Review: The 135th AES Convention — Which Direction Did This Year’s Show Go?

October 22, 2013 by  

Moving forward.

Back at the Javits...with a more welcoming air this time around.

Back at the Javits…with a more welcoming air this time around.

For everyone involved in the business of recorded music and sound, the onset of the 135th AES convention in New York City had question marks aplenty. Would this tradeshow – which serves as the spiritual hub for everyone involved in professional audio – represent one step ahead or one step back?

A Challenging Precedent

Following the double dose of disappointment that many attendees experienced over the last two years, it was reasonable to brace for another negative in 2013.

After all, the 133rd that took place in San Francisco last year felt marred in many a way: by seemingly sparse attendance, a solid but uninspiring technical program, and some conspicuously absent exhibitors — all while Hurricane Sandy  ravaged the East Coast in historic fashion.

In 2011, the 131st AES convention similarly took the wind out of our collective sails. There was major construction going on at NYC’s Jacob Javits center, which relegated the gradually shrinking show to a gloomy corner of the complex, a good half-mile away from the technical program and other special events. The result was a sinking feeling for everybody involved before they even set foot on the floor.

In Wall Street talk, the analysis would be that the AES show was “trending downward.”

In the Moment

But lo and behold for everyone who made it to Manhattan’s Far West side last week, and sensed an energizing uplift in the air before they even printed their badge: AES felt good again.

Back where it belonged in the Javits’ main hall, sunlight spilled over visitors as they entered the center’s main atrium — a healthy harbinger of the refreshed attitude that pervaded the show.

Once inside, that intangible buzz of energy that everyone – exhibitors and visitors alike – long to feel pulsed like a Moog oscillator, and never let up. On the exhibition floor, the return of Avid felt like a fundamental cornerstone that had been put back in place. Meanwhile, all the microphones, monitors, compressors, limiters, and 500 modules that an engineer could reasonably eat filled the aisles.

Yes, as before, virtually no other DAW’s besides Pro Tools were representing, and the plugin developers whose code rules today’s pro audio workflow remained disproportionately few and far between. Still, for those on the lookout there were enough GUI’s to go around.

Down below the show floor, the work of the planning committee, overseen by AES President Frank Wells, Executive Director Bob Moses, and a dedicated team of organizers made the Technical Program pay off in a big way. Attendees faced some serious choices when trying to sift through the appealing array of special events, workshops, special tracks, master classes, and other activities which accompanied the paper sessions and engineering briefs that are always there for the strictly hard-core. (Editor’s Note: On October 25th, the AES announced a five-year high in in registrants for the 135th — 18,453 — a 16% increase over the last NYC convention.)

Emerging Energy

Beyond the meticulously planned aspects of the convention, of course, is where you get the real idea of where the industry is going. It’s the thousands of spontaneous conversations that break out, whether it’s at the Javits by day or the cross-borough studio parties that liven up each night, where you learn the true tenor of the industry.

The minds behind audio took center stage at this year's AES.

The minds behind audio were the stars at this year’s AES.

Time and again, the recurring motif was this: Most audio professionals are busy as hell, and getting busier. Mixers, engineers, and producers who previously felt embattled by massive change in the music industry are now taking matters into their own hands by finding new ways to make profitable partnerships.

Clever new concoctions of business models involving composers, licensing, artists, audio post offerings, and myriad other multimedia permutations revealed themselves. These weren’t just dreams, but real revenue streams – many people’s innovative plans were well in motion, and already bearing fruit.

And let’s face it – this is NYC. We want to make sure our global guests know there’s more to our town than the Javits. It seems like every convention here we up the nightlife ante, and just 12 months removed from a paralyzing storm the Big Apple displayed its nonstop drive once again.

There’s heavy audio activity all across the five boroughs, but as nightly events at Mission Sound, The Brewery, Studio G (see the party pics below), and many more confirmed, the rapid expansion of Brooklyn is on – its mannered rivalry with Manhattan has firmly established NYC as the world’s Twin Cities of recording.

Don’t Look Back

There are those who note that the annual AES isn’t what it once was. And if you compare it to the year 1996, for example — when I first attended the show and was overwhelmed by the seemingly nonstop aisles of gear taking up multiple exhibition halls at the Javits — they’re right.

But hardly anyone had an email address or Website then either, tracking to tape was still the norm, and the first #1 single to be recorded, edited, and mixed completely in Pro Tools (“Livin’ la Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin) was still three years off.

In the meantime, don’t bother talking about the big ole’ days of the show to the legions of young faces that were all over the 135th. This year’s convention attracted a lot of new blood, and most of them don’t know or care what the business used to be.

They’re moving forward. And after four dynamic days in New York City, it looks like all of audio is doing the same.

-    David Weiss

Studio G drew in audio experts from across the land.

Studio G drew in audio revelers from across the land.

In living color

(l-r) Insurance ace Molly Dearth and producer/guitarist Brad Williams get colorfully close.

What's so FUNNY?

What’s so FUNNY?

A mastering trio meets up.

A mastering meetup: Jessica Thompson of The Magic Shop, Heba Kadry of Timeless Mastering, & The Lodge’s Sarah Register

Super producer Dave Tozer and guest soak in the vibes.

Super producer Dave Tozer and guest soak in the vibes.

Studio G co-founder Joel Hamilton (l) and Audio Power Tools' Dan Physics (r) flank an amigo.

Studio G co-founder Joel Hamilton (l) and Audio Power Tools’ Dan Physics (r) flank Jon Ruest, Eastern Sales Manager for Apogee.

Don't forget the GEAR.

Don’t forget the GEAR.

(l-r) Blue Wilding of Audio Power Tools, Bob Clearmountain, and Joel Hamilton converge

(l-r) Blue Wilding of Audio Power Tools, Bob Clearmountain, and Joel Hamilton converge

Alby Cohen (l) and Ari Raskin (r) surround a sonic buddy.

Alby Cohen (l) and Ari Raskin (r) surround Debra Cohen.

Julian Silva (center) of On Air Mastering, at a crossroads.

Julian Silva (center) of On Air Mastering, at a crossroads.

Studio G's Tony Maimone (l) had solid gold BLAST.

Studio G’s Tony Maimone (l) has a solid gold BLAST.

Behold the wall of sound in Studio B.

Behold the wall of sound in Studio B.

Dramastic Audio represents!

Dramastic Audio represents!

(l) Hector Castillo and (r) Jeff Hill crunch a compatriot in their own G studio.

(l) Hector Castillo and (r) Jeff Hill crunch a compatriot in their own G studio.

Strike a pose!

Strike a pose!

Laugh or drum? Universal Audio's Amanda Whiting.

Laugh or drum? Universal Audio’s Amanda Whiting.

(l-r) Joe "Moose" Demby and Alby Cohen on cue.

(l-r) Joe “Moose” Demby and Alby Cohen on cue.

(l-r) Christian Rutledge and Hector Castillo -- listening in.

(l-r) Christian Rutledge and Hector Castillo — listening in.

(l-r) Resident genius John Klett of Nonlinearaudio, Gail Terelle, and sound designer/mangler John Terelle

(l-r) Resident genius John Klett of Nonlinearaudio, Gail Terelle, and sound designer/mangler John Terelle

The view from Studio A's SSL 8048 G+

The view from Studio A’s SSL 8048 G+

(Left and Center) SonicScoop's Janice Brown and Justin Colletti wind it down with a friend.

(Left and Center) SonicScoop’s Janice Brown and Justin Colletti wind it down with a friend.

Peace out until 2015!

Dimitri Wolfwood of Ronin Applied Sciences sez: See you back in NYC in 2015!

Event Choice: The Love Machine Project EP Release – 6/13, DROM, NYC

June 6, 2013 by  

Big voices in intimate rooms are a powerful combination. That’s exactly what’s on the way for NYC’s sonic thrill seekers on Thursday, June 13th, when the Love Machine Project celebrates its EP release at the East Village venue DROM at 7 PM.

The Love Machine Project officially goes public in the East Village on Thursday, June 13th.

The Love Machine Project officially goes public in the East Village on Thursday, June 13th.

The Love Machine Project converges one of the city’s most adventurous singers, the soul/electro-rock vocalist Candice Anitra, with the rhythmic outpourings of the LA-based multimedia artist Mustafa “Effortless” Shakir (a.ka. M*E).

Together, they’ve created the Love Machine Project, debuting their duo with a five-song EP that forms an advanced amalgam of soul, rap, electronica, and hip hop.

The tracks on the eponymous EP crossfade constantly from light to dark, providing percussive motivation from sources organic and entrancingly synthetic. Anitra and Shakir’s hand-picked band included bassist Brady Watt (Talib Kweli, Res, Curren$y), guitarist Wes Mingus (Wu-Tang Clan, The Revelations), and drummer Jason Mills (Stomp, Beetroot). The prolific producer/engineer Joel Hamilton (Pretty Lights, Black Keys, Matisyahu, Dub Trio) refined the tracks at Brooklyn’s Studio G.

From past experiences hearing Anitra live, expect an arresting performance at DROM this coming Thursday. Meanwhile, the addition of M*E – in town from the West Coast for this auspicious occasion — should provide an agile counterbalance that puts the evening over the top.

In addition, the South African singer/songwriter Jesse Clegg’s NYC debut will get the night off to an expressive start.

Tickets: $10 in advance/$15 at the door

Preview the Love Machine EP at bit.ly/lovemachineproject.

Love_Machine_LMP_Drom_Flyer520

Music Spaces Hit Hard By Sandy – Here’s How You Can Help

November 8, 2012 by  

Music community spaces including WFMU, The South Sound, Norton Records, New Amsterdam Records and Tape Kitchen were devastated by hurricane Sandy last week. Find out what you can do to help.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern seaboard last week, it brought with it 90-mph winds, 40-foot high waves, and in some areas, 15 inches of rain or over 2 feet of snow.

All told, Sandy caused roughly 7.5 million power outages, at least $30 billion in damages and over 100 deaths in North America alone.

Although charity organizations large and small, including The Red Cross, Occupy Sandy, Rebuild Staten Island, and Red Hook Recovery have mobilized in the hardest-hit areas, parts of the northeast still struggle to come fully back online.

Currently, expectations are for over $20 billion in lost economic activity – a full $12 billion of which will be concentrated in New York City alone.

So much of this damage was caused before the hurricane even made landfall. Perhaps most devastating of all were the rising tides caused by the storm’s surge, which exceeded all expectations and brought catastrophic flooding to low-lying areas, far ahead of the winds and rain.

An Overflowing Canal Destroys Dozens of Studios in Gowanus

Andrew Schnieder, Mike Law and Jeremy Scott were among those who were caught off guard by the early floods.

Their studios, Translator Audio and The Civil Defense, were part of a newly-opened 7,000-square-foot music space called The South Sound. Barely two weeks before Sandy hit, they enjoyed a spirited grand opening along with the inhabitants of about a dozen rehearsal spaces and small production rooms that shared the building.

Destruction at The South Sound

The worst-case scenario in their minds was that several inches of flooding might damage carpets and force them to turn down business for a couple days as they cleaned the place up. Just to be extra-safe, they stacked expensive microphones and other hard-to-replace items high up on shelves and the tops of furniture.

In the end, it did no good.

The last thing they imagined was for a 5-foot wall of water to come crashing into the building with enough force to turn over furniture, break solid-wood doors in half, and throw a full-sized piano from one side of a room to the other.

Toxic floodwaters from the Gowanus Canal had quickly turned the parking lot into a freestanding body of water. This put insurmountable pressure against the newly renovated building, and eventually, a sturdy steel grate buckled and gave way, letting torrents of saltwater gush in.

Everything that mattered was picked up by the currents or completely submerged: Consoles, tape machines, and entire racks of gear.

But they weren’t the only studios to be damaged in the area. Mark Spencer’s Tape Kitchen, just a few dozen yards from the banks of the Gowanus was devastated as well.

Although Spencer had a little luck – he had access to some storage on the second floor and could stash some things there – the majority of gear and personal items couldn’t make it up to relative safety. The entire studio, along with Spencer’s car, was essentially destroyed.

Translator Audio control room

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the music community has begun to band together around these rooms, offering them help to get back on their feet.

Joel Hamilton of Studio G brought his crew together to try and help salvage some rarest pieces of vintage gear from The South Sound, and studios like The Bunker have opened their doors to sessions displaced by the damage.

If you’d like to help in an even more straightforward way, each of these studios are accepting donations to help them stay above water, so to speak, as they begin to re-book and rebuild.

Donations for The South Sound, Translator Audio and The Civil Defense can be made at here, and a benefit page for Mark Spencer and Tape Kitchen can be found here (and here for donations).

Floods Damage Thousands of Rare Records in Red Hook

New Amsterdam Records is a non-profit label that gives 80% of revenues directly to their artists. Just this year, they moved into a 3,000-square-foot space in Red Hook, and spent six months converting it into a new multi-use record label, warehouse, office, venue and rehearsal studio.

New Amsterdam HQ after the flood.  All rights reserved by NewAmsterdamNY.

Sandy hit this space hard as well, soaking amps, vintage synthesizers and more than 70% of their catalog of discs. It also destroyed essential documents and partially submerged their donated Steinway grand piano.

This performance space and record label specializes in jazz and new classical and has programmed shows that featured the likes of Dan Deacon, Nico Muhly and tUnE-yArDs. They are now accepting donations through their hurricane relief fund and have high hopes for rebuilding.

Nearby, Norton Records‘ old red brick warehouse was ravaged by a full four feet of water with enough pressure behind it to bend their thick metal doors.  

Billy Miller and Miriam Linna founded Norton over 25 years ago and have been collecting and reissuing raucous and rare mid-century garage rock and R&B ever since.

Ultimately, thousands of rare records were soaked in the flooding. But a meaningful portion of them may be salvageable. Norton Records has a call out for volunteers, and so far Miller says that well over a hundred have come to their aid.

Those who can lend a hand are encouraged to call 917-671-7185 or email nortonrec@aol.com. And put “VOLUNTEER” in the subject line.

For those who want to contribute financially, an undamaged shipment of new Norton releases is scheduled to arrive and go on sale November 13th. Sounds like a good time for some record shopping.

Saving Norton Records after Hurricane Sandy from Dust & Grooves on Vimeo.

Storm Destroys Transmitters at WFMU and Leaves Station a Quarter Million in the Hole

Music spaces don’t need to flood themselves to be put out of business temporarily.

Atlantic Sound Studios, Joe Lambert Mastering and ishlab studio, which all occupy the same waterfront building suffered no direct damage, but had to do without power for several days, like so many New Yorkers.

They recovered quickly when power came back, but not everyone was so lucky.

Ken Freedman (WFMU General Manager) bikes in Hoboken. Photo by Chris Costa.

At WFMU – one of the most eclectic and influential community radio stations in the country – both FM transmitters and a whole bank of live-streaming servers fried due to brownouts.

Manager Ken Freedman says that the “real problem” is that the station’s power didn’t go out all at once. “A drop in voltage is worse than a blackout,” he says, and it left some of their essential equipment beyond repair.

After 12 hours of complete radio silence, temporary web-streaming stations were set up in home studios in New York and New Jersey, and by November 5th, WFMU was on the air again, finally broadcasting from one of its two downed transmitters.

The damage to the hardware itself is only one-half of the problem. Freedman expects that replacements and repairs on that front will set the station back $100,000

This shortfall, however, is only compounded by the fact that the station’s annual Record Fair, a multi-day fundraiser that attracts hundreds of vendors and thousands of record collectors, was cancelled due to the storm. The event, which is usually responsible for a sizable chunk of revenue for the small, community-supported non-profit went from fundraiser to $150,000 loss.

WFMU Record Fair Cancelled

Between these two challenges, WFMU finds itself nearly a quarter million dollars in the hole, and in the midst of what Freedman calls a “financial disaster.”

As bad as it sounds, the station has been through times just as trying, and they hope to make it through again. WFMU is now hosting the aptly named “Hell and High Water” fundraising marathon and needs all the listener support it can get.

If you’re not a fan yet, start listening now. WFMU is a true grab-bag of broadcast diversity and a welcome respite to the homogenized Clear Channel radio empire.

It’s also one of the last deeply relevant community free-form radio stations standing, with die-hard fans like Matt Groening, Ric Ocasek, Lee Ranaldo, Lou Reed, Jim Jarmusch, and the late Kurt Cobain.

And if it’s going to survive this storm, like the other music spaces mentioned above, it’s going to need your help.

Do what you can.

Justin Colletti is a producer/engineer, professor and journalist who lives in Brooklyn. He is a regular contributor to SonicScoop and edits the musician magazine Trust Me, I’m a Scientist.

The South Sound

Ravaged MCI 528 channels at The South Sound

Keyboards at New Amsterdam. All rights reserved by NewAmsterdamNY.

Tape Machine at The South Sound

 

Two Studios For The Price of One: Translator Audio & The Civil Defense Join Forces at South Sound

October 18, 2012 by  

South Sound is the newly-opened home to more than a dozen rehearsal spaces and small production rooms on the Park Slope/Gowanus border of Brooklyn. It also hosts two longtime NYC studios that have banded together to share an expansive new live room, and become far larger than either studio could on its own.

Over the past ten or fifteen years, we’ve witnessed the indelible rise of a Do-It-Yourself ethos in the music industry.

But for all the benefits of that philosophy, it appears that as the music industry and the general economy finally emerge from a multi-year slump, the careers that have grown, flourished, or even just held their ground, have rarely belonged to those who have decided to “go it alone.”

Instead, the people who have been thriving in the new music business are increasingly those who have sought allies and founded meaningful communities. And that trend is continuing to grow.

The new South Sound tracking room

As a case study, enter the new South Sound, a 7,000 square-foot collection of more than a dozen rehearsal spaces and small production rooms. It’s capped off by a beautiful new large-scale recording studio. Two of them, actually.

More and more studios have been expanding in this way.

Saltlands in DUMBO seems to add new private rooms seasonally. Both Engine Room Audio and Fireplace Studios in Manhattan have a flagship recording space with several smaller production suites each. Meanwhile, Studio G in Williamsburg has grown to 4 impressive rooms that sprawl across two neighborhoods, which are kept busy by a small handful of regular engineers and sub-tenants.

But what makes The South Sound unique is that its central large-scale tracking room is shared by two independently operated control rooms: Translator Audio and The Civil Defense.

“I’ve seen similar situations where one main studio has satellite feeds to other room,” says Andrew Schneider of Translator Audio when I ask him what inspired the idea. “But I’d never seen this exact idea where two complete studios are being fed by one live room.”

“What I really wanted to have was a studio that wasn’t compromised by the state of the industry,” Schneider says, with a laugh.

“That started us brainstorming on how we could achieve that – How we could have a room that’s big enough to record a rock band – with real estate prices in New York City what they are and with budgets going down.”

So, after Schneider was priced out of his lease in DUMBO, he teamed up with Jeremy Scott of The Civil Defense, who had taken over his older, smaller studio in Williamsburg when he had moved out.

Translator’s new control room at The South Sound

Luckily, Scott was looking to upgrade as well, and although the idea was unconventional, he said it made sense to him immediately:

“The way that Andrew and I work, we both spend a lot of time on mixing,” Scott says. “So for half the record or more, you don’t really need the big live room space.”

“It just seemed really natural from the outset. I’ve worked out of a lot of shared spaces, and to make it work this way is even better, because we can work simultaneously.”

And great pains were taken to make sure Schneider and Scott can do just that. In addition to the main live room and its pair of dedicated iso booths, both of the studios – which are mirror images of one another – have their own smaller tracking space: an ample booth with high ceilings and direct sight-lines to the main room.

Sound isolation is achieved through floated floors, along with doubled-up drywall and glass panes with a foot of soundproofed space in-between.

Scott says there haven’t been any problems yet – even though Schneider often works with extremely loud bands like Unsane, and he often finds himself working on projects with an ephemeral, neo-shoegaze tinge.

In addition to Jeremy Scott and his longtime partner Mike Law, Scheider also found a small community of close-knit partners to help fund, manage and build the new space.

New control room for The Civil Defense

One of them, Dennis Darcy, a veteran of the studio construction business who’s done design and implementation for both Manhattan Center Studios and the Blue Man Group’s LoHo Studio, helped bring Schneider and Scott’s vision to life.

Still, “It was a little bit of an experiment,” says Schneider.

“As always, when you’re building a studio you can do all the research and planning and have it look good on paper, but it’s not until you bring up the faders that you know what you’re dealing with. And we’ve been lucky. It’s working out really well.”

Currently, Schneider has managed to book dates on his calendar through June, and Scott’s work is picking up as well, thanks to the new space.

In the past, the two had sometimes used outside studios (Scott often tracked at Martin Bisi’s legendary BC Studio, just a few blocks from the new space) or made do in cramped quarters. Now they’re able to do more than before, and with less overhead.

For Schneider, there’s a simple equation that proves it’s all been worthwhile. “Space: Better,” he says, “Rent: Cheaper.”

The South Sound had its grand opening party on Saturday, but most of its spaces are already taken and are in operation. A couple of rooms however, are still available in the emerging community. Rehearsal room shares start as low as $300/month, with the very largest private spaces going for up to $1,100/month, exclusive.

Justin Colletti is a producer/engineer, professor and journalist who lives in Brooklyn. He is a regular contributor to SonicScoop and edits the online musician magazine Trust Me, I’m a Scientist.

NYC Studio Tour: North Brooklyn IV

October 11, 2012 by  

In this 9th edition of the Brooklyn Studio Tour, we return to the Northside to visit the quintessential Brooklyn tracking and mixing room: Studio G . We also visit a pair of its most successful offshoots and a synth-head’s paradise near Kent Ave.

Studio G

Studio G of Williamsburg is one of the busiest, and now, one of the biggest recording studios in all of New York City. It’s also one of the most quintessentially Brooklyn studios you could ever imagine.

The Bosendorfer grand piano in Studio G’s new A room

The original Studio G was launched in the mid-90s by Tony Maimone, who was best known then – and perhaps now – as a bassist for wildly prolific cult artists like Pere Ubu, They Might Be Giants and Frank Black.

Maimone had moved into the neighborhood in 1986, back when Williamsburg was an epicenter of the crack epidemic, and the kind of place where you could still find a New York City apartment for a few hundred bucks a month.

At the time, crime rate in the neighborhood was roughly 400% of what it is now, but Maimone’s location was good. His space was just a few blocks from the 90th precinct, and sat on a busy, central corner right across from the famous Kellog’s Diner where cops parked their cars daily for meals.

Perhaps most crucially, the studio’s door sat directly atop the step of the staircase that leads up from the G train below. Anyone who visits the area regularly has probably passed the front door of the original Studio G dozens of times without knowing it.

Maimone became a fixture of the neighborhood, and he is still one today. He’s like the mayor of every block he walks down, always finding some familiar face to wave to or smile at.

Tony is midwesterner by birth, and those smiles come easy for him. He speaks slowly, entreatingly, with a cadence like a California surfer, and he has a round, ragged face deeply lined with decades worth of wide, boyish grins.

For a half-dozen years or so, Tony Maimone made a decent go of things by himself and with a series of short-lived partners at Studio G. But the story of his studio’s rise truly begins in 1999 when a young Joel Hamilton, then in his late-twenties, came knocking on Maimone’s door looking for work.

The Rise of Studio G

It would be too easy to cast Studio G as a place that was simply built on the right spot of ground at the right time, merely riding the rising tide of a gentrifying neighborhood.

While there is certainly lot of luck that factors into the success of any space, the story of Studio G’s growth is as much the story of Joel Hamilton’s growth as anything else.

Tony Maimone and Joel Hamilton in the original Studio G

“He’s really my biggest influence as far as engineers and producers go,” Tony Maimone says of the young engineer who quickly became his partner. “Joel Hamilton is right up at the top of the heap.”

“I mean, I haven’t met a ton of engineers,” he adds, qualifying his statement, searching the room for words before beaming at me again. “I mean, I haven’t met George Martin. But I have met some top guys. He’s on that level.”

Normally, this is the part of the article where I’d add some tempering words of clear-eyed skepticism. But I have to admit that on the topic of Joel Hamilton and Studio G, I’m completely biased. I’ll even go as far as to say that Joel is easily among my own personal heroes.

Part of his success comes from taste, talent, and hard work, but part of it is because he’s consistently looked to build up communities where others have looked to build up walls.

Hamilton seems to talk to everyone he meets like he’s known them for fifteen years, and has the assertive, but genial presence of a master politician. He’s just over 40 now, with the build of a college athlete and the eyeglasses of a 1990s proto-hipster.

He speaks regularly at conferences, has done volunteer work in AIDS-ravaged South Africa, and became a fixture of the Tape Op community, writing regular reviews and actively moderating their online messageboard at the peak of its popularity. He’s also a damn good mixer.

The original Studio G, which still operates today, measures in at a bit under 1,000 square feet. Maimone, Hamilton, and an evolving cast of assistants and interns ushered it from the days of ADATs and DIGI 001s, right up to its current iteration as a climate-controlled yet thoroughly vibey space decked out with a Neve console and racks full of esoteric and boutique audio gear.

Even the acoustic treatment at the original G is spirited and unique: The control room’s diffusers are comprised of countless hundreds of vinyl records. The ones in the live room are built of salvaged scrap wood pieced together over the course of a decade. Up above, glass bricks line the south side of the building near the ceiling, allowing natural daylight to stream into the space while maintaining complete privacy and sound isolation.

Studio G 5000

As the G became busy enough to warrant an expansion, Maimone and Hamilton set their sights on a new space just North of McCarren park, a few doors down from Nicolas Vernhes’ studio, The Rare Book Room.

A view of the racks in Studio G’s new A control room

The New Studio G is 5,000 square feet in total, with three ample, high-ceilinged production rooms. The flagship A room is home to an SSL G Series console and some of the choicest pieces of kit from the original G.

And as the space has grown, so has the crew:  An in-house tech and a “small army of interns” have joined in at the new space, and a few new engineers, Jeff Hill, Hector Castillo and John White have been helping to keep all the extra rooms busy.

In addition to a museum-worthy collection of vintage mics and a wall of rack gear that would suit three studios its size, the A room comes equipped with a Bosendorfer grand piano. Taken by itself, an instrument like that could be reason enough to book the space.

But what the owners of Studio G know better than most is that the studio world does not operate on an “if you build it, they will come” basis. Decades worth of work and career development went into warrant building a studio like this one. If Maimone and Hamilton keep up their pace, it’s easy to imagine that the new G could have an even longer run than the original. I’d bet money on that, and clearly, so would the studio’s owners.

To that point, there’s plenty of forward-looking infrastructure built into the new G. A rooftop covered in state-of-the-art solar panels promises to push the studio’s electric meter back in the other direction. It should save them on day-to-day expenses, but it’s the kind of investment – much like a grand build-out and an SSL console – that could take more than a decade to pay off.

I’m fairly certain they’ll get that chance.

The Bunker

Tony Maimone and Joel Hamilton have gone through a significant number of interns, assistants and protégés over the years. One of them, John Davis, has gone on to help create what’s probably the second-biggest new studio in North Brooklyn.

His Bunker Studio measures in at an impressive 3,000 square feet, with vaulted ceilings designed by Rod Gervais. At first glance, it’s reminiscent of Avatar’s iconic flagship tracking room across the East River. But the sound of the space is all its own: full-bodied and well-controlled with alternating stripes of wood paneling and absorptive material.

One of the enormous “isolation” booths at the the new Bunker studio

The appeal of this cavernous live room extends beyond its neighborhood, and is easily among the most expansive and most flexible in the city. The main space can fit dozens of players if it needs to, and two glass-doored isolation booths alone stand larger than the ones at many of Brooklyn’s mid-sized tracking rooms.

Between John Davis and partner Aaron Nevezie, the studio has been churning steadily for about a decade.  The original location was set into a basement on the south side of Williamsburg, right across the hall from the original Strange Weather Studio – which incidentally, is also run by a one-time Studio G protégé, Marc Alan Goodman.

The pair learned more than a few things watching Studio G grow, and they even own Joel Hamilton’s old Audiotronics console. But Davis and Nevezie have come to be a driving force in the Brooklyn music scene in their own right.

The Bunker 2.0 may be an ambitious new build, but it’s no fly-by-night development. Davis and Nevezie slowly and steadily outgrew their old space, only shaping The Bunker into the new, world-class room it is today once it made practical and financial sense for them to do so. They keep their prices reasonable-but-sustainable and do memorable work as constantly as they upgrade their gear.

The A and B rooms at The Bunker lean on a collection of vintage Neumann, Gefell and RCA microphones, and the space comes equipped with a 1969 Steinway grand – a genuine source of pride for producer/engineer Aaron Nevezie. Add to that an extensive collection of vintage keyboards, drums and guitar amps, and it’s no wonder the studio is becoming one of the busiest in the city.

Vanity Sound

There’s one more studio I’ve been meaning to include in this series for quite some time: Vanity Sound, owned and operated by Myles Turney and Joel Arnow.

Like the owners of The Bunker and Strange Weather, Myles Turney is also an alumni of Studio G, where he interned years ago. He and partner Arnow built a decent-sized tracking room and a substantial mic collection just a few blocks from the original G, and carved out a niche working with seasoned, sometimes virtuosic players, for several years.

Vanity Sound racks. Photo by Christopher Duff.

Earlier this year, their building was sold, and when their lease did not come up for renewal, Turney, Arnow, and their clients found themselves out on the street, with sessions scheduled and no place to go.

But luckily, there’s always a studio around the corner in Brooklyn. The pair began taking their sessions to Hugh Pool’s Excello Recording, and Oliver Straus’ Mission Sound, two of the earliest full-scale tracking rooms in the area, which stand directly across the street from one another just a couple blocks from the original Vanity Sound.

Turney says that he and Arnow originally planned to build a new, full-sized studio of their own, until they realized that this new arrangement suited them just fine.

Ultimately, the two decided they were happy to bring their big tracking dates into some of the best rooms that already exist, and focus on developing a small production suite of their own to help keep their clients’ work on-track and in-budget.

Turney has gone all-in on this new approach, and even sold off his console and moved his pair of Studer multi-tracks into Mission Sound, which has become a regular location for his full-band sessions.

“There’s so many great studios in this area, it almost doesn’t make sense to open another full-scale tracking room,” Turney tells me. “We can go to Mission or Excello to get a great recording. What people really don’t have in this area is a smaller space with some great mics that we can use for overdubs, edits or mixing. No one really needs a $1000/day room just to sit around doing vocal edits.”

For his own smaller-scale production room, Turney has finally made a leap he never thought he would: He’s picked up a Dangerous Summing Mixer and a Euphonix control, and has been thrilled with the results:

“I never ever ever thought I’d be the guy with a summing mixer and DAW controller, but after I met and got to be around Jon Kaplan and hear what he does with practically zero outboard and no console… well, that was kind of it.”

“It’s definitely a different workflow, but the first time I sat down, opened a session, and it came up just as I had left it with no time or fuss was totally mind-blowing. No more flipping back and forth from the last print to get the EQ’s set right.”

The new Vanity Sound is a streamlined setup compared to the original, but it still comes equipped with the overstuffed racks of gear Turney has put together over the years. Turney’s extensive mic collection has also made the trip to the new smaller-scale room, and it includes a pair of vintage ELAM 251s, a Neumann M49b, and one of the most complete collections of SONY microphones I’ve seen.  But the available gear doesn’t end there. Turney knows that if he ever wants to track or mix on a vintage Neve, there’s at least two of them just around the corner.

Ground Control Studio

In any music scene, once-disparate communities seem to grow and cross-pollinate and combine. In elite circles, it sometimes appears that everybody knows everybody else.

But although we’ve focused today one studio and its offshoots, the truth is that Brooklyn – contrary to what some outsiders may believe – is anything but one big monoculture.

Ground Control’s Trident + Neve sidecar

Sure, there may be more plaid here than anywhere this side of Scotland, but if there’s anything that I’ve learned from this tour of Brooklyn’s cottage industry of recording studios it’s that there are dozens of self-sustaining mini-scenes, each with their own audiences and frames of reference.

Murray Trider and John Bosch of Ground Control Studios, for instance, have carved out their own niche on the south side of Williamsburg, where Kent meets Broadway. It’s only a few blocks away from the other the studios we’ve profiled here, but over a decade of working side-by-side the two groups have yet to cross paths.

Tucked away in the basement of one of the most beautiful brownstones in their corner of the borough, Trider and Bosch have created a veritable synth-head’s paradise. It’s a clean, brick-lined space, filled with vintage analog classics from Moog, ARP and Roland. Rounding out that keyboard collection are some of the most rare and coveted iterations of the Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos ever made.

In the center of the space sits a Trident console and a pristine Neve sidecar, the latter of which was found at a fire sale auction, then painstakingly wired for the new space by co-owner Murray Trider. On one of the far ends of this long rectangular space, a small army of vintage guitars guards a cozy isolation booth, and on the other, a golden Buddah sits atop a honky-tonkin’ upright piano.

Recently, Trider has been working regularly with Reggie Watts, a brilliantly scattered performer, and one of the most absurdly dynamic musicians and comedians working today. Bosch splits his time between recording music and doing sound mixes for independent films from genre-bending documentarians and mumblecore luminaries.

Although Bosch comes from more of a guitar-based background while Trider is a DJ-turned-producer, the two bonded over their shared love of early krautrock records and other perennial favorites of white music nerds the world over.

It reminds me that even in a musical culture as kaleidoscopic as Brooklyn’s, there’s always something to connect over. When I ask Bosch how they met, he tells me that he was having a drink at a bar where Trider worked, and the two bonded over the tunes Trider was spinning. The band that he was playing? Pere Ubu. I’ll have to remember to tell Tony Maimone.

Justin Colletti is a Brooklyn recording engineer and studio journalist. He is a regular contributor to SonicScoop and edits the music blog Trust Me, I’m A Scientist.

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