GREATER NYC AREA: This month in NYC recording found Skrillex producing Wale, Nicki Minaj working with Big Sean, The Kin recording with The Rondo Brothers, and a ton of bands recording in Brooklyn. There’s no way to report on everything, but here we run down some of the highlights from February to now…
Starting in Brooklyn This Time!
At Headgear Recording, Jersey rock band The Everymen mixed their upcoming album with producer/engineer John Agnello. And NYC-based Japanese rock band The Ricecookers tracked and mixed two EPs with engineer Ted Young.
Brooklyn bliss-pop band Cave Days has been recording a new LP at The Fort Brooklyn. James “General Crapshoot” Bentley is recording, mixing and producing with the band. In other news, The Fort has just re-capped the master section of their Neotek Elan console and – according to Bentley – “it sounds unreal!”
At Vacation Island Recording in Williamsburg, producer/engineer Matt Boynton recently finished mixing the new Suckers album, Candy Salad for Frenchkiss Records. Boynton also mixed more songs from Free Blood and finished Zachary Cale‘s new “Hangman Letters” EP. Brooklyn rock band Linfinity, Manican Party and El Dorado all recently mixed records with Boynton. And (pictured) Vacation Island’s tracking room (the “dead” room) got a facelift!
Berner also recently recorded, mixed, and played guitar on Psychic TV‘s limited vinyl-only 12″s – “Thank You Pts 1& 2″ and “Mother Sky/Alien Sky” (for Vanity Case Records) with additional engineering from Chris Cubeta – produced/engineered/played on Tatiana Kochkareva‘s “Infinity”, recorded and mixed Dead Stars‘ “I Get By” EP, and The Courtesy Tier‘s “Holy Hot Fire.” Also out of Galuminum Foil, Berner is currently recording and mixing records for Monuments, Man The Change, Jumpers, The Glorious Veins and Chris Abad.
Nearby at Excello Recording in Williamsburg, Grammy-winning Irish folksinger Susan McKeown tracked acoustic music for an upcoming release with engineer Hugh Pool. And Brooklyn-based rock band Alberta Cross tracked new material at Excello with producer/engineer Claudius Mittendorfer (Interpol, Muse), and assistant Oliver Palomares.
Trombonist/guitarist/composer Curtis Hasselbring brought in a large acoustic tracking session to Excello – which Pool also engineered. And The Veda Rays tracked drums for their upcoming release with producer Jason Marcucci, and Pool engineering, assisted by Charles Dechants. Tokyo/Brooklyn rock duo Ken South Rock also recorded for their upcoming release at Excello with Pool, and Charlie Gramidia producing.
DIVE, a new four-piece led by Beach Fossils’ Z. Cole Smith and recently signed to Captured Tracks, have been recording and mixing a 7” single and full-length LP at Strange Weather Brooklyn with engineer/producer Daniel Schlett.
Also out of Strange Weather, Schlett has recorded and mixed Royal Baths’ new LP for Kanine Records, recorded and mixed for Zulus’ new release with producer Ben Greenberg, and recorded and mixed tracks for Woodsman’s full-length, due out on Mexican Summer later this year.
Katherine Whalen and Her Fascinators (Squirrel Nut Zippers) were up from North Carolina to track a few songs with producer/engineer Colby Devereux at his studio Copperfish Sound in Brooklyn. Devereux also recently tracked a few songs with The Library is on Fire. Check out these and other recording sessions at “Live from Copperfish Sound” on Vimeo.
We also dropped by Mason Jar Music out in Borough Park this week, where Afro-Beat ensemble EMEFE was recording a new album with Mason Jar founders Dan Knobler and Jon Seale. Both producer/engineer/musicians, Knobler and Seale also just finished mixing a new album by indie-folk band Town Hall. Look out for our upcoming feature on this exciting collective of musicians, producers and filmmakers…
Meanwhile in Manhattan…
Pat Metheny took over Avatar Studio A for four days of tracking with his full “Orchestrion“. The session was produced by Methany and Steve Rodby, with James Farber engineering, assisted by Bob Mallory. Lyle Lovett tracked in Studio C with his band while in town with producer/engineer Nathaniel Kunkel assisted by Tim Marchiafava. And Lenny Kravitz recorded in Studio B with engineer Tom “T-Bone” Edmunds assisted by Charlie Kramsky.
Australia four-piece band The Rubens recorded with producer David Kahne, and engineer Roy Hendrickson. And the film score to Yaron Zilberman’s A Late Quartet (Catherine Keener, Philip Seymour Hoffman) – composed by Brooklyn native Angelo Badalamenti – was recorded in Studio A, produced by Badalamenti and Jim Bruening and engineered by Todd Whitelock. And Chris Lord-Alge held a mixing event for the students of NYU Steinhardt School sponsored by SSL. Chris demonstrated his mixing techniques in Studio G on the same console he mixes on at his Mix LA Studio, the SSL 4000 G series.
Downtown at Germano Studios, Chris Shaw has been mixing a Paul Simon Graceland live concert from San Sebastian, Spain with producer Steve Berkowitz, The Kin recorded basic tracks with The Rondo Brothers (Foster the People) producing and engineering, John Legend recorded with Dave Tozer producing and Jason Agel engineering, and Chris Rene (X-Factor) was in for mixing sessions with Claude Kelly producing and Ben Chang engineering.
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts continued recording in Germano Studio 1 with Thom Panunzio engineering and Kenny Laguna producing, Brazilian singer Michel Teló worked on a new release with Kenta Yonesaka engineering and John Doelp (A&R at Sony/Columbia Records) producing, hit songwriter Sandy Vee was in recording with Butch Walker and Dreamlab, and “The Last Unicorn” recorded with DJ/producer Alexander Dexter-Jones and Sean Parker producing, and Kenta Yonesaka engineering.
At Premier Studios in Times Square, Nicki Minaj and Big Sean were working on a project together, with engineer Chad Jolley, assisted by Kevin Geigel; Young Jeezy came in to work with artist/producer Ryan Leslie on a new track in sessions engineered by Stickabus; Rapper Wale worked in Studio F with Grammy-winning artist/producer Skrillex, and engineer Derek Pacuk, assisted by Kelby Craig; and Yo Gotti recorded some new original material for his upcoming album, with engineer Angelo Payne and assistant Colin Rivers.
Also at Premier, the casts of Broadway’s Anything Goes and Mamma Mia! recorded respective projects in Studio A with Matt Polk producing, and Kevin Geigel (Anything Goes) and Sam Giannelli (Mamma Mia!) engineering.
Right in the same building at Quad Studios, indie-to-Epic pop band Oh Land worked on music for a new album with Brandon Boyd and Andros Rodriguez, MBK artist Gabi Wilson worked on songs for a new project, Interscope artist J. Randall tracked songs for a debut album, and Remo the Hitmaker was camped out in Studio Q1 producing and writing with various artists.
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: Tons of sessions happening around the city this Fall. Among the many, we find Black Star back at it out in Greenpoint, Department of Eagles recording in Astoria, Jukebox The Ghost in Park Slope, Oberhofer and Steve Lillywhite in Williamsburg, Spacehog in Gowanus, and OneRepublic making a new record in Manhattan. Read on and get up with what’s happening in studios all around town.
Starting smack in the middle of Times Square, producer Salaam Remi has been working with Jennifer Hudson on music for a new commercial out of Quad Studios. Meanwhile, Sean Paul has been working on new songs at Quad for an upcoming album, as has Atlanta MC Future, who recently signed with Epic Records. Producer Rico Beats has been working out of Quad as well, with various writers. Quad’s Q1 and the Q Lounge has been a listening session hotspot, hosting recent events for Young Jeezy and Mac Miller, and serving as the location for MTV’s Sucker Free Countdown with DJ Envy.
In Chelsea, BMI and composer Rick Baitz held a string arranging workshop with the string quartet Ethel and several string arrangers at Shelter Island Sound. Nona Hendryx and band were tracking at Shelter Island, with Richard Barone producing for a new album for Tracy Stark – featuring drummer Trevor Gale and guitarist Ronnie Drayton. Steve Addabbo tracked and mixed. James Farber mixed jazz singer Alma Micic’s new album, and Ian McDonald of King Crimson fame was in tracking with Steve Holley on drums.
Addabbo also recently finished a 5.1 mix for the Robby Romero long-form music video “Who’s Gonna Save You” (a song co-written by Addabbo), which premiered at the American Indian Film Festival. The film will be featured and officially released November 28 at The UNEP Conference in Durban, South Africa.
Downtown, OneRepublic has been recording their new album in Germano Studios, with singer/songwriter Ryan Tedder producing and Kevin Porter engineering. In other recent sessions at Germano: Fabian Marasciullo has been mixing T-Pain‘s new album; Isabella Summers aka Isa Machine (from Florence & the Machine) has been producing NYC-based artist/songwriter L.P., and working on her own solo project, with Kenta Yonesaka engineering; Asher Roth recorded vocals, with Oren Yoel producing, and Porter engineering; CJ Holland has been writing/recording with Swizz Beatz, and Kenny Lloyd engineering; Alicia Keys has been recording with Ann Mincieli engineering; and Sandy Vee returned for more writing sessions, and recording and mixing sessions with Jesse McCartney.
Just up the block, The Lodge’s Emily Lazar, Joe LaPorta, Sarah Register and Heba Kadry have been super busy this last month, mastering Garbage’s cover of U2′s “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” for Q Magazine’s AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered, the new Shiny Toy Guns album mixed by Tony Maserati, Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II” Remix by Damian Taylor, Delta Spirit’s new album produced by Chris Coady and mixed by Tchad Blake, Daniel Bedingfield’s latest, Maya Postepski’s (of Austra) side project TRST – mixed by Damian Taylor – and an album by Tender Mercies, a 20-year-project by David Bryson and Dan Vickery of The Counting Crows.
The Lodge has also mastered recent releases by Brand New (Your Favorite Weapon reissue), Dion DiMucci, Harts, Future Islands, Frankie Rose and Porcelain Raft.
Further downtown, at Engine Room Audio in the Financial District, Soulja Boy and Waka Flocka recorded in the Penthouse Studio (equipped with an SSL 4064G+) with Ben Lindell engineering, and Chris Albers assisting.
And Mark Christensen mastered two new mixtapes for Trey Songz (Atlantic Records) – LemmeHoldDatBeat 2 and Anticipation 2 – and his Inevitable EP – as well as albums for Brooklyn band The Color Bars and UK indie rockers Tiger Shadow, Lloyd Banks‘ Cold Corner – also mixed by Albers at Engine Room – and War Music by Dr. Dre protégé Slim The Mobster.
Over in Queens, Department of Eagles’ Fred Nicolaus and Christopher Bear (Grizzly Bear) recently recorded drums and piano for an upcoming release with Kieran Kelly at The Buddy Project. Pianos for singer/songwriter Kyle Patrick’s new EP were also recently recorded at The Buddy Project, with producers Ben Romans and Jarrad Scharff, and Kelly engineering.
And in Gowanus, Brooklyn – Lady Lamb the Beekeeper has been recording at Let Em In Music with Nadim Issa. Aly Paltro aka Lady Lamb recorded this cover of Bob Dylan’s “All I Really Want to Do” for Brooklyn Based. According to Issa, Paltro liked Cher’s cover of the song, recorded in the 60s with Sonny Bono producing and “as such, we went for a really roomy sound with the whole band playing live in a room. A huge part of the mix is actually my two room mics, which were set up in MS.” Next up, Issa will work on the Lady Lamb full-length.
Nearby at Bryce Goggins’ Trout Recording, sessions for the new Martha Wainright were underway. Goggin, assisted by Adam Sachs, recorded drums for three songs as well as some vocals and electric guitar, with Wainwright, Yuka Honda and drummer Yuko Akari. Goggin also recently mixed a song for Marco Benevento. And Adam Sachs recently engineered a recording session with Space Hog at Trout. The band recorded three basic tracks live while being filmed for an upcoming video release. There were no overdubs, and Sachs also mixed one of the songs in the following week.
Out in Park Slope, Dan Romer has been recording, producing and mixing Jukebox The Ghost’s next record at his studios. And fellow-Rocket Music producer Mark Saunders has been writing/producing and mixing Amalie Bruuns’ next EP at BEAT360 Studios in Manhattan.
In Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based duo Little Silver recently tracked songs for a new EP at Fluxivity Recording, using the studio’s Neumann tube mics (U67, U47, M49) in the recording sessions, engineered by Gary Maurer. Also at Fluxivity, composer Gordon Minette and engineer Matt Shane mixed an album of Christmas songs – Under The Holiday Star – for Stella Artois via Human Worldwide. And music educator, songwriter and professional bassist Mariana Iranzi visited New York from Boston to record a 12-song children’s record, Hola Hello. A four-piece band recorded the songs live at Fluxivity, with producer Billy Herron and engineer Jeremy Loucas, assisted by Ed Mcentee.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn band Oberhofer has been recording their new full-length album for Glassnote out of Mission Sound in Williamsburg, with Steve Lillywhite producing. Also at Mission, NYC-based blues guitarist Dave Fields is in with producer David Z cutting tracks for his upcoming release, and the Cassette Kids are back to cut tracks with engineer Oliver Straus.
Nearby at 3 Egg Studios in Williamsburg, engineer Brian Penny has been working with I’ve started working with drummer Charlie Zeleny on some upcoming projects. To kick things, Penny reports, Zeleny decided “to play a drum solo in one take up all 6 stories of the 3 Egg building, involving more then 80 drums, 100 cymbals, 90 microphones, and four Pro Tools rigs. Video to come!
Meanwhile, Suckers have been recording their latest album at Vacation Island in Williamsburg, with Matt Boynton producing. And going back over the past month or so, Vacation Island has been destination to a number of cool sessions, including Marnie Stern and Justin Pizzoferrato tracking some new music, Christina Files mixing Talk Normal, Free Blood finishing up tracking and beginning to mix their upcoming release with Boynton, as well as mixing sessions with Lucy Michelle.
Also out of Brooklyn, Joe Lambert Mastering in DUMBO has been the final location of production on a couple anticipated new records. First, Lambert recently mastered Sharon Van Etten‘s new album – for CD and vinyl – produced by Aaron Dessner of The National for Jagjaguwar Records. According to Pitchfork, the album was recorded in Dessner’s own studio and features performances by Beirut’s Zach Condon, Julianna Barwick, Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, the Walkmen’s Matt Barrick, and Thomas Bartlett of Doveman.
And Lambert has also mastered the new School of Seven Bells full-length, Ghostory, produced by Ben Curtis for Vagrant Records. Other albums mastered out of JLM include Peter Salett‘s new EP and the Don Byron New Gospel Quintet‘s Love, Peace, and Soul, produced by Hanz Wendl for Nottuskegeelike Music
And recently out of Rough Magic Studios in Greenpoint…Blacksmith artist Idle Warship (Talib Kweli and Res) released Habits of the Heart – largely recorded by Rough Magic chief engineer Alby Cohen. Kweli came back to Rough Magic recently to record two new tracks with Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), for their Black Star project. The first new, Madlib-produced single “Look Sharp” debuted on The Colbert Report. Cohen engineered those sessions, assisted by Chris Pummill and Aaron Mason.
Up in Yonkers…at Oktaven Audio, engineer Ryan Streber has been recording, editing and mixing new works by flutist Claire Chase, and composer Reiko Fueting – both for New Focus Recordings – the debut album by new music ensemble, counter)induction, for New Dynamic Records, and pianist Max Barros‘ recording of the complete piano music of composer M.Camargo Guarnieri for Concert Artists Guild.
Oktaven and Streber also hosted recording sessions for new works by composers Vivian Fung, Ryan Francis, and Jakub Ciupinski, pianist/composer Michael Brown, and a film score by composer Gil Talmi and Konsonant Music for a documentary feature. Streber also engineered tracking sessions on location at the Academy of Arts and Letters on 155th Street, with the Talea Ensemble for an upcoming CD of music by composer Anthony Cheung.
Down from there to Avatar Studios…the legendary Studio A has been hosting some big sessions, including the cast album for Follies – featuring the largest orchestra on Broadway with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Page – recorded with producer Tommy Krasker, and engineer Bart Migal assisted by Bob Mallory and Tim Marchiafava. The Morehouse College Glee Club was also recorded in Studio A – for Spike Lee’s upcoming film Red Hook Summer – by Jonathan Duckett, assisted by Charlie Kramsky. And America’s Got Talent star Jackie Evancho recorded with an orchestra for her holiday release Heavenly Christmas, with producer Rob Mounsey and engineer Lawrence Manchester.
The orchestral film score for So Undercover was also tracked in Studio A with composer / producer Stephen Trask and engineer Greg Hayes. Additional recordings were done in Studio B and the 5.1 mix was done in Studio G with engineer Tim O’Hare.
And on the album recording front, Ingrid Michaelson recorded in Studio A with producer David Kahne and engineer Robert Smith; Billy Ocean recorded with producer Barry Eastmond and engineer Anthony Ruotolo; Joe Jackson mixed an upcoming release with engineer Elliot Scheiner, assisted by Aki Nishimura; and Adam Lambert recorded with producer Nile Rodgers, and engineer Rich Hilton.
Also in Midtown, Area 51 NYC Studios has been abuzz of late, with Talib Kweli also logging time on numerous projects, with engineer Michelle Figueroa and John Lurie. Jive/RCA artist Jacob Latimore has been tracking at Area 51 with producer Chris Jackson and engineer Alberto Vaccarino. And R&B artist Deborah Cox was also recently in to work with producer Devo Springfield, and Figeuroa engineering. Interscope artists Far East Movement were also in working with engineer Jay Stevenson.
In the Brill Building at KMA Music, EMI writer/producers Twice as Nice have been holed up in sessions with Pete Wentz and Bebe Rexha of Black Cards, August Rigo, Neon Hitch, Andrea Martin, Elle King and James Bourne in Studio B, with Serge Nudel engineering. KMA also hosted CNN interviews with both Peter Gabriel, and R.E.M.
In other KMA sessions…Neyo recorded vocals for the upcoming T-Pain album, with Ben Chang engineering, Unique has been recording and mixing his new album, with production by Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly, and Chang engineering. That same team — Chuck, Claude and Ben — also worked with Jade Alston on an upcoming release, and with Sony artist, Karmen, and Universal artist, CJ Holland. A$AP Rocky finished up his album at KMA, with Pat Viala, and Roc Nation’s J. Cole recorded and mixed his most recent album at KMA, with Juro “Mez” Davis engineering.
Across the Hudson in Hoboken, Caligula – a hard rock band featuring Erik Paparozzi of Cat Power and Bambi Kino – have been working on a record out of Nuthouse Recording, with Tom Beaujour mixing. Beaujour has also been finishing up a new track with Doug Gillard of Guided by Voices.
And new to “Session Buzz” is a private facility we recently came across called Newkirk Studios – home base to producer/engineer Ben Rice, in one of those awesome landmark houses in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. There, Rice has recently held sessions with the band Blackbells, who tracked and mixed a song for Surfrider, and The Wicked Tomorrow whose EP Rice is mixing. He also tracked and mixed a full-length “pop rock” album for Nocera (“Summertime, Summertime”) out of Newkirk, with bassist/producer Antar Goodwin, Reni Lane and Gian Stone.
Finally, and as previously reported…the members of Vampire Weekend were at Excello Recording in Williamsburg writing and recording material for their next release, tracking to tape with Ethan Donaldson and Nathan Rosborough. Engineer/producer Chris Shaw was also Excello working with the group Nick Casey – which is Nicholas Webber and Casey Spindler with the rhythm section of Dan Rieser and Tim Luntzel. This crew tracked between 20-30 songs over just two days. Also at Excello, engineer/producer Scott Solter recorded cellist Erik Friedlander‘s latest solo project, and mixer/engineer Hector Castillo recorded with singer Sophie Auster and singer/songwriter Clarence Bucaro, and recorded the soundtrack for the film, La Camioneta, with composer Todd Griffin.
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.
MIDTOWN, MANHATTAN: Blink, and you might miss it. The action in the NYC studio scene right now is raging fast and furious, with noteworthy new rooms opening up at a pace almost too fast to keep track of.
The latest big-time addition to the cityscape: Q1 at Quad Recording Studios. The flagship revision to this storied facility, Q1 represents the latest evolution in NYC’s world-class studio offerings for artists, producers, mixers, and songwriters in search of new creative options and inspiring surroundings.
With its arrival, the fascinating timeline of 723 7th Avenue gets yet another update. The seeds of this new room were sown in Quad’s 2010 sale of its 8th floor — emerging lean and mean, Quad President Ricky Hosn and his staff embarked on a $500,000 overhaul of its remaining territory, the 3500 sq. ft. 10th floor.
Ask Hosn about the current NYC studio climate, and he’ll readily admit that navigating the scene is more challenging than ever. “It’s kept us on our toes,” he says, “and restructuring the place was essential for us. Quad was five floors at one point, but the market won’t sustain that anymore. We had to reinvent ourselves, to move in step with a changing of the times — we feel we have the right formula now.”
Making the Update
The results of the remake are as easy to see as they are to hear. Visitors step off of the elevator directly into the atmospheric Qlounge, complete with a pool table, bar and a carnivorous fish tank (show up for feeding time – if you dare). Those familiar with the powerful audio pod previously known as Studio D – now Q2 – will be happy to know that that room remains intact, although it is equipped with a new lounge that flanks it to the left.
Also with a brand new lounge is the latest addition Q1, a space designed to make all kinds of waves. At 320 sq. ft., the comfortable Larry Swist-designed control room may seem slightly compact, but once the advanced functionality and exhilaratingly loud and accurate acoustics have been experienced, size no longer matters.
To the contrary, Q1 is already making a big impact with its extreme flexibility, both in workflow and capabilities. “In the past a studio would have a mix room, a production room, a tracking room,” Hosn explains. “We said, ‘Let’s put all three together, and make a room where any producer, engineer or artist can walk in and feel at home.
“That’s the approach we took. There’s a producer’s desk in the back where you can sit, listen accurately, and work. The producer or artist is never sitting too far from the controls and the engineer. It’s geared around the artist and production, and that’s the trend we see: A lot of producers are handling the whole project, and we built it around that reality. It’s the same principle we had with creating Studio D five years ago, but we made this a bigger format, with better gear and a much bigger live room, so you really can handle any kind of music project.”
Outfitted with oiled walnut wood appointments, Swist’s pleasing design employs generous views to the outside and the adjacent control room, providing Q1’s users with an expansive experience while they work. “Windows were essential: You’re in Times Square so take advantage of it,” Hosn says. “Both the live room and control room have windows out to Times Square, and the window between the live and control room is bigger than most windows in the city. You feel like you’re right next to the artist — it just feels like one big room between the control and live room.”
Once clients get settled into the welcoming environment, things get increasingly interesting. While the ICON control surface won’t raise any eyebrows, the Pro Tools HD 4 Accel 9.0 system is to be expected, and the comprehensive list of plugins is de rigueur, where the signal can flow from there is unique: three different summing mixers – a Chandler 16 x 2, SSL X Logic 16 Channel, and a Manley 16 x 2 Custom mic/line – flanked by a who’s who of outboard gear.
“We had the opportunity to go with a typical analog desk, but we said, ‘Let’s do something different and get creative with the equipment,’” Hosn says. “We focused on summing, with three summing mixers to give the engineer more of a choice for the sound. This is the best of the summing world: Chandler comes from the old EMI consoles, SSL is the industry standard, and we have something different in the Manley mixer, which is amazing on vocals. As far as outboard gear, we went for — not vintage, but brand new — Chandler, GML, SSL, Manley EQ/compressor, and of course the Universal Audio units like the 1176 and LA-2A.”
For monitoring, a pair of Augspurger Dual 15” main monitors, custom built by Professional Audio Design, supplemented with 2 subwoofers, throws down the gauntlet for mega volume listening in NYC. In a recent visit listening to hip hop, pop and rock through these speakers in the tight, well-tuned room was a sonically exciting experience, revealing extremely high levels of full-frequency detail cleanly across the stereo field. For those who need to craft, check or just feel their mixes at massive SPL’s, Q1 may well become a mandatory stop on the way to the mastering lab.
According to Swist, whose credits include Tainted Blue, Premier’s Studio E, Eastman School of Music, SUNY Fredonia, and The Lodge, the directive for Q1 was to create a warm but contemporary look and feel. “We used a lot of sharp lines, and the sound has got to be there — the acoustics need to be spot-on because people are going to mix in there,” Swist notes. “The challenge today in an NYC facility is that you don’t have the cubic footage you used to, so you have to spend more time in the design phase ensuring that the room will translate in the outside world, especially with bass response. It also has to have a broad sweet spot. It’s easy to make it work right in the middle, but to make the room work for the producer standing next to you or in the back is a challenge.
“Most live rooms have an idiosyncratic quality to them: The great engineers find its good characteristics, the right places for the drums and mics, and use gobos,” Swist continues. “My approach is to keep it a relatively active room, and then you can come down from there. So Q1’s tracking room sits in a relatively live place: It’s good for drums, but reverb times can be cut down with gobos and more acoustical absorption. I think the live room is larger than most. It’s not huge, but then again most people are just putting in booths in a production suite today. This offers the ability to actually track a band. A lot of those rooms are going away, and this fills that void.
“Overall, the studio is something fresh, and you do have a really good initial emotional reaction to it. It’s positive creatively, and that’s what we were striving for. It’s like, ‘Wow, it feels nice and it sounds nice. We have a good combination there.’”
Under the Hood
Cleanly integrating Q1’s three analog summing mixers and outboard gear with the ICON was no plug ‘n’ play operation. “We wanted to do something focused on an easier workflow, quick mix recalls for engineers and easy accessibility for producers,” states Alessio Casalini Operations Manager and Chief Tech for Quad Studios NYC/Halo Records. “This improves the possibility to change little things fast and maintain top quality in terms of outboard gear and technical components like patchbays, wires, and connectors.
“The wiring of the whole studio and the patchbay’s layout were designed by Glenn Baughmann and myself,” continues Casalini. “We brainstormed in order to find the best result to yield a simple layout, one noted example being: The three summing mixers normalled to the multitrack outs, and the outs of those mixers normalled to the Stereo inputs of the (ICON) XMon (monitoring controller), and dedicated computer output to the XMon. Even the TV is on the bays.
“We started with the best quality wires and connectors, and used only two DB25 patchbays for connections with XMon and audio interfaces. All the other patchbays are soldered by hand and split to DL connectors panels.”
Connectivity in Q1 is obsessive: Every wallplate in the live room, control room and in the lounge are equipped with SpeakON plugs, Ethernet, instrument, MIDI, and BNC. “The goal being,” says Casalini, “to give the engineer every possibility, without trying to find a way around what he has in mind. In this scenario the artist, producer, and/or engineer will have everything accessible in the clearest way possible.
“New York City studios are looking to the future, and retaining our experience from the past. We expect that our careful planning yielded a room ninety percent ready for anything — with the client left only to decide the direction of the last ten percent.”
Online since June, Quad has quickly been breaking in Q1. Sessions include Engineer/Producer Andros Rodriguez (Shakira, Oh Land), Music Producer Rico Beats (Justin Bieber, Niki Manaj), and Universal Music Artist Stephen Marley. One frequent visitor has been the NYC engineer Stuart White (Alicia Keys, K’Naan), who’s gotten to know the room via mix sessions for the artists Borni, Fumibella, and Sunny.
“The mains are really smooth,” he says. “They sound good and balanced. The ProAc monitors I use a lot and they’re dialed in, very smooth on the top end. Having three different summing boxes gives you three different colors. The Chandler is really punchy, with a lot of transformers in it: It’s got color to it, with some punch when you drive it hard. I typically use that summing bus. The Manley is all tubes, which provides a fat tubey sound, and the SSL is a different color.”
According to Stu, Q1 met Quad’s objectives in smoothing out the NYC studio continuum. “I think in a lot of ways Q1 is bridging the gap between the old-style, large-format console style way of working and the new summing bus-style way,” Stu adds. “There’s not a large format console, but still a plethora of analog gear so you can mix with the speed of what we need today. You have clients that expect you to mix in the box for speed, but at the same time Q1 makes you and the analog purists happy by being able to sum in analog gear.
“I think it’s a new breed of room in that sense. A few years ago, most engineers didn’t want to mix on an ICON, they wanted a large format board. But Tony Maserati is working exactly this way, and he’s the one who kind of inspired me to do it: You’re mixing with faders, and tactile controls, so you can stay creative and not use the mouse so much. But if someone wants to come in and change the song, it’s very easy to pull your mixes back up. It bridges the gap between the older generation rooms and the newer ones that are all digital.”
Cue the Q
As New York production possibilities continue to morph, at least one thing is clear: As previously noted on this site, a subtle sense of cooperation is weaving itself into the intensive competition between NYC studios. Facilities are avoiding blatant duplication in favor of an overall sense of regional integration, where each new room creates a fresh niche, rather than further crowding an existing one. “You don’t want to build what’s already there, and then compete against the same thing,” Hosn says. “The key for us was to make it a top notch room at an affordable price.”
As Ricky Hosn points out, the big winner in the friendly NYC studio arms race are music’s avid listeners, whose insatiable appetite for new sounds are increasing yet again with the availability of Spotify in the U.S. “Who knows what the next big record will sound like?” he says. “There’s a lot of opportunity to come up with something that hasn’t been heard yet.”
– David Weiss
Then, as now, the top-end NYC studio scene felt like a big mystery, and many a big room has gone since 2005 (Sony, the Hit Factory, Legacy A509, Sound on Sound, Clinton Recording all RIP). But at the respectfully competitive Times Square address of 723 Seventh Avenue, which houses Quad and Tainted Blue, as well as Premier Studios NY on consecutive floors, the tracking/mixing beat goes furiously on.
Today, Tainted Blue owner Andrew Koss feels wiser – and no doubt older – as the landscape continues to shift. For the world-class studios that remain, the choice of large format console remains one of the most critical decisions, and Koss just shifted gears in a surprising way: His advanced Lawrence P. Swist-designed control room no longer houses an SSL 9080J, but a newly acquired Euphonix System 5.
Tainted Blue’s switch from a flagship analog board to a digital audio mixing system raised a lot of eyebrows citywide, but as we were reminded in our latest chat with Koss: everything happens for a reason.
How do you feel the studio business has evolved since you opened Tainted Blue?
It’s certainly been interesting to watch the rise, fall and challenges of how studios are trying to restructure themselves in the city. But I also think there’s been a swing back in the last few years to larger production, larger sound. There was a run of the indie style, where minimal was cool, and you could do it in the bedroom with a laptop. But if you look at the Billboard Top 50 now, none of the tracks are like that today.
So I think maybe producers and musicians hit the wall, which I think I hit before I opened up the studio here — the frustrations and limitations of what you could do at home with a minimal setup. You start wanting more creativity, and a sound you just can’t capture without the acoustics of a live room.
The challenges have been that it’s a new generation of engineers, and new generation of producers who grew up with a very different education. The way they work is so different that you have to be able to cater to their needs. They’ve learned the software version, and then they come in and see the hardware version of the LA-2As and Pultecs.
We’re not catering towards the older generation of engineers, who really have their own spaces and their own environments that they work at, so we try to cater to the younger, next generation of engineers who are more comfortable in a digital format, and in a hipper more stylistically designed room, where the vibe is more important to them than it ever was to the older clients. It’s really the younger guys who want that exclusive, luxury feel and we’ve worked hard to provide that.
We built this as a boutique studio. And it’s a little more refined — the feeling when you’re here. Having a piano that’s always tuned and ready to go, instruments and drumkits at hand, and we don’t charge rental fees for any of this. They’re here to be used.
I think there’s more potential clients than we’ve seen in years. But it’s a different kind of project. Sure, people can do pre-production at home, and because of that, the project they bring in doesn’t require a week of studio time, they just need six hours. But there’s so many of those people, that it’s all right that we only get them for one day, instead of twelve-day lockouts. There’s plenty of that business out there — it’s just a different kind of booking.
What makes a large console format remain important in those considerations?
There’s certainly a lot of people who work in the box and don’t need the audio channel capacity that we have. But at the same time having a console like the Euphonix System 5, that can turn into a control surface makes our approach to that market that much easier.
That’s because if they want to they can work in software and the console can turn into a controller with the EuCon software. It caters to people that don’t necessarily need the large format console, and just want the control space and to be able to retain access to all our outboard gear. At the same time, having 116 audio channels and near infinite routing options for the people that want to work across the console give us the perfect blend of both of these worlds.
I think also that the live room and the gear is still appealing to a lot of producers: being able to track drums, live piano and multiple musicians at the same time will always have its place.
We also have clients who come in and just take their mix out of the box through our outboard gear — bounce it out of the box, and go home. They put it through the EQs, bus compressors, print it, and take it home and keep mixing. As much a fan as I am of plug-ins, there are some things I just can’t create without a Thermionic Culture Phoenix compressor, or an LA-2A, for example.
What did you consider leading up to your decision to switch to a Euphonix System 5 from an SSL 9080J?
The cost and upkeep of the SSL was becoming difficult for us in a business where we have to think outside of the box, and try to find ways to keep revenue coming in.
The energy cost of the SSL was extreme with two air conditioners running 24 hours a day, even in January! The other issue was that the younger clients didn’t have experience on an old J console. If they did, they used it rarely for what it could do, and it wasn’t getting the use that demanded having it here, as parts were starting to go and setup times were increasing. Now because of the System 5 and its Patchnet system, if we have six hours to work with an artist, I can zero the room out in :30, as opposed to two hours. If someone wants to come in and play their session from last night, they can come in, open up the files and it’s exactly where they left it, including all routing and outboard patching.
Of course, the SSL sounded great, and a big concern with the Euphonix was getting a console that a lot of people hadn’t tried themselves. It takes a little convincing to show them what it can do, and seeing that it’s not just a digital control surface. People see it and they think “ICON”, whereas this is a true console, with 116 audio channels, 24 group busses, 24 mix busses –and not just stereo because they can be in 7.1, 5.1 and stereo all at the same time.
I’ll bet a lot of manufacturers wanted to get their board into Tainted Blue next. Why did you settle on the Euphonix?
We looked at a few choices out there. There’s actually less digital consoles on the market that are geared towards music production/tracking/mixing. Many of them are post production video type workstations.
Then we met Jay Spears over at Euphonix and we started talking about the System 5. He took me over to Studio B at what’s now MSR Studios, and I had never seen anything like it. The Euphonix seemed to be the most out in front with the technology with a 40-bit point floating point processing system, being so modular that you could have control surface and audio tracks right next to each other, or wherever you wanted them – this as opposed to some consoles that are either in controller mode or audio mode, one or the other.
And the support was a big issue. Jay and his team took the time to show the staff my board, and physically set it up with my team which was pretty spectacular. Having a company large enough that I knew I could count on was really important, and having them understand we were taking a risk with them: We’re a big room in Manhattan, there’s not a lot of us left, and this was a major change.
You bought your System 5 right before Avid acquired Euphonix…
The merger with Avid is a huge plus for us. The integration with Pro Tools is going to go through the roof, now that Avid’s involved, so for our clients it will be a win-win. It will be everything the ICON is, and way more because of the actual audio processing. I believe you’ll see the System 5 becoming Avid’s flagship console.
I think for studio owners switching consoles is the next most-dreaded prospect to moving studios altogether. Was making the physical switch from the SSL to the Euphonix difficult?
The buyers were responsible, thankfully, for the decommission of the SSL, but we weren’t sure what spider webs we’d find underneath it. We did the decommission in two days, which was remarkably fast, and the installation of the Euphonix took about eight hours. The slow part of the process was the patch bay, because we had to sell the old patch bay with the SSL, which meant we had to rewire the audio DL’s into the wall, and add some new gear as well.
But we used that time to problem-solve issues with the room that have been here since it was built, reducing some noise and grounding problems. In Manhattan, there’s always issues with electricity, and (Tainted Blue Studio Manager) Sax took the time to reduce noise floor on the gear. It took a week to turn over, but the studio has never sounded this good, and it’s been here thirty years. I think they reduced noise in the mic lines by about 20 dB, which is pretty dramatic.
The System 5 setup itself couldn’t have been easier. Four rack pieces and it plugs into the wall! With Ethernet, it’s so easy. One DeltaLink handles all 116 audio channels i/o of Pro Tools. Two DigiLink cables and two SSL Alpha-Links handle all the outboard gear.
[See a time lapse video of the console switch at Tainted Blue right here:]
Now that the board’s in place, what are the impressions — yours and your clients’?
Since I work here all the time, for my work it’s the greatest thing that could have happened. The Euphonix computer controls our entire patch bay, and every time I open a session, all of my outboard gear is routed back to that session, so buss compressors, inserts, outboard EQ, reverbs, etc… are all brought back to where they were the last they were used. Obviously you have to move the knobs on the outboard gear, but the patching which was a such tedious aspect is now gone. I can A/B different vocal chains with the press of a button in real time. So it’s done a lot for me, before the session even starts.
Clients have been having a blast because it’s something new to play with, but also because we can contour the templates to their workflow. We know if they work out of the box, we’ll directly route Pro Tools to the monitoring section. Or if they want to use the control surface on one side and audio on the other, they can do that.
People love the EQs and dynamics of the System 5, because there so clean – “surgical” is the word I’d use. Reminiscent of an Oxford console to me, which is why we added some outboard gear with lots of sound — I went with outboard gear that’s dirty and crazy and fun.
There was a visual impact the SSL had, but I’ve been surprised about the number of people who have seen the way the room looks with the extra space, and say that it looks like 2010, not the late ‘90s. The 24’ LCD screen with Cinema Display dead center is an awesome way to work in an era when clients are hands-on now, not sitting in the back making calls but doing the editing and effects. It’s a clear, clean listening field and makes for a nice comfortable experience.
We’ve talked a LOT about gear just now. Any intangibles to take note of?
Just recently we’ve made Sax our studio manager. He’s been in the studio scene for 15-20 years now. He’s seen it since the heyday, and really knows what make studios succeed and fail. He’s working very hard on how the whole experience transfers on to the client.
In the end, the energy that clients feel coming in is so important. And while you’d think it would be intuitive that the gear is the most important factor, it’s not: the experience and how they feel while they’re here really matters. It’s so important.
Along with that, we’ve been out trying to find new ways to bring in business for us that are outside the box. Using the studio as more than just a place to record, be it for film, photos, and our “From the Penthouse” series where we’ve been doing small artist showcases here.
We’re really having a blast, and we’re sharing that with the people who come in — it’s a fun place to work. We’re excited to let people see that and have them create their music here.
– David Weiss
Straight outta Jersey, Moroz puts a subtly sultry spin on her blues/pop/rock explorations. From smokey to sweet to just plain pissed off, her many moods and new collection of songs create a cohesive musical journey.
Recorded, mixed and mastered 100% in the NYC area, SonicScoop gives Ms. Moroz a thumbs up for being 100% home-grown. Among the studios used to record Tatiana were Avatar, Chung King (RIP), Quad Studios, and Big Fat Suite. Mastering was by Angelo Montrone of Majestic Music Factory.
Congratulations and props to SonicScoop compadre Tatiana!! Party with the best of ‘em at The Bitter End!