility?
A: I am a freelancer and have worked in several studios, but if the client leaves the choice to me I always choose to work at EastSide Sound because it’s just the best studio in town.
I’ve worked at other studios in NYC and outside NYC, and there is no place I know of that has the amount of isolation – seven isolated rooms with line of sight — and the amount of gear that EastSide has. Plus. EastSide has a super cool and chill vibe that musicians respond very well to. The combination of recording spaces and quality (and quantity) of gear is unique.
Also EastSide Sound has a Harrison board, which is one of the most amazing and best- sounding boards I worked on, which lets me do mixes in the analog domain with total automation — beyond just faders, I’m talking EQs, pans, reverb sends, dynamics etc… and total digital recall — so that I can recall an analog mix a year later within seconds).
In addition to all of that I have some of my gear there — Focal monitors, JZ microphones, Rode microphones, McDSP plugins, IK Multimedia plugins, etc… — so I’m comfortable and I feel at home. It’s just a great hybrid of vintage gear, modern technology as well as old-school studio design and new-school philosophy. EastSide has been around since 1973 and is doing OK considering the times we are in and all the studios closing, So obviously we’re doing something right over there, you know?
Q: I agree about that Harrison board, I really enjoyed mixing two Impossible Objects songs through it with Fran Cathcart over there. So how would you describe the musical space that John Zorn currently occupies? What kind of artist is he, and what does his body of work represent in the canon?
A: Zorn to me is one of the most interesting composers and musicians of our time — I absolutely love his music and love working with him. He’s a true genius, and his work ethic is second to none. He is eclectic, prolific, focused and dedicated to the music. Everything he does, from his own music, to the Tzadik label he runs to his music venue, The Stone, he does with love and out of love for the music. His body of work is incredible — hundreds of records to his name — and his strength is probably in the variety of his composition.
What I love about working with him is that it is always different, always exciting. He writes jazz in its many variations and flavors, rock/metal, classical music, avantgarde/ experimental music and more often than not his music is a mixture of all of the above, which is incredibly interesting.
I’ve recorded and mixed more than a dozen of his albums now, and in doing so have found myself employing tried-and-true mic techniques on jazz quartets, recording chamber-like string trios, doing vocals-only albums, capturing rare and out-of-the-ordinary percussion instruments and other sound-making devices. Or I’ve been bouncing my head up and down in the control room while tracking double drum sets, a distorted bass, screaming vocals and Zorn’s incredible sax playing.
On top of that Zorn uses some of the most incredible musicians out there and it’s a pleasure for me to even just watch them play, let alone record them. I love the fact that there’s so much variety because I grew up listening to all sorts of different music, and I’m always excited about every record I get to do with him. Zorn’s simply the man!
Q: When you first told me you had worked recently with John Zorn, I thought you had worked on a finished album. But you referred to your recordings with him as an “ongoing collaboration”. Can you explain how it’s working?
A: Well, like I said, John is very prolific and we enjoy working together very much. We first worked together on his album The Dreamers – one of my favorite to this date — and we’ve worked together ever since, which means about 15-20 records now.
You have to understand: the man is totally dedicated to his music and the musicians he uses have incredible amounts of talent. This translates into relatively short sessions. I think the longest session I did with him was three days of tracking and two days of mixing, and the shortest session was one 12-hour day of recording and mixing 10 songs!
The average is around 1-2 days for tracking and one day for mixing.
We’ve got the system down and we work fast, no breaks, no food, no messing around. I know what he wants and what he likes and I strive to make it perfect. I get there hours before he comes in to set up everything so that he can come in, sit down and get to work teaching the first song to his musicians. By the way, they never get to practice the music before they come in for the session. They learn it on the spot, try it a few times and then record it in one or two takes, sometimes three… and all of this sight-reading extremely difficult sheet music and soloing on top of crazy time signatures!
John is surrounded by talented people and we are kind of a team and everyone in the team cares about the music and takes it seriously. Kaz does the label, Heung Heung does the artwork etc… Everyone gives their 200% and when I work for him I give my 200%, because those are some of the sessions I really look forward to doing.
Q: How does such a high volume of consistent output affect the way you engineer and produce? Both working with him, and in turn working with other artists?
A: I would say it affects it very positively when working with him because there is a level of trust, knowledge and comfort that might not be there with an artist you never worked with before. In other words, with John I know what he wants, so I can give him what he wants very quickly and efficiently. If he had to work with a new engineer every time it most likely wouldn’t be as fluid and smooth as it is.
Other artists are unaffected by all of this, but needless to say, the more I work with any artist the better I get at what I do and the faster I get at what I do. EastSide has become second nature so it’s really easy for me to get good sounds there, because I know the rooms, the outboard, the mics, so well.
It goes without saying that my Pro Tools chops are sharp and I can fly on the machine doing all the transport operation, editing and automation at lighting speed, which clients love, because it saves them time, which equals money and makes them sound good. I hate to say this, but speed has become an important factor in today’s industry — but this plays to my advantage because of how fast I am.
Q: What are some highlight duets/musical collaborations of Zorn’s from recent sessions? Tell us about recording the vocal four-piece, Mycale.
A: There’s been many. He always uses amazing players like bassists Greg Cohen, Trevor Dunn and Shanir Blumenkranz; guitarist Marc Ribot; drummers Joey Baron, Ben Perowsky, Kenny Wollesen, also a vibraphonist; percussionist Cyro Baptista; pianists Rob Burger, Jamie Saft and Uri Caine, and so many more: Erik Friedlander, Carol Emmanuel, Ikue Mori, Fred Frith and the list goes on. We did a record with Phantomas/Faith No More singer Mike Patton, which was pretty amazing too.
The Mycale record was an interesting one — it was one of two vocals-only CDs of John’s music that I recorded. Mycale is a group of four talented young women who took some of Zorn’s music and arranged it for their voices, on their own, over the course of a year. It’s a very interesting record that brings together four different voices, styles and even languages!
We recorded another similar record with a different group of singers that became the music for French director Arno Bouchard’s film The Last Supper. John does a lot of soundtrack work and this latter group of amazing singers is the same that does the live performance of “Shir Ha-Shirim/The Song of Songs”, which is one of Zorn’s many musical projects for which I had the pleasure of doing live sound in a few occasions.
Q: Do you also work with the artists on his label? What kind of music does he distribute?
A: I have worked — as in recorded and mixed — several albums for Tzadik. Mostly it was artists based in New York, except in one or two cases. John releases and distributes the music he likes, which is how it should be for every label out there.
Q: Do you still maintain Chain D.L.K.? What is that, and how did it inform your work as an audio pro?
A: I do still run it. Chain D.L.K. is a music magazine for electronic, industrial, avantgarde, experimental music. I founded it in 1994 as a paper magazine and now it is online only at www.chaindlk.com and has over 30,000 visits per month.
Chain D.L.K. has really nothing to do with my work in the audio field. It is not about technical information, but rather music news, reviews, interviews, forums etc… It is a completely non-profit venture — in fact I lose money every month out of my pocket — but I do it to support the music and the artists, and to offer exposure to artists who otherwise might not get as much. I do it out of pure love for the music.
Q: You are originally from Switzerland, and then grew up in Italy before making it to American shores. Why do you enjoy being NYC-based? What makes this a great place to work, and what’s also making it challenging?
A: NYC is the greatest city on earth. Just walking down its streets inspires me. There are a few other cities I feel that strongly about, but NYC is at the top of my list and I don’t think I could live anywhere else.
Obviously it is a great place to work populated by some of the most amazing artists out there. Of course it is also challenging, it’s a tough city, it makes you or breaks you, and there’s competition for everything. But I like the challenge, it keeps me sharp and keeps me moving forward.
Q: Word. Is it true you can go kite surfing in Brooklyn? What’s it like to kite surf? Inquiring minds want to know.
A: Ha ha, I love kitesurfing! We go to several places in Brooklyn and also Long Island. Kitesurfing is equal part rush of adrenaline and equal part zen-like experience. You are out there alone with the elements, which can be very relaxing and spiritual in a sense, but you can also rip great air, pull off air and board tricks, surf waves, explore the canals between the grass islands of Long Island’s Great South Bay and hurt yourself in more ways than you can imagine!
Q: OK, I really want to come with you sometime. What’s next for you?
A: A kitesurfing trip to Brazil, a new record with Zorn (for which we start tracking four hours after I land at JFK airport from my 17 hour redeye return flight from Brazil), two other Tzadik records in December, a possible second half of tour with Marianne Faithfull in January (we did a first leg two months ago), a Masada live marathon and hopefully more interesting records of beautiful music for the world to enjoy!
Q: Gee, sounds awful. Anything else you want to add?
A: You tell me, I feel like I bored you and everyone else enough with my chatter. I am just enthusiastic about music, I love music deeply and I care about what I do and do it as best as I can. I wish there were more amazing artists like Zorn out there and that more people were into music for the right reasons and with the right attitude. Music is
the only universal language and I wanna learn to speak all of its dialects! – David Weiss