In approximately 4,000,000,000 years, the Milky Way galaxy we call home will collide with the Andromeda galaxy. No one will be injured in this slow-motion crash, but the interaction of all the spiral arms will fling every visible star hither and yon, transforming our night sky forever.
Too impatient to wait for this exciting phenomenon? Well, a parallel remapping has occurred recently in the mastering realm. It all began when the forces of New York real estate and music industry economics set a collision course with Manhattan’s globally respected Masterdisk.
Everything smashed together, scattering elite mastering engineers and their assistants across the country, with new rooms to call home.
Setting Things in Motion
It all began in January of 2014, when Scott Hull, the owner of Masterdisk, received some unwelcome news: Masterdisk’s lease would not be renewed, and the occupants of one of New York City’s most respected mastering facilities, located at 545 W. 45th Street for over two decades, would have 60 days to vacate.
Hull had already been seriously considering a move from the classic rooms of 545 for a while. Mastering has not been immune to the ongoing financial pressures facing the recording industry, and perhaps no link in the chain was more susceptible to a shakeout then a Manhattan multi-room mastering facility.
Now Masterdisk resides at 260 West 36th Street, Suite 801. It’s the latest of a few addresses in the company’s history, which dates back to 1973 when it launched as a spinoff of the recording, editing and mastering arm of Mercury Records.
The Latest Evolution
Hull had to move Masterdisk under a deadline, but according to the veteran mastering engineer – whose lengthy credits include Uncle Tupelo, Herbie Hancock, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Panic! At the Disco, John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, and The Book of Mormon: Original Broadway Cast Recording – the idea to relocate had already been brewing for months in his mind.
“It was in the middle of last year that I finally saw a new vision for Masterdisk that didn’t include a large group of engineers,” Hull says. “The business has changed and musicians are looking for a singular voice that aligns with their perspective. I came to believe I could serve them better on my own. Once I made that decision, the move was an obvious next step.”
Anyone who visited Masterdisk at the 545 W. 45th Street location, which featured multiple rooms designed by Fran Manzella, likely recalls a buzzing atmosphere where senior engineers, their assistants, and no shortage of major label and indie artists circulated constantly. Over the years, countless thousands of albums – including hundreds of GRAMMY award-winning gold and platinum records — issued from the suites of star engineers that worked at the location including Greg Calbi, Bob Ludwig, Howie Weinberg and Leon Zervos.
Hull, who himself served as Ludwig’s assistant from 1984-1993, doubtless enjoyed the collegial atmosphere as much as anyone. But for the moment, Hull is choosing to work with a streamlined team at 260 W 36th Street, where he’s been in operation since mid-March.
There, he’s recently mastered projects for Tom Scholz (Boston), William Onyeabor, Anna Gastier (SNL), Joshua Redman and James Farm, Eric Harland Voyager – Vipassana, Bobby Previte’s SO PERCUSSION, and Dave Matthews – the latter two for vinyl and using his prized Neumann VMS-82 lathe.
“Right now it’s a single studio operation with a wonderful support staff,” Hull says. “I’m also constructing the perfect space for our lathe, a hugely important aspect of Masterdisk. Vinyl is part of the new frontier of mastering and we’re highly focused on cutting the best records in the world.
“My plan is for a three-room mastering studio, and I’m still looking for the right individuals to fill out the Masterdisk team,” Hull continues. “I’ve been in discussions with several high-quality mastering engineers. We are trying to work out the details.
“So – in the meantime – I am mastering some of my best work ever. Listen and see for yourself: Organic, live in the studio, direct-to-analog, and vinyl projects are what I’m finding the most satisfying.”
The Latest Locations of Masterdisk Engineers
This is certainly not the first time that a shakeup has redrawn the mastering lines in and around Manhattan. Mix magazine in 2008 called that year a “maelstrom of rearranging”, as multiple facilities shut down, were sold, and opened.
So it’s a little bit of history repeating itself now, as the constellation of elite mastering engineers that occupied 545 W. 45th Street at the time of, or within several months of, the move has scattered into a freshly distributed set of pros. As many as could be tracked down at the time of publication are listed below.
Tony Dawsey now operates Phantom Mastering in the hamlet of Mahopac, NY. The former Masterdisk Senior Mastering Engineer started there on Oct. 15th 1980, a journey launched in the mail room.
In the decades that ensued, Dawsey built up a massive discography that includes Jay-Z, French Montana, Diddy, RZA, DMX, Moby, Prefuse 73, Nine Inch Nails, Guru, Al Green, and King’s X, to name just a very few. “I have been very busy lately,” reports Dawsey, who is booked by Peter Cho http://belikewaterproductions.com/. “I’ve completed work on The D.I.T.C. Remix Project for Slice of Spice, along with the SP1200 Project: A Re-AWakening for Lord Finesse also for Slice of Spice. I’m very excited about the project for Sean C & LV called Loud Dreams a compilation of many top Hip Hop artist.
“Wakeem Dean, founder of Ruff Ryders Records is putting out a mixtape on his son LiL Waah called Playtime Is Over hosted by Swizz Beats,” Dawsey continues. “I’m even more excited about Pilz4Jazz a very refreshing Jazz project for Al Mack.” Other notable recent credits for Dawsey include The Notorious B.I.G. Life After Death, Puff Daddy & Family No Way Out, Ratking’s “So It Goes” (mixed by Young Guru), and the debut album for Crown mixed by Dana Nielsen.
Roger Lian, a Senior Mastering Engineer at 545 W. 45th, is based out of the new Masterdisk. A veteran of the company since 1989, he was Bob Ludwig’s last digital editor before the latter headed north to Maine to launch Gateway Mastering. His lengthy credit list includes the likes of Rush, Paul Oakenfold, Violent Femmes, The Smashing Pumpkins, and New York Dolls.
New additions to Lian’s discography include Mushroomhead’s The Righteous & the Butterfly, Sleep from A Bad Think (which is former A Flock of Seagulls drummer/GRAMMY winner Michael Marquart), and the actor Leslie Odom Jr., set to release his first jazz solo album on Borderlight Entertainment in August.
Former Masterdisk Senior Mastering Engineer Vlado Meller went much further afield, relocating his practice to Truphonic studio in Charleston, South Carolina. Meller’s platinum-plated, 43-year career includes credits with the Beastie Boys, Andrea Bocelli, Johnny Cash, Celine Dion, Duran Duran, Julio Iglesias, Michael Jackson, Lil Wayne, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Metallica, George Michael, Oasis, Pink Floyd, Public Enemy, Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shakira, Barbra Streisand, System Of A Down, Weezer, and Jack White. His two-time GRAMMY-winning journey also included stays at Sony Music Studios and Universal Mastering Studios.
Most recently VLM has continued its run of high-level projects, including work for Universal recording artists Broods, Smokey Robinson, SBTRKT, and Rebirth Brass Band. Emerging Charleston artists he’s worked with include Dangermuffin and The Royal Tin Foil.
“Since I own my complete mastering studio, it was just a matter of physically relocating and reinstalling my gear in the new location,” explains Meller. “With the help of my former Sony friends, it became reality as of March 1st. I have a new assistant Jeremy Lubsey, formerly of Masterdisk, and Peter Cho continues to be my booking manager. It was a smooth transition with minimal interruption for my clients. 40 plus years in this business made my transition easy and seamless.
“I had a great two years at Masterdisk, filled with many great memories and really great people,” he continues. “I hope to build, and have many more memories in the future here in Charleston, SC.”
Lubsey was with Masterdisk for two years as a vinyl lacquer cutting assistant and engineer, and in addition to assisting Meller he is also a mastering engineer in his own right at Meller’s facility. He is booked by Peter Cho.
Meanwhile, Andy VanDette, former Chief Engineer at Masterdisk, has remained in Manhattan. The always upbeat VanDette can now be found at Engine Room Audio, bringing his 30+ years of mastering experience for CD, Vinyl, 5.1 Surround Mastering, and Mastered for iTunes to the Financial District facility.
VanDette’s discography runs deep, including Rush, Beastie Boys, David Bowie, Whitney Houston, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Deep Purple, Uncle Kracker and Metric, among many others. Most recently, VanDette has mastered high-charting records that include Sevendust’s Time Travelers & Bonfires, and Framing Hanley The Sum of Who We Are.
For VanDette, who cut his teeth as a Masterdisk intern in 1984 before rising up the ladder to his Chief Engineer position in 2000, an ongoing NYC presence after his time at Masterdisk was a must.
“When looking for new options, I asked my clientele if I still needed a Manhattan studio,” he explains.“Overwhelmingly, they responded, YES. Howie Weinberg, Dan Millice, and Mike Tucci had so many good things to say about Engine Room’s owner Mark Christensen, and Studio Manager Scott Lee, that I had to check it out. I found a well-designed, acoustically treated space, with great gear and killer monitors.
“And more, I fell in love with the comfortable, laid-back vibe here,” adds VanDette.“It’s great to be part of a facility that creates, records, and masters music — all within walking distance to three major subway lines.”
Mastering Engineer Tim Boyce is now on point in Greenpoint, having opened up The Sound Design Mastering — ensconced in the space operated by Julian Silva’s On Air Mastering. As his business name implies, the multitalented Boyce is offering both sound design and mastering from his studio, the latter bolstered by a credit list including Jay-Z, The Great Gatsby Soundtrack, Kid Rock, Nico Jarr, and French Montana.
Of course, Boyce couldn’t resist talking tech in connection to his move. “I’m bringing lots of upgrades,” he comments. “These include new ULN8 and Sonic converters, Cedar hardware, Weiss EQ, and the Bettermaker EQ to match up with the Masterpiece there (at On Air). I’m also bringing upgrades to the infrastructure — computers, trapping — along with monitor upgrades via a Velodyne sub and multi-channel Bryston.”
Alex DeTurk has found a most intriguing landing spot. To transition away from the lathe work where he’s long excelled, he’s now doing digital mastering at the well-regarded Strangeweather in Brooklyn. “I’ve known Marc (Alan Goodman) and Daniel (Schlett) for a while, great people. These are completely new tools for me, which is a great deal of fun and inspiration right now.”
His impressive credits over the years include David Bowie, Townes Van Zandt, NAAM, Brendan Benson, Javelin, John McLaughlin, The Walkmen, and Teen Girl Scientist Monthly. Still, it proved a hectic pace to keep up.
“I needed a lifestyle change — I was getting pretty burned out,” he admits of his own wish for transition. “I want to re-focus my energies to provide the best service I can – to a small core group of people. And an effort to be more selective with the work I do take on — hopefully I’ll gain some time to explore other avenues of work, music or other.”
The mastering engineer Graham Goldman is continuing a five-year stint at Masterdisk, working on Hull’s rig at the 36th Street location. With CD, vinyl, and Mastering for iTunes all under his belt, his credits include Rabbits, The Go Set, Swarm of Arrows, and 16. Most recently he’s mastered for Idiots, Protection Patrol Pinkerton, Are We Serious, and Truest.
Randy Merrill was involved with Masterdisk for a little over 5 years, from July 2008 through October 2013. Today he’s at Sterling Sound, assisting Tom Coyne in their picturesque Chelsea Market studios. “I am doing my own sessions at night in his room,” says Merrill, whose credits include Bruce Hornsby, Franz Nicolay, Demander, Nectar, Alex Wong, and Kassini, “with many pieces custom designed and built in-house by the Sterling technical staff.”
Uptown, the stronghold known as the Mastering Palace just got extra strength from Mark Santangelo. An understudy of Meller’s when the pair were together at Sony Music Studios, his credit list includes Neon Trees, The Weeknd, and Neil Diamond. Most recent projects include Illangelo, The Maria Ahn EP- (mixed by Sean Yoo/Ryan Fagman), and Viking (Mixed by Jon Hildenstein).
“I’ve since joined Dave Kutch at The Mastering Palace,” he confirms. “My transition from Masterdisk to The Mastering Palace in the beginning of March was seamless. The room I’m working out of at The Mastering Palace has most of the software/hardware I was accustomed to at Masterdisk. They made some additions for me, including The Weiss DS1-MK 3, as well as the Mutec Work Clock — both sound incredible and I couldn’t be happier. I also got accustomed to the Focal SM9 and Electra Be speakers quite easily.”
Santangelo’s way-back relationship sealed the deal with Mastering Palace owner Kutch, whose own all-Solar System client list includes Alicia Keys, Lupe Fiasco, Bruno Mars, Jim Jones, John Legend, Natasha Bedingfield, and Marc Anthony. “Dave Kutch (owner) and I have had a great and longstanding relationship since we worked together at Sony Studios,” says Santangelo. “It was simply the right time in my career to make the transition over to his studio.
“The Mastering Palace staff already has an excellent reputation with all of my major label clients so the decision was easy. They’re also in the process of expanding and building new rooms, so it’s an exciting time.”
Also listed as an engineer on Masterdisk’s page is Jeff Reeves.
A Different Scale
No aspect of the music industry has been particularly predictable the last few years. It’s an atmosphere ripe for thrilling discoveries to some — necessitating swift reinvention for others.
Hull is upfront about the challenges that a dedicated mastering practice has in such an environment. “Like the music business as a whole, modern mastering facilities are being constantly challenged to redefine what it means to make great music,” observes Hull. “And, though DIY mastering is easier to come by than ever before, it’s consistently missing some important elements: years of experience, concierge service, and exposure to a musical community on whose shoulders we built some of history’s most influential artistic statements.”
Those changes explain the different architectural scale by which the new Masterdisk is constructed. “I don’t consider our space to be a ‘large’ facility,” he says. “On the contrary, it’s the perfect size for the personal feel I believe will be the hallmark of the new Masterdisk: Not too big, not too small.
“What I did want to ensure, however, was adequate space—and vibe—for a world-class vinyl production setup. Masterdisk has been very lucky to be such a big part of vinyl’s resurgence. Our lathe is a rare specimen, perfectly suited to high quality cutting, the kind you’d expect for projects coming from today’s music icons.”
Might new stellar nurseries of sound radiate from this updated scene? Maybe it will be like when we converge with our galactic neighbor a few billion years hence – an upheaval that creates something beautifully new in the process.
Mastering is a deeply personal business. Artists and labels have shown consistently that they’re most loyal to the mastering engineer, more so than the facility they work in. The magic of FTP means we can master on Mars, so it becomes the trust of an engineer’s following that counts – not the location, size or signal path of their facility.
“I’ll often Skype with a client, send and receive files electronically and master—either in digital or analog—without even seeing him or her in person,” says Scott Hull. “I find that most new artists prefer to avail themselves of the modern technology that can save us all so much time.”
– David Weiss
Ears of experience pay off.
Designers operating at the level of Francis Manzella – Fran to his friends – create world-class sound facilities following decades of hard-won knowhow. But making studios like Manzella’s calls for more than just putting in time. It calls for artistry, intuition, architectural mastery, and an innate love of audio.
From the freshly minted Guilford Sound in Vermont, to New Jersey’s the Barber Shop, Sterling Sound to the enlightened 25th Street Recording in Oakland, Manzella’s portfolio is as inspiring to view as it is to listen to.
Get inside the mind of a studio architect and speaker builder who craves the chance to push boundaries – always in the name of achieving his clients’ desired sonic signatures.
Firm Name: Francis Manzella Design Ltd.
Location: Mahopac, NY
Founding Father: I have a background in the recording studio business as an engineer, technical engineer and chief engineer at Skyline studios for almost 10 years.
During that time, Skyline grew quite a bit and I was involved in the design and construction of three studios there. I found this work rewarding and when other clients started to ask me to help them build studios my first design company was formed.
In 1992, I left Skyline to pursue studio design and acoustics fulltime and started FM Design. I continue to find this work interesting, rewarding
and I love the opportunity to travel and meet “studio folks” from around the world.
I feel very lucky to do what I enjoy every day. You know what they say: Do what you enjoy for a living and you never work a day in your life!
Specializing In: We handle music recording, mastering, post production, educational and broadcast production studios regularly.
We also work on acoustic and technical design for restaurants, conference rooms, nightclubs and I’ve actually had the opportunity to design a very modern nightclub over in Tbilisi (Republic or Georgia) recently from the ground up. This project included working with some very talented sub-consultants on video, stage lighting and specialty installations including interior illuminated waterfalls and 3D video projection.
We are always looking to stretch our limits and do new types of work. I always tell people, if it involves great sound, then I’m interested!
Design Philosophy: The biggest dictate at FM Design is that each project is unique. We resolve to seek out solutions for each client that meet their needs, wants and budget. We are always looking at new solutions and techniques to broaden our design palette.
Although we do have a basic philosophy about control room design guided by strong consideration of modal response, early reflection control and generous amounts of full bandwidth bass trapping, we always look at each project as a unique challenge.
I try to let the venue and the client’s aesthetic sensibility guide us through the preliminary conceptualization. I often assign “homework” and ask new clients to assemble photos of spaces (or things) that they are attracted to aesthetically and tell me what it is they like about these photos. They don’t have to be studios and actually we are better served when they are not.
I’ve designed studios in 100-year-old post and beam barns, churches that had been converted into a dance club, a casino hotel and a Star Trek-inspired studio in a non descript commercial building in NJ.
Of course there are elements that appear in many of our designs because they work! Visually a studio can look like almost anything as long as we can stretch fabric over it. We’ve done very clean contemporary minimalistic designs, and also very “old school” wood paneled rooms. It’s all about the customers’ vision, the needs and their budget.
For live recording spaces, we once again try and respond to the clients lead. If a particular client is doing an analog retro studio, they probably are going to be attracted to larger live spaces. Other clients will have other recording sensibilities, and we will try to give them the acoustic palette they are looking for in the recording spaces.
In general I like to do mid-to large-sized live rooms with a variety of isolation booths offering a range of acoustic signatures. This gives a (commercial) studio a broad range of acoustic environments to fit the needs of a wide range of clients.
Guilford Sound, VT
The Barber Shop, NJ
25 Street Recording, Oakland
Life Studios, Rome, private studio for recording artist Gigi D’Alessio
Forward Studios, Rome
Facility Focus: I want to go back a couple of years to 25 Street Recording in Oakland. What was interesting and somewhat unique about this project is that the owner, David Lichtenstein, wanted to do a very analog, large retro studio. So many projects just don’t even consider large live rooms anymore these days.
He is a drummer who has a background as an engineer and producer and he has a vast collection of equipment, instruments and mics. He wanted to build one large studio to put all his “stuff” into and offer something that just wasn’t really available in the Bay Area anymore: analog recording in a large great sounding live room, with an analog-heavy, large control room that also sounds awesome. I would have to say that we succeeded in achieving these results.
The project went through a long search for a suitable venue. When Dave finally located the old auto shop in downtown Oakland, we immediately saw a great potential to do a truly world class project. The console selection process was long and thorough and Dave finally selected the API Vision with ATC 5.1 main monitoring.
We also spent a lot of time with Dave and the contractor (Dennis Stearns builders) identifying and locating unique sustainable and recycled materials for the project including all the wood flooring, which in a previous life was bleachers at a nearby stadium.
He’s really got a great place that just feels like you are recording in the ‘80′s except it’s also fully digital capable and sounds way better than most of the control rooms from that era, and has almost any toy or classic instrument you can ask for. The place has been very well received and is loved by engineer/producers who have had an opportunity to work there.
FM Design is: Francis Manzella – Principal and Owner, Bill Seegmuller – Senior designer and architect, Lars Tofastrud – Senior acoustician, designer and Partner in Griffin Audio USA, Roberto Rosu – European Sales Rep (and HVAC specialist!).
In 2004 Lars and I formalized a new partnership and formed Griffin Audio USA. Griffin provides high end custom studio loudspeakers for the recording and media industries. We offer systems ranging from our midfield G2B, which is a dual 8″ 2-way with a 4″ ribbon tweeter, up to our flagship G1A that is an 18″ 3-Way system with an 8″ Ribbon Super-Tweeter capable of extremely high output, low distortion playback including a full DSP processing package and custom Griffin amplifiers based on ICEPower high efficiency technology. Griffin also offers 15″ and 18″ Subwoofers to complete surround systems or add extra low octave support in larger systems. Griffin systems are installed in projects around the world including Life studio – Rome, Canoa Studio – Lisbon, The Studio at The Palms in Las Vegas, 2 Hard Records – Kingston Jamaica, Manhattan Center Studio in NYC, and The Barber Shop in NJ.
Some great contractors we have worked with include: Sonic Construction (NJ), Audio Structures (NY) and Dennis Stearns Builders (No Cal).
Biggest Beef: I wish everybody would REMEMBER the Golden Triangle of service. You can have it great, fast or cheap… pick two!
Dream Project: I have been so privileged to work with many great recording folks, artists and producers, that I don’t want to slight any of them by saying there’s somebody else… but…if I had to pick someone I would love to have a chance to work with it would be George Martin. He has done so much innovative work, that I’m sure it would be enlightening to do any type of project involving him. Imagine doing the personal studio for such a visionary. That would be a treat.
– Francis Manzella, President & Principal Designer, Francis Manzella Design
Summertime is not the super busiest time for recording studios; bands are out touring and playing festivals, and business overall slows a bit. But still, if you ask around (and we did), plenty of projects were just getting started if not just wrapping up over these longest days of the year.
Producer/engineer Chris Shaw mixed some vintage Bob Dylan over at Strange Weather Recording in Williamsburg – that is, he mixed “Bob Dylan, Live at the Isle of Wight 1969”, as part of a Bootleg Series. Also at Strange Weather, Daniel James Schlett finished mixing the new Amen Dunes record for Sacred Bones, as Marc Alan Goodman started work on the new Analog Rebellion record.
Speaking of Dylan, NYC blues legend Bill Sims has been putting some of the finishing touches on his album of Bob Dylan tunes, with Joan Osborne laying down some soulful vocals on “I Shall Be Released”, over at Grand Street Recording in Williamsburg. Ken Rich engineered the session and is co-producing the album with Ethan Eubanks.
Also at Grand Street… singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson tracked drums for a few of her upcoming songs with drummer Elliot Jacobson, producer Chris Kuffner, engineer Ken Rich and Jake Lummus assisting. The team made use of the studio’s 60′s Ludwig 24×14 kick and matching toms, along with a vintage Black Beauty snare and an oddball 1920s era 15″ brass snare….Diane Birch recorded and mixed a couple songs for her upcoming album with Tomek Miernowski… and composer DB Shapiro recorded and mixed his newest album with Ken Rich engineering and producing. Rich mixed down to ½” tape at 30ips on Grand Street’s new Studer A80RC MKII tape machine, monitoring on the new ATC SCM25a monitors recently purchased from Audio Power Tools.
Prior to Fun.’s summer tour, guitarist Jack Antonoff was recording over at Mission Sound (also in Williamsburg) recording for his new project for RCA, with John Hill producing. And this month, producer Chris Goss is at Mission, cutting tracks for Pure Love. Mission’s own Oliver Straus will be engineering.
Kanye West locked out Studios 1 and 2 at Germano Studios in NoHo to record/mix tracks for Yeezus, with engineers Noah Goldstein and Anthony Kilhoffer, and producers Mike Dean and Hudson Mohawke. Following Kanye, Lauryn Hill moved into Germano for several weeks, working on new material with engineer Graham Marsh for Sony Music. Meanwhile, Dream Theater was in to mix their new eponymous full-length album, with Richard Chycki engineering; Yoko Ono worked on her new album with Sean Lennon producing; Universal France artist Emilie Simon mixed new material with producer/engineer Chris Coady; Tiësto was recording in Studio 2 and pop artist Moxie was in Studio 1 recording with Dan Glashausser for Capitol Records.
Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and renowned jazz guitarist Julian Lage are working on an album together, and recorded at Sear Sound in Midtown – tracking with Chris Allen at the Neve 8038. British soul singer/songwriter Liam Bailey tracked a new album through that Neve as well, with Jimmy Douglass at the controls, and Salaam Remi producing for Sony Masterworks.
In other Sear sessions…Ian Axel’s new project “A Great Big World” recorded some new tracks for their Epic Records debut, with Dan Romer producing and Ted Tuthill engineering; The Public Theater tracked and mixed the music for Shakespeare In The Park‘s production of “Comedy Of Errors”, with Gary Maurer engineering and Greg Pliska producing; James Farber mixed some new music by The Gypsy Kings; and work for the “50 Shades!” musical began, with Matt Pierson producing and Chris Allen engineering.
Brooklyn dream pop band Elysian Fields mixed their upcoming album with producer/mixer Mark Plati at his East Village studio, Alice’s Restaurant. Plati also recently mixed projects for Swiss singer/songwriter Bastian Baker and Benji Hughes. All three records were mixed on Alice’s Restaurant’s Rupert Neve Designs 5088 console with Shadowmix faders, and mastered by Tom Durack. Notable outboard used on these projects includes the Burl B2 Bomber ADC and DAC; Thermionic Culture Phoenix, Retro 176 and LA-2A Tube compression/limiting; various API 500 series EQs; and plug-ins by UAD and SoundToys
Also at Saltlands… J Matthew Smith mixed sessions from tape for the 30th Anniversary re-release of veteran funk artist Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame for Tummy Touch Records; the band Noble Hunter recorded a live set for Lambkini’s “Behind The Glass” video series; and Jon Patrick Walker & the Guilty Party tracked and mixed new material with Josh Kaufman producing, and J Matthew Smith engineering.
Trey Songz released his new single “Sensational” earlier this month – the track was recorded, mixed and mastered at Engine Room Audio in lower Manhattan. The single was produced by Troy Taylor, recorded and mixed by Anthony Daniel and mastered by Mark B. Christensen.
Christensen also recently mastered: Albert Einstein, the second studio album by rapper Prodigy (of Mobb Deep) and producer, The Alchemist, featuring appearances by Roc Marciano, Raekwon, Action Bronson and more; and Ron Isley’s new album, This Song is for You, which came out last week on eOne Music. And Boston band Gentlemen Hall mastered their new track “Sail Into The Sun” at Engine Room with mastering engineer Dan Millice.
The guys behind French Horn Rebellion have a new studio in Brooklyn named for their production company, You Too Can Woo, where they’ve been busy working on the new album by The Knocks (David Perlick Molinari mixing), new tracks by French Horn Rebellion, Ghost Beach’s live set, and designing new sounds for MTV. (See photos of the studio in this Cool Hunting feature.) Other recent projects include work with St. Lucia and Haerts. And the studio’s been hosting regular sessions for Savoir Adore, and Deidre and the Dark.
LA band HAIM mastered their new album – produced by Ariel Reichstaid for Polydor Records – with Emily Lazar at The Lodge, assisted by Rich Morales. Lazar also recently mastered a Damian Taylor remix of Gotye’s “Easy Way Out” (produced by Wally De Backer aka Gotye) – look for it on Gotye’s upcoming “Video Mirrors” release – the new BT album, A Song Across Wires, and the new Party Supplies album for Fool’s Gold Records. Rich Morales assisted on the BT and Party Supplies albums.
At Masterdisk, Scott Hull has just finished mastering Sting’s new album, The Last Ship, produced by Rob Mathes for Interscope / A&M; Ben Allison mastered his new album, The Stars Look Very Different Today, with Randy Merrill. The album was recorded by Aaron Nevezie at The Bunker, and mixed by Allison for Sonic Camera Records. Vlado Meller mastered the new album by Phantogram, produced by John Hill and mixed by Rich Costey at Eldorado in Burbank for Universal Republic. And Mark Santangelo mastered the new album by The Weeknd producer Illangelo, called History of Man. Hear a track off the album, due out on Bromance Records August 20, here.
Beach Boys guitarist Al Jardine was in Brooklyn at Excello Recording, mixing a new single “Waves of Love” with producer Larry Dvoskin and engineer Hugh Pool. Dvoskin also tapped Pool to mix a collaboration with Sean Lennon for Bono’s “One” charity project.
Also at Excello, Bluegrass legend Tony Trischka was in with The Punch Brothers producing vocals for his upcoming release with engineer Charles Dechants; alt rock duo “Ken Rock South” was in tracking and mixing an EP with Pool, assisted by Dechants; and Chilean production duo Koko Stambuck and Christopher Manhey were in tracking with Mexican Warner Brothers artist Paulino.
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.
Scott Hull – who has mastered many a project for Mathes – calls him a “music renaissance man,” and a producer in a classic sense with “a profound understanding of many genres of music.” We would second that.
I first interviewed Mathes when he was producing Panic at the Disco’s ambitious record, Pretty. Odd., which had been equal parts inspired by the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s and the filmscore magic of Danny Elfman. Mathes was tapped for his unique ability to help translate these epic ideas into that young alt-rock context, with elaborate pop arrangements and instrumentation.
His more recent work includes albums by a total range of artists, from Sting to Fall Out Boy, Rod Stewart to Bettye Lavette to Train. Mathes is also a true multi-instrumentalist, and a sought-after arranger and musical director, and likewise writes arrangements for a wide range of artists, from Renee Fleming to Just Blaze to Avril Lavigne to Lou Reed, and directs the annual Kennedy Center Honors, and events like the Obama Inaugural “We Are One” concert.
Should be a compelling conversation with a uniquely successful modern producer.
Click for more details, or see below!
Off the Record with Scott Hull
Thursday, April 25, 2013
City College of New York’s Shepard Hall
160 Convent Avenue, New York, NY
Directions to CUNY
Admission: Free and open to the public.
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.