Stewart Lerman has spent a good share of the last 5 years working with some major artists, far outside of their natural element.
Performers like Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, St. Vincent, Regina Spektor, Neko Case, Sharon Van Etten, Liza Minelli, Rufus Wainwright and David Johansen have all joined Lerman in some of New York’s biggest and most historic studios to sing live-in-the-room with a 1920′s-style big band, for the critically acclaimed HBO series, Boardwalk Empire, which is now entering its 5th and final season.
“When they come in, they’re usually a little nervous at first,” he says. “So few people working today have sung this way. But when you look at it, jazz really was the rock and roll of that era. And when they come and work with us, it’s like two hours, and the record is done! They love it. By the end of the date, they want to come down to the club afterwards and sit in with the big band.”
Working so quickly takes a lot of prep, and not only on Lerman’s part as producer and head engineer. He brings on pro arrangers, and a seasoned group of players called Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks.
“With the bands I’m working with,” he says, “if you can’t get it in two or three takes, then the arrangement is wrong — scratch it, and start again. Vince prepares these charts in advance, so we usually know it’s right when we’re going in, and there’s just not that many big decisions that have to be made on the date. You can think about the performance instead, and how it should sound, and how it will all affect the scene.”
Assistants Rule the Roost
Lerman also relies on studio assistants to help execute his vision and keep sessions running smoothly.
“The best studio in the world can be rendered completely useless without the right assistants,” he says. “I often book my sessions at studios based on where they have these young guys and gals who are just awesome at what they do. Places like Avatar, Sear Sound, Electric Lady — they have these kids who are like wizards.
“Once I’ve done a couple of dates at one of these places, everything is photographed, written up, measured with tape, so that if I have a similar session, I could show up 30 minutes before start time and everything is set up to my specifications. I don’t have to show up three hours early to blow out the mics.”
“It makes a big difference” Lerman adds. “I mean, we love gear, we love what we do, but the act of getting a performance — that’s the height of it all. If you’re in there futzing around with gear, if you’re losing your eye on the performer, you’re in trouble. I just can’t thank these guys enough — I’m a big fan of assistant engineers.”
Of course, there are some sessions where these huge studio spaces, built to handle well over a dozen musicians at once, might be overkill. In these cases, Lerman often finds himself working out of his own home base, Hobo Sound, which he shares with musician/producer Tony Shanahan, just across the Lincoln Tunnel from his Manhattan home.
Here, he’s worked with The Roches, Antony and the Johnsons, Crash Test Dummies, Marshall Crenshaw, Patti Smith, Gabriel Kahane, and recently, as co-producer on Sharon Van Etten‘s latest, Are We There, due out May 27, 2014 on Jagjaguwar.
Producing Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There
Just like Lerman, Van Etten and her band were living in Manahattan and the boroughs, making the “reverse commute” to take advantage of the low overhead costs across the water.
“We’d bump into each other at Port Authority, grab a cup of coffee, and we’d all be at work in 5 minutes,” Lerman says. “In 15 minutes, it would be nose to the grindstone.”
Unlike Boardwalk Empire, “a record like Sharon’s record is not on paper,” he adds. “She might bring in a song, and we’ll work on arrangements together. When I’m producing like this, I’ll often work with another engineer, so James Frazee might be in helping me out with the sessions.”
“For this record, we actually did two distinctly different ways. Sharon came to me and said she really wanted to try her hand at producing. She’s an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist, and really wanted to dig in more on that side.
“So we did two run-throughs: One with her band, where I kind of fooled her. I told her we were going to do some ‘pre-production’, but I knew damn well we were going to get some real tracks — because I only know one way to record, and that’s to set up like you were going to record for real!
“After we spent some time recording the band and getting some tracks that we really loved, she wanted to try her hand at doing it all herself. So she played guitar, bass, drums, and if we needed to, we’d bring in other people to embellish here and there as we went along. So that record is really half the band, and half her. And I don’t think you could tell which half is which. She is a force of nature.”
Like so many of his projects these days, Lerman mixed most of Are We There at Hobo Sound, which is equipped with a classic Electrodyne desk and a Chandler sidecar, as well as his own extensive collection of mics and outboard gear.
New Music, New Media
Even with the recent declines in music sales, Lerman has still been keeping busy here and at larger spaces with his recording projects. It’s just that more and more of them have been coming from the commercial, film and TV worlds in recent years.
Some of them can be as rewarding as any record. He’s frequently worked on soundtracks for movies like The Aviator, The Grinch, Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, and School of Rock with music supervisor Randall Poster. More recently, he provided all the backing tracks for a Super Bowl spot performed by The Muppets’ band, Dr. Teeth and Electric Mayhem.
“When you get a call from the muppets,” he says, “you’re not going to say no.”
Even in his straight music-only projects, Lerman has seen the influence of labels wane. His first sessions with Sharon Van Etten back in 2012 were commissioned by Starbucks, rather than a traditional record company.
“They pretty much gave us free reign,” he says. “When you pick two great artists like Sharon and Rufus [Wainwright] to collaborate with each other, you kind of stay out of the way.”
“I have very little input from record companies these days, too” he says. “A lot of people make their records without them now.” Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.
“Even when they are involved, most record companies are not A&R-ing the way they used to. And you know what? There’s something to be said for their involvement, depending on who they might be.”
“The potential liability there is that they’re just looking to sell widgets, and they just want something that’s palatable, and that they can sell without to much fuss. But the thing I miss about it is that when I was first coming up, there were some really great A&R guys who were dope music listeners. They were often producers themselves.
“I came up with a couple of guys, like Rick Chertoff, who were just amazing producers and taught me so much about songs — About getting away from the technical side of it, and about getting into the craft of songwriting; into understanding what a lyric can do.”
Tech Turns Tables
It’s not all that’s changed in the 35 years Lerman has been making records in and around New York. He’s seen vinyl disappear and then come back again:
“I really dig that it slows people down and makes them really listen,” he says. “My only issue is that I don’t remember anyone ever sitting down in the studio going ‘Man, I can’t wait til this hits vinyl!’ Back then, everyone was like: ‘when this hits vinyl, we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t get f*d up!’ “I remember when the concept of CDs came along, it was like: ‘Wow, there’s going to be no surface noise, and you won’t have to worry about the sound quality of the inside tracks, and the needle bouncing around?’”
He’s also seen more than one studio revolution come and go:
“I came in to the studio world in the late 70s, as a guitar player who was fascinated with technology. When I started, you couldn’t really make a recording unless you had a record deal and the finances to go into a full blown recording studio. There weren’t all these cool little places like there are now. They just did not exist.”
“But right when I was starting out, TEAC came out with a little 1/4” 4-track, and that blossomed into Fostex 16 track 1”, and people started making these little consoles, and all of a sudden, you could get multitrack equipment. Me and a buddy of mine, who had moved out to LA for a while and learned how to build studios, partnered up on a 16 track machine, and found this little dumpy room on 30th Street to rent. We invited a few of our fellow musicians who knew a little bit about carpentry, built this studio, and pretty soon another buddy, who got this gig as an A&R guy with Columbia Records, comes over and says: ‘This cool. Can I rent is for a couple of months?’ And we were like ‘Really? Sure!’” He started bringing in Bryan Adams, Patty Smyth, all these people making records in the early 80s. And the next thing you know we were getting a really nice Trident desk and a nice Otari 2” machine.”
“There was really a scene here at the time,” Lerman says. “Punk was happening, New Wave was happening. At CB[GB]s you had Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Blondie, The Ramones, Television, Tom Verlaine and those guys. You had the folk scene on Bleecker Street, and at The Bottom Line. I used to wash dishes at The Bottom Line, and in ’78, ’79, it was like that place was exploding. I’d go see almost every show. My job didn’t start until midnight, washing the dishes, so I’d see Springsteen or George Benson or Suzanne Vega or The Roches or Loudon Wainwright, while I was just waiting around. Within a few blocks there was a phenomenal music scene,” he says.
“I don’t know really what happened to that. I guess times change, and it seems like the soil is fertile in Brooklyn. Let’s hope it thrives.”
GREATER NYC AREA: New works by David Bowie, Vampire Weekend, She & Him, Azealia Banks, John Scofield, Common and more have been in production all over the city – in the studios highlighted below. Where’s everyone recording? And who’s working with who? Here is our neighborhood-by-neighborhood guide to recent NYC studio sessions…
Mixed by Brooklyn-based engineer James Brown, the album was recorded on the legendary Sound City Neve 8028 at Grohl’s studio and features the various performances captured for the film, including Stevie Nicks, Trent Reznor, Josh Homme and Paul McCartney. The album comes out on Roswell Records on March 12 – pre-order it on iTunes and download the first single, “Cut Me Some Slack” (featuring McCartney).
Also at The Lodge, Vampire Weekend mastered their anticipated new album Modern Vampires of the City – produced by Rostam Batmanglij and Ariel Rechtshaid – with Lazar and LaPorta. The record is due out May 7 on XL Recordings. Superstar DJ Armin van Buuren returned to The Lodge to master his new album for Armada Records. The album was produced by Armin van Buuren and Benno de Goeij and mastered by Lazar and LaPorta. And finally, LaPorta recently mastered the new Cold War Kids album, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts – produced by Lars Stalfors and Dann Galluci and due out April 2 on Downtown Records.
Nearby at SweetSounds, indie folk ensemble Miko and the Musket tracked a new EP in the Crosby Room – Brad Fisher produced and engineered, assisted by Josh Giunta and James Gill. The band tracked through the Neve 5088 console over a five-day session that SweetSounds owner Dinesh Boaz calls “epic and awesome.”
“To create a very big sounding record, six different room mics were employed at different times as well as an SPL Transient Designer to customize the sense of space on the drums,” says Boaz. “Acoustic, electric guitars, bass, and vocals on six songs were also recorded, comped, and prepared for mix. The last day ran for 16 hours straight, where vocals, guitar, re-amps, and bass were recorded for 3 of the songs without break.”
Another epic session wrapped recently at The Magic Shop (as we previously reported) – David Bowie’s new album, The Next Day, had been in production there for two years, with Tony Visconti producing, Mario McNulty engineering and Brian Thorne assisting. The album, Bowie’s first in a decade, comes out in March.
In other Magic Shop sessions… She & Him tracked and mixed their new album, Vol. 3, with producer/engineer Tom Shick, assisted by Kabir Hermon…studio owner Steve Rosenthal and staff engineer Ted Young worked with Sony Legacy’s Rob Santos on the upcoming Elvis record Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite: Legacy Edition, mixing the dress rehearsal from the original multitrack tapes… Kurt Vile‘s upcoming release Wakin On Pretty Daze was produced and mixed by John Agnello with Ted Young… Engineer/producer Alex Newport tracked Grandfather‘s upcoming release In Human Form… Lloyd Cole recorded for his new album with engineer Geoff Sanoff… and Lily and the Parlour Tricks recorded for an upcoming EP with producer Wilson Brown, and Young engineering.
With the departure of mastering engineer Warren Russell-Smith for Los Angeles, mastering engineer Jessica Thompson is now working out of the Blue Room while Sean Gavigan, Doug Bleek and Matt Zedolik continue restoration work out of the Red Room. Thompson recently mastered Balkan Arts Series - a collection of 1960-1970s field recordings of traditional folk dances, restored from vinyl - The Lake Reflections, an album of genre-defying piano improvisations by Boyd Lee Dunlop, produced/engineered by Allen Farmelo; and a new record of Irish tunes for Chris Byrne‘s (Black 47) new band The Lost Tribe of Donegal.
Next, up to Avatar Studios, where singer/songwriter Jonatha Brooke has been recording an upcoming project in multiple rooms with co-producer Patrick Rains and Roy Hendrickson engineering, and where Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite have been recording new material with producer Dave Einstein, and engineer Anthony Ruotolo.
Also at Avatar… Cirque du Soleil mixed their Zarkana cast album in Studio A with producer Nick Littlemore, and engineer Roy Hendrickson assisted by Mike Bauer…MTV shot live performances for their Artists to Watch series with Gold Fields and Hunter Hayes – produced by Dan Weissman and Allyssa Agro with engineer Ryan Jones assisted by Bob Mallory…the Wayne Shorter Quartet and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra recorded together in Studio A with producer Rob Griffin and engineer Todd Whitelock… up-and-coming band Basic Vacation recorded with producer David Kahne, and Hendrickson at the controls…And fresh off his performance at the Grammy Awards, Kenny Garrett recorded with co-producer Al Pryor and engineer Joe Ferla.
Also worth noting, 10 Grammy Award winning records (and 21 nominees) were recorded at Avatar (Paul McCartney, Anita Baker, Chick Corea, etc.). Check out the full list here.
A few blocks away at Sear Sound…Phil Ramone produced tracks for a new Broadway Show, I Will, I Can – based on Sammy Davis, Jr.’s autobiography – with Frank Filipetti engineering on the Avalon/Sear custom board; and actor and singer/songwriter Jesse Lenat recorded new material with engineer Chris Allen and producer Loren Toolajian for Sandblast Productions.
As usual, Sear hosted a number of jazz sessions, including pianist Gerald Clayton tracking a new album on the Neve 8038 with Ted Tuthill engineering and Ben Wendel producing… Sophie Millman recording with producer Matt Pierson and engineer Chris Allen…John Scofield recording his latest with engineer James Farber…and Kris Bowers tracking a new album with producer Chris Dunn and Allen engineering. Finally, Ten Dragon Films was at Sear tracking a score for their documentary, In The Magic of the Green Mountains – Allen engineered with Micah Burgess producing – and the “Flamenco Queen”, Buika, returned to Sear to mix her new album with Tuthill engineering and Eli Wolf producing for Warner Bros. Spain.
Back downtown at Germano Studios, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts were back to record more material for an upcoming album with Kenny Laguna and Jett producing, and Thom Panunzio and Kenta Yonesaka engineering.
And in other recent sessions at Germano…Harlem-bred rap ingénue Azealia Banks recorded vocals for a new record with Ric McRae producing and engineering…John Legend recorded and mixed for his upcoming record with Dave Tozer producing and Jason Agel engineering…French hip-hop band IAM recorded and mixed their new album with Prince Charles Alexander mixing (and Dave Rowland recording)… Passion Pit recorded and shot video with Dillon Francis producing…Isa “Machine” Summers recorded piano for the artist LP with Yonesaka engineering …and Japanese artist AK recorded and mixed with Yonesaka again at the controls.
Meanwhile, Roc Nation artist/producer J. Cole has been working out of Premier Studio B, with Mez on the controls; G-Unit rapper Kidd Kidd was in tracking with Premier engineer Kevin Geigel; the whole Pro Era crew (Joey Bada$$, etc.) has been locked into Studio F working on upcoming albums and mixtapes with Big K.R.I.T., Smoke DZA, A$AP Rocky, Sha Money XL and many more; Shontelle was in Studio E working on new material with songwriter Corey “Chorus” Gibson, producer Reo and Angelo Payne engineering; and Trey Songz was back in the studio working on new material with Premier engineer Anthony Daniel.
Masterdisk finished some pretty major albums of late, including the 2-disc vinyl set of the aforementioned Bowie album, The Next Day, for Columbia Records. Alex DeTurk was the cutting engineer. CoCoRosie brought their new Valgeir Sigurðsson-produced album, Tales of the Grass Widow to be mastered by Scott Hull for City Slang Records. French Montana’s new single, “Freaks” (feat. Nicki Minaj) was mastered by Tony Dawsey, and assisted by Tim Boyce. The track was produced by Rico Love.
Vlado Meller mastered Harry Connick, Jr.’s new album Smokey Mary, produced/mixed by Tracey Freeman for Columbia Records. Meller was assisted by Mark Santangelo. And Randy Merrill mastered the new Jangeun “JB” Bae record, mixed by Aaron Nevezie at The Bunker in Brooklyn for Inner Circle Music / Gimbab Records.
Some heavy hip-hop production sessions have gone down at The Brewery in Williamsburg recently: For one, producer Dot Da Genius linked up with the producer 88 Keys and Common to work on new material. Dot has also been in the studio working with Def Jam artist Logic.
Meanwhile, Dot’s partner in The Brewery, engineer/mixer Andrew Krivonos has been working with Las Vegas-based hip-hop artist Sean Rose – splitting time between Brooklyn and L.A. and “rocking the Brewery’s completely upgraded Pro Tools rig.”
Krivonos has also been engineering sessions at The Brewery with Universal’s recent hip-hop signing, Mr. MFN eXquire, with Bryan Lampe mixing; and has been tracking drums/bass/guitar and vocals for the hip-hop band Downbeat Keys’ upcoming EP, Memory Chrome – taking advantage of the re-worked acoustics in The Brewery’s new live room. And songwriter Corey Chorus and the Philly Phatboi’s were at the Brewery working with Krivonos on some records for the Columbia artist, RaVaughn.
Mastering engineer Drew Lavyne, who blogged about the loss of his Breezy Point studio in Hurricane Sandy, has been cranking on projects out of his new studio in Bay Ridge. The first two albums he mastered, in fact, were back-to-back #1 records: Kim Walker-Smith‘s album Still Believe made #1 on the iTunes Christian and Gospel Chart (and hit #4 on the iTunes Top Albums) and Jesus Culture’s album Live From New York with Martin Smith hit #1 on the iTunes Christian and Gospel Chart.
Other recent projects since Lavyne re-located his A.L.L. Digital include mastering for Exile Parade, Cari Fletcher, Arianna feat. Pitbull, Walk The Moon, Two Door Cinema Club, and Antigone Rising.
Over at GalumniumFoil in Williamsburg, producer/engineer and guitarist Jeff Berner was working on a bunch of records, including producing/engineering Naam’s second full-length LP for TeePee Records; engineering and playing on Psychic TV‘s new limited edition vinyl-only release, Silver Sundown Machine/Alien Lightning Meat Machine for Vanity Case Records; producing/mixing and playing on Heliotropes‘ debut full-length for Manimal Vinyl/Frenchkiss Records, due out in the spring; tracking basics for Dead Stars‘ new EP, live to tape; and engineering and mixing The Glorious Veins‘ new LP, Savage Beat.
All records were tracked to GaluminumFoil’s 32-channel Neotek Elan console, using their Sony/MCI JH-24 2″ tape machine – with a good majority of them mastered by Alex DeTurk at Masterdisk. (Why?, says Berner, because he’s awesome.)
Nearby at The Fort in Bushwick, producer/engineer James Bentley has been working on a few albums – most recently he’s been tracking and mixed an LP for surf-punk band, Trash Tide; wrappingup overdubs/mixing on an EP he’s producing for local “sci-fi rock band” Lord Classic, finishing mixes on an LP for pop/rock band Aquadora, and filming a session for a new video series called “Behind the Glass“.
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: It’s been a minute since our last Session Buzz, but things have been busy all over town. Sandy, of course, had her effect on business, leaving many in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn scrambling for weeks after the power came back on, but by and large…folks are back in action. Some, better than ever.
That is, Strange Weather Recording in Williamsburg opened their brand-new facility this week. The epic build-out – chronicled in Marc Alan Goodman’s Building Strange Weather blog – finished just in time for inaugural sessions this week with garage rockers Total Slacker tracking and mixing a new full-length over seven days with producer/engineer Daniel James Schlett. Goodman also noted that Ben Greenberg (Zs, Hubble) will be in next week to mix his band the Men.
Meanwhile at Germano Studios in Manhattan…Lauryn Hill recorded basic tracks with Graham Marsh engineering, Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band recorded vocals with Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono producing, and Kenta Yonesaka engineering, Common recorded vocals with J.Period and No I.D. producing and Jason Agel engineering…John Legend recorded and mixed new material with Dave Tozer and Kanye West producing, Jason Agel and Noah Goldstein engineering…Alicia Keys was in for writing and recording sessions with Frank Ocean, with Malay producing and Ann Mincieli engineering…and James Brown mixed the new We Are Scientists record, produced by Chris Coady.
Also writing, recording and mixing new material at Germano were…Pharrell Williams with Andrew Coleman engineering…J.Cole with Curtis “Sauce” Wilson engineering…Meek Mill with Wayne Harelwood engineering … Justin Bieber with Josh Gudwin producing and engineering, AK-69 with Rimaji Kato engineering, and Pitbull with Danny Mercer producing and Dave Rowland engineering…
Over at Flux Studios in the East Village…Fab Dupont has been busy making a record with South African pop duo The Arrows - producing, recording and mixing the album. Dupont is also mixing the new DJ Collette album.
Meanwhile, OK Go lead singer/guitarist Damian Kulash spent some time in Flux’s Revolution room, writing for the upcoming OK Go album. And Big Boi stopped by for a vocal session with producer Frans Mernick for this Decoded feature on Jay-Z’s Life and Times blog. Also at Flux…Teddy Geiger tracked drums for his upcoming album, Bebel Gilberto recorded vocals for the new UN Women anthem and Jukebox The Ghost tracked piano with producer Dan Romer for an upcoming film.
Also, coming up early next year, Flux’s Dangerous Room will be home to a vintage 1970s Neve console! Stay tuned for more on that!
In Midtown, MSR Studios hosted Edie Brickell tracking new music with producer Steve Gadd and engineer Andy Smith (assisted by Fred Sladkey). The team recorded rhythm section and vocals for an upcoming film soundtrack. And Robert Randolph has been recording, editing and mixing in all three rooms at MSR, working on various projects including the New York Knicks theme song for Madison Square Garden. Randolph produces on these sessions, working with engineer Alex Venguer.
Russ Elevado mixed Eric Krasno’s (of Soulive and Lettuce) new EP in MSR Studio C, assisted by Mike Layos. And producer/engineer Don Hunerberg worked with music director Milton DeLugg out of A to record and mix full orchestra and ensemble/lead vocals for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Across town at Masterdisk…recent albums mastered include: Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange (up for “Album of the Year” Grammy) – mastered by Vlado Meller, produced by Frank Ocean, Malay, Om’mas Keith and Pharrell Williams for Def Jam; The Weeknd’s Trilogy (a three-CD set + vinyl) – mastered by Mark Santangelo, produced by The Weeknd, Doc McKinney and Illangelo, mixed by Illangelo for XO/Republic; and a Rage Against The Machine 20th Anniversary set (vinyl, CD and DVD) – mastered by Vlado Meller and executive produced by Rick Rubin for Sony Music, with lacquers cut by Mark Santangelo.
Also mastered at Masterdisk…Jay-Z Live In Brooklyn EP, mastered by Tony Dawsey and mixed by Young Guru; Rod Stewart’s Merry Christmas Baby – mastered by Meller, produced by David Foster, and mixed by Jochem van der Saag for Verve; Tom Wopat‘s new album and a Debby Boone EP – both mastered by Randy Merrill and mixed by Roy Hendrickson; and the four-LP set, Dave Matthews Band Live Trax Vol 1 – mastered by Scott Hull.
Over in the Film Center Building, at John Kilgore Sound & Recording, composer Claire Van Kampen was recording her score for an as-yet-untitled feature film directed by Christian Camargo; Drew Gasparini was tracking a new album – produced by Charlie Rosen and engineered by John Kilgore; Halle Petro recorded vocals for a new album, produced by Michael Gomez, and recorded/mixed by Kilgore; and tracking and mixing sessions were held for Annie Kozuch’s new album, with producer Frank Ponzio.
Kilgore also mixed Brian Landrus‘ new self-produced album, tracked at Sear Sound by Chris Allen, and mastered by Alan Silverman of ARF Digital; and worked on float music for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, produced by Bill Schermerhorn and Wesley Whatley.
Speaking of Sear Sound…Andrew Wyatt (of Miike Snow) mixed his new album at Sear, with Ted Tuthill engineering, and Yoko Ono continued sessions there for her upcoming record with Chris Allen engineering, Sean Lennon, Yuka Honda and Yoko Ono producing. Spanish chanteuse Buika also tracked new music for Warner Bros/Spain with Eli Wolf producing and Tuthill engineering.
And jazz artists James Maddock, Dave Holland and Etienne Charles all worked on new music at Sear recently. Maddock recorded in Studio A with Matt Pierson producing and James Farber engineering; Charles tracked with Chris Allen engineering; and Holland mixed his new album with Farber at the controls.
Across the river at Joe Lambert Mastering in DUMBO… Lambert recently mastered the new solo album by the aforementioned Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow) – called Descender (recently covered in Rolling Stone), as well as Youth Lagoon’s upcoming album on Fat Possum – produced by Ben Allen; Eleanor Friedberger’s latest for Merge – produced/engineered by Eric Broucek; and Beach Fossils new album for Captured Tracks – engineered by Ben Greenberg.
Additonally at JLM, Roman Vail mastered the new album by singer/songwriter and composer LiLi Roquelin, Beautiful Sun. It features Askold Buk on guitars and bass, strings by the Wandering Cellist and Christopher Marion, and was mixed by Marc Urselli.
Down the block to Saltlands…Engineer Jim Smith recently finished tracking a new EP with Warp artists My Best Fiend, recording live in the studio to tape and using Saltlands Ampeg B-15 on bass with their own vintage Music Man amps on guitars for ample vintage-rock sonics. Click for more details. And coming up this weekend, Smith will be tracking Sharon Van Etten vocals, with Jonathan Meiburg producing.
In other recent Saltland sessions…musician/comedian Reggie Watts was in Studio A recording with singer-songwriter and engineer Dawn Landes; PT Walkley and Eli Janney were in working on a new project; Producer Doveman was with the perennials, and Hannah Cohen before that; And engineer/producer Ted Young tracked with rock band Morningside Lane.
At Grand Street Recording in Williamsburg…Zach Jones recorded a Ron Sexsmith cover song for a Hurricane Sandy benefit (download/donate here); Chris Kuffner (Regina Spektor), Elliot Jacobson (Ingrid Michaelson) and Lelia Broussard (The Voice) tracked for an upcoming project with Broussard and Kuffner – engineered by Ken Rich; and Amy Lennard completed her latest album with Andy Stack on guitars, Tony Tino (Gavin DeGraw) on bass, Dan Vonneget on drums, Keith Cotton (Joan Osborne) on keys, Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel) on drums and percussion, and John Graboff (Willie Nelson) on pedal steel. Rich recorded and mixed Lennard’s album, which was mastered at Sterling Sound by Greg Calbi and is due out in early Spring.
Also at Grand Street…Adam Levy worked on his new record with producer Aaron Lee Tasjen and Tomek Miernowski engineering; and Michelle Citrin recorded and filmed a music video for a Hanukkah song. (pictured) Players include Dan Rieser on drums, Chris Morissey on bass, Itaal Shur on keys, Debra Kreisberg on sax, Tomek Miernowski on guitar, and Jared Saltiel on vibraphone. The song was tracked, filmed, mixed and mastered all in one day by Ken Rich.
At Blackler Mastering in Bushwick…Kevin Blacker mastered a couple notable jazz records for High Note, including a duet album with bassist Harvie S. and pianist Kenny Barron, and an upcoming album for Miles Davis’ protege Wallace Roney. Blackler also mastered an Afro-Cuban / electronic album for artist Chico Mann (aka Marcos Garcis of Antibalas) for SoundWay Records out of London; and an album by Kendra Morris for Wax Poetics, which hit #2 on the iTunes R&B charts. He also mastered a Kendra Morris B-side featuring a Pink Floyd cover which is to-be the title track of an upcoming film, starring Collin Farrell.
Out at The Barber Shop Studios in Lake Hopatcong, NJ….Dream Theater’s Mike Mangini recorded for Hudson Music’s Drum Guru App – with Zak Rizvi engineering; Oh No Fiasco! worked on their upcoming record with producer Kato Khanwala and engineer John D’Uva. And Khanwala and D’Uva also worked with The Pretty Reckless whose new single, “Kill Me” was also mixed at the Barber Shop – check it out here. Prroducer/engineer Kevin Kumetz has been in the studio with up-and-coming artist Lacey Caroline – their collaboration recently produced her first single, “Can You Feel It”.
And we’ll leave you with Paul McCartney recording a Christmas classic at Avatar Studios…
And we know there’s so much more going on out there! If you’d like to be featured in “Session Buzz,” please submit your studio news to firstname.lastname@example.org.
GREATER NYC AREA: For recording studios, this past summer had its typical ups and downs. But heading into Fall, bands like The Killers, The Vaccines and OneRepublic as well as artists like Tony Bennett, Kurt Vile, Sean Lennon, Rufus Wainright and more had been in NYC-area studios cranking on new and upcoming releases.
Starting in Murray Hill, Electracraft Music Works @ The Fireplace Penthouse hosted sessions with Mark Foster, of Foster The People, recording vocals for “Polartropic” – a soundtrack song for Tim Burton’s new film, Frankenweenie. Warren Babson engineered the session.
Also at Electracraft…Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost of the band FUN were in to work on some new material, with Matt Morales engineering…Melanie Fiona came through to record some live acoustic tracks for Cricket Mobile, with Sam Katz engineering…hip-hop artist Outasight recorded with producers The Elev3n and Morales engineering, and Liz Gillies (of Nickelodeon’s Victorious) recorded some new music with Babson engineering.
Downtown, The Killers recorded and mixed their new album Battle Born over the summer at Germano Studios – with Alan Moulder mixing (various producers). OneRepublic has also been recording their latest at Germano – tracking guitars, keyboards and mandolin with singer/producer Ryan Tedder producing and engineering
And in other Germano sessions… The Goo Goo Dolls were in writing and recording new materials with John Shanks producing and Dan Chase engineering… Chris Shaw mixed an Ozzy Osbourne live DVD release, with Bruce Dickinson producing…Robin Thicke recorded vocals with Paul Falcone engineering, as did Mary J. Blige (also with Falcone)… Singer Jessica Sanchez (American Idol) recorded vocals and programming with Harvey Mason, Jr. producing and Andrew Hey engineering…and tracking sessions for a new John Legend album (recording guitars, vocals, piano, harp, keyboards in Studio 1 & Studio 2) with Dave Tozer producing and Jason Agel engineering.
The Killers went from recording and mixing at Germano, to The Lodge Mastering where Emily Lazar and Joe LaPorta mastered Battle Born. The Lodge’s mastering engineers Lazar, LaPorta and mastering engineer Heba Kadry have also recently mastered records by Dum Dum Girls, Imagine Dragons, Negramaro, Jeff Wayne’s The War Of The Worlds, James Iha, The Sea and Cake, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and Sarah Blasko.
Also at MSR…Jazz artist/bassist Christian McBride has been mixing two upcoming albums – with Joe Ferla on the Euphonix System 5 in MSR’s Studio B, assisted by Brett Mayer…the cast album for Broadway’s Bring It On was tracked in Studio A by engineer Derik Lee and composer Alex Lacamoire for Sh-K-Boom! Records, and then mixed by engineer Tim Latham…and Derik Lee also recorded some cues for the film Greetings from Tim Buckley.
Sean Lennon brought his Ghost of the Sabre Tooth Tiger project to Sear Sound last month. Tom Schick mixed the album – for Lennon’s label, Chimera Records – on Sear’s Neve 8038 to ½” 2-track on the ATR-102 machine.
Also at Sear Sound…Rufus Wainwright tracked new material on Sear’s Steinway “C” grand piano for Verve Records, with Sear’s Chris Allen engineering…jazz bassist Dave Holland and his ensemble tracked a new album with James Farber engineering…Ron Saint Germain produced and engineered a new recording by classical pianist Tania Stavreva on the Steinway “D” concert grand…and vocalist Keiko Lee tracked via the custom Avalon/Sear console in Studio C with Jay Newland engineering and producing for Sony/Japan.
Tony Bennett was back at Avatar Studios – this time to work on his Latin duets project, in Studio A. Bennett recorded vocals with Juan Luis Guerra, Romeo Santos and Ana Carolina. His son Dae Bennett engineered and produced the sessions, assisted by Aki Nishimura and Charlie Kramsky.
In other recent Avatar sessions…The Young Presidents tracked with producer /engineer Rob Fraboni, assisted by Bob Mallory and Tyler Hartman…Jennifer Hudson recorded for NBC’s Smash with producers Marc Shaiman and Harvey Mason, Jr., and engineer Andrew Hey…Bobby McFerrin recorded with producers Linda and Gil Goldstein assisted by Charlie Kramsky…and Esperanza Spalding was videotaped for ASPiRE TV with producer Nicole Bentley assisted by Aki Nishimura.
And all the way downtown at Engine Room Audio, 50 Cent was in the studio working with mastering engineer Mark B. Christensen to master his latest single, “New Day.” The track – released on iTunes on July 31 – features Dr. Dre and Alicia Keys, and was mixed by Eminem.
Christensen also recently mastered NYC alt-rock band Weep‘s new album, Alate, and the new Trey Songz album, Chapter V, which came out in August and hit #1 on the Billboard 200 chart in its first week.
Meanwhile In Brooklyn…
Yuka Honda (Cibo Matto, Yoko Ono) booked time at Joe McGinty’s Greenpoint synth studio, Carousel Recording, to record keyboard overdubs for Martha Wainwright’s new album, Come Home To Mama, which she is producing. Keyboardist Jared Samuel recorded on Carousel’s Moog Modular, Rhodes, Yamaha Organ and Hammond during these sessions.
DJ/producer Kid Koala collaborated with composer/producer/engineer Joel Hamburger on music for a new animated series and puppet show – both developed by Jhonen Vasquez – at Hamburger’s Park Slope studio, GödelString. For the animated series, Kid Koala (aka Eric San) and Hamburger worked off of a theme composed by Vasquez, and for the puppet show score, improvised recording sessions with James McNew and Amy Posner of Dump on guitar and keyboard.
“For me, the thrill was in working as fast as possible to set up and capture the moment and then being able to enjoy the magic of having these sketches being transformed into fairly complete pieces and soundscapes,” said Hamburger. “I also got to break out some of the great vintage keyboards we have at the studio.”
At the new Degraw Studios in Gowanus, rock band The Skins recorded and mixed an upcoming release with producer/engineer Ben Rice. Rice also mixed a new EP for Elliot & The Ghost – produced by Jared Dodd, and recorded/mixed new material for indie-rock band Chainwave.
Out of his Glassfactory studio in DUMBO, mixer/engineer Alex Aldi co-produced and mixed a Passion Pit song for the upcoming Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn – Part 2. Aldi also worked on the radio mix of The Hundred In The Hands’ “Come With Me” off their new album on Warp Records.
And back in Williamsburg, hip-hop artist K.Flay spent two weeks at The Bunker, writing and recording tracks for her upcoming RCA record – with Justyn Pilbrow producing, and Chris Mullings engineering. Singer/songwriter and pianist Johanna Cranitch also brought her band project Johanna and the Dusty Floor to The Bunker to track and mix a full-length album – with Chris Berry on drums, Rob Gentry and synths/programming, and Aaron Nevezie producing and engineering.
And in other Bunker sessions… Nevezie engineered a “monster tracking session” for a 30-minute piece called “Drummer’s Corpse”, led by drummer/bandleader Mike Pride and featuring seven drummers and multiple other musicians and vocalists…and 11-piece Afro-beat band Zongo Junction tracked their new full-length album live to the Bunker’s 24-track Studer machine over two days with Nevezie engineering.
Meanwhile, engineer/producer Matt Boynton has been busy at his Williamsburg studio, Vacation Island. Over the summer, Boynton mixed a track for Rainbow Arabia, a project that continues there this month, and finished the new Vietnam‘ record – coming out early next year on Mexican Summer. Free Blood and Wild Yaks also mixed their latest with Boynton. Fred Nicolaus of Department of Eagles mixed his solo release with Boynton as well.
On the recording front, Boynton recently tracked and mixed two new songs for Hospitality and recorded (with Rob Laasko) a new song for Kurt Vile. Most recently, Boynton tracked a new song for UK artist Amy Studt, and The Vaccines came through while in Williamsburg between shows to track and mix a new song.
Also in Williamsburg, Grand Street Recording (<– new website) recently hosted the 8-piece indie-pop band, Sky Pony – led by Kyle Jarrow – to record and mix their new EP with engineer/producer Ken Rich.
Also at Grand Street, acoustic punk band The Narrowbacks recorded a full-length record with Tomek Miernowski…Noe Venable has been constructing an acoustic album “filled with unexpected sounds and compelling arrangements” – recorded by Ken Rich, and featuring Mathias Kunzli and Todd Sickafoose…
I’m In You finished mixing and mastering their third full-length release with Rich…and TV On The Radio‘s Kyp Malone stopped by to record vocals with Emily Long & Velta on their latest record, with Miernowski engineering and mixing.
Grand Street also recently added a pair of Mohog MoFET76 limiting amplifiers and an AKG D30 to its ever-growing collection of vintage microphones. In drum-land, the studio added a 1959 Ludwig WFL Badge 6 ½” x 14″ Snare that still has the original Ludwig calf-skin resonant head – serviced by John Fell over at Main Drag Music.
And we know there’s so much more going on out there! If you’d like to be featured in “Session Buzz,” please submit your studio news to email@example.com.
GREATER NYC AREA: The summer slump may have hit some studios, but then again some others are cranking. We found artists such as Esperanza Spalding, Crystal Stilts, Tegan and Sara, Rick Ross, Cee-Lo Green, Bruno Mars, Robert Randolph and more have been recording in the city this month.
Let’s start at Flux Studios in the East Village, where French jazz singer Cyrille Aimée has just made her new album. Aimée and band spent a week in the Dangerous room tracking the album, which is being produced by Fab Dupont and engineered by Dupont and Daniel Sanint. Dupont has also been recording/producing NYC pop singer/songwriter Jay Stolar’s new album.
In other Flux sessions: Talib Kweli has been tracking in the Revolution room with several guests, including Rah Digga, and resident engineer Eddie Krakaur; indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara were in writing sessions in the Revolution and Fabulous Rooms; Actor Paolo Costanzo stopped by to oversee the recording of a song by Teddy Geiger for the show Royal Pains – tracked by Sanint and mixed by Mark Saunders (The Cure, David Byrne).
And on the technical tip, Flux reports they’re “ecstatic” about their new Focal SM9 and Elektra 1038Be speakers; finding a lot of excellent uses for the new Lauten Atlantis microphone (developed in collaboration with Fab Dupont), i.e. vocals (Cyrille Aimée), acoustic guitars and upright bass; and have upgraded all their rooms to Pro Tools 10. The Revolution room currently hosts an Avid HD I/O interface with an HDX card. Also, the recent event they hosted with PreSonus left Flux with the new Studio One software ready to go in every room.
A few avenues over, Germano Studios was busy with a wide spread of sessions including rapper Rick Ross who was in recording vocals with John Rivers engineering, Cee Lo Green mixing with Graham Marsh producing and engineering, K’naan recording vocals with Michael Franti of Spearhead, Japanese hip-hop artist AK-69 recording with Kaoru Hoshizeki engineering, and Brooklyn indie-rock band Snowmine recording basic tracks with Jake Aron producing and engineering.
Also at Germano, Michael Bolton recorded vocals with Dave Tozer producing and Jason Agel engineering…Tozer/Agel also recorded with John Legend (vocals, piano, keyboards and guitars) in both Germano Studios…Anita Baker recorded keyboards and vocals with Barry Eastmond producing and Kenta Yonesaka engineering…singer/songwriter Jodee Seiders recorded with Chris Johnson producing, Gihan Wright and Dave Rowland engineering, and Cobra Starship was in for writing and recording sessions with Sandy Vee producing and engineering.
Meanwhile, jazz artists flocked to Sear Sound this past month: Esperanza Spalding recorded at Sear a for Universal Classics release – playing bass and tracking vocals in Studio C (“on her favorite Telefunken Elam 251″) with Jeremy Loucas engineering and French composer/DJ P.C. Solal producing…jazz pianist David Virelles mixed an upcoming release with Sear’s chief engineer Chris Allen… singer Tyler Houston tracked covers and standards with a band and horn octet, Allen engineering and Dave Suchanek producing… and ensemble The Clayton Brothers (John, Jeff and Gerald Clayton) tracked a new album for Concord Music, again with Allen engineering.
In other Sear sessions: HBO’s Boardwalk Empire returned to track some new songs – engineered by Stewart Lerman, and produced by Randy Poster… The Public Theater / Shakespeare Festival tracked the music for “As You Like It” with Gary Maurer engineering and co-producing with the composer Greg Pliska…composer Loren Toolajian produced tracks for Sesame Street with Allen engineering…and Chris Shaw tracked for “The Voice” for Universal Music Australia.
Psych-pop band Crystal Stilts recorded a new song at Saltlands in DUMBO, in full band tracking sessions with producer/engineer Jarvis Taveniere of Woods. Another Brooklyn psych-rock/pop band, Desert Stars, also tracked at Saltlands in July with producer/engineer Nick Stumpf (Caveman, French Kicks).
Comedian/director Louis CK returned to Stratosphere Sound in Chelsea to record music for Louie, Season 3. Also at Stratosphere…Brooklyn bluegrass ensemble Six Deadly Venoms mixed their new album to tape with engineer Adam Tilzer…NYC-based songwriting/production team Robopop (Maroon 5, Lana Del Ray) recorded with assistant Mike Nesci…and the Food Network and NBC’s Smash were in for sessions.
John Zorn was back at EastSide Sound in the Lower East Side, recording solo violin with chief engineer Marc Urselli for an upcoming release…Urselli – who just got back from touring with Lou Reed – also mixed the five movements of NYC composer/violinist David Fulmer’s first commissioned composition for saxophone and ten-piece chamber ensemble, to be released on Zorn’s Tzadik Records… mixed trumpeter Matt Holman’s new record, recorded drums, cello and vocals for cellist Leah Coloff’s new album, and recorded drums for percussionist Ravis Momin’s upcoming album.
At Jerry Wonda and Wyclef Jean’s Platinum Sound in Midtown…Suriname alt rock band Apoplectic mixed their upcoming album with Serge “Sergical” Tsai in Studio K. And the song “Blame” by Island Def Jam artist K’La (ft. Nas) was produced by Wonda for Wonda Music, and recorded and mixed by Tsai.
Several blocks downtown, producer/engineer Matt Gill runs his studio, The Key Room, out of the Shelter Island Sound complex – also home to the songwriting team, 1984, and Bob Power’s studio. Gill recently served as producer/musical director/engineer and mixer on a new mobile app for Whynoceros, recording guitarist/bassist Robbie Seahag Mangano (Grandmothers of Invention, Tom Morello), saxophonist Stuart Bogie (Antibalas, Superhuman Happiness, TV on the Radio) and violinist Kari Bethke (Bad Buka, Rana Santacruz).
Gill also recently recorded and mixed an acoustic performance by Metric in the Hotel Rivington penthouse as part of a campaign for the Sony Xperia Ion smart phones – with video produced by Brooklyn’s Mixtape Club. And – at Mavericks Recording in China Town – he recorded an album for Irish-music ensemble Streams of Whiskey live off the floor, assisted by Kevin Schinstock.
Further downtown at Engine Room Audio – Mark Christensen recently mastered 50 Cent’s new album, Murder by Numbers, assisted by Dan Millice and Benoit Holliger.
Indie rock group Cloudeater – profiled here last year – recently teamed up with rapper Wale on the experimental hip-hop track, “Faces“, and turned to Millice to master the track which was released mid-June as a single. The track is the artists’ first track to have been Mastered for iTunes (iTunes Plus).
Indie experimental rock band Boyfrndz brought their self-titled debut to Millice for mastering as well. They originally released the album last year, but Millice re-mastered it for vinyl at Engine Room. The album, which was recorded to tape, was produced by keyboardist/producer Isaiah ‘Ikey’ Owens (The Mars Volta, Jack White) – you can stream the original release at Bandcamp.
Legendary engineer/producer Eddie Kramer recently tracked Robert Randolph up at Manhattan Sound Recording (MSR Studios), in Studio A, using the Endless Analog CLASP system, Studer A827 machine and Pro Tools HD. The sessions were for a side project that Robert is producing. Brett Mayer was the assistant.
Also at MSR…Def Jam artist 2 Chainz was in working on his album with Q-Tip producing and Blair Wells engineering, Make Layos assisted…NBC’s Smash has started recording again with Marc Shaiman producing and MSR’s Ian Kagey engineering in Studios A and B…Producer Nick Littlemore (of Empire of the Sun) and engineer Angie Teo spent a week in MSR Studio C working on a new project for Universal/Republic pop artist Mika…50 Cent worked on a new single with engineer Ky Miller and assistant engineer Gloria Kaba…and Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin has been working with engineer Chris Soper on a new project.
MSR also started cosmetic renovations on Studio B last month and look forward to having them finished before the end of the summer.
Meanwhile, pop star Bruno Mars has been working on the follow-up to his chart-topping Doo-Wops & Hooligans at Avatar Studios with producer Mark Ronson and engineer Alan O’Connell, assisted by Bob Mallory and Tyler Hartman. Mars has been recording out of Avatar Studios A, B and W.
In other Avatar sessions… Tony Bennett sang duets with Thalia and Marc Anthony in Studio C with producer/engineer Dae Bennett, assisted by Aki Nishimura and Charlie Kramsky… The Leap of Faith cast album was recorded in Studio A with producer Alan Menken, engineer Peter Karam assisted by Bob Mallory…Harry Connick, Jr. recorded with producer Tracey Freeman, engineer Vince Caro assisted by Tim Marchiafava… Gospel artist Hezekiah Walker recorded in Studio A with a 60+ piece choir with engineer Larry Sturn..and New York Voices recorded in Studio G with producer/engineer Elliot Scheiner assisted by Bob Mallory.
NYC rock singer/songwriter Patty Smyth (Patty Smyth & Scandal) recorded vocals for an upcoming Christmas album at Threshold Recording Studios, with producer Keith Mack and engineer Jeremy Sklarsky (Freelance Whales, We Are The Woods). Sklarsky also engineered sessions at Threshold for jazz musicians Ron Carter, Gene Bertoncini & John Abercrombie, with producer David Becker; rocker Madame Mayhem, with producer Mark Hudson; and multi-instrumentalist/producer Mark Rivera (Billy Joel, Ringo Starr Allstars) with Rodney Howard, Tony Tino and Greg Mayo.
Back in Brooklyn, Broadway star Chester Gregory (Dream Girls, Hairspray, Sister Act) has been working on his solo R&B project at Brewery Recording in Williamsburg. Working with producers Woodro Skillson and Taylor Gordon, and with engineer Andrew Krivonos at the controls, Gregory’s been laying down vocals and mixing three tracks for his project which should be out by the end of the year.
In other Brewery sessions…rapper Jojo Pellegrino has been back to wrap up his latest project, Machine Gun Pelle. Krivonos is mixing the 16-song album, produced in part by Lofey and UVex…electro-pop band Ch!nch!lla has been mixing their new LP with engineer Nick D’Allesandro…and Staten Island’s Thomas Jr. recorded and mixed his hip-hop + spoken word mixtape with Bryan Lampe.