Undoubtedly, the founders of one of Brooklyn’s flagship studios, The Bunker Studio, would concur with all of the above. No sooner did they complete their 2012 move into an expansive 3,000 sq. ft. space then an inconvenient truth revealed itself to the founders, John Davis and Aaron Nevezie: They had outgrown the 26-channel Auditronics board that they had built their business around.
Swapping consoles is no easy task, but before long this heavy mission transformed from notion to necessity. Read on for a step-by-step rundown from Davis on how The Bunker recently thought through – and then executed – the complex process of locating a new board, and then switching it in:
Phase One: Outgrowing a console
For years, our Auditronics 501 console was a great center piece for our studio. It sounded awesome, and had a ton of vibe, and fit our space and workflow perfectly.
After building our new space, and putting the 501 back into service in Studio A, we had no idea if or how quickly we would outgrow it. It turned out that after about a week of tracking in a huge space with 56 mic lines and enough room to easily accomodate 20-30 musicians, we were convinced that a 26-channel vintage console with limited routing wasn’t going to cut it, no matter how cool and great sounding it was…
The discussions ranged from sidecars to custom returns sections to a big discrete desk, to an SSL.
Phase Two: Picking a desk
After all these discussions, it seemed us that the perfect solution for our room was a small frame SSL 4000. We talked to Sonic Circus (who have supplied us with gear over the years) and David (Lyons) had just purchased a few SSL and was getting ready to refurb them.
We decided that instead of running the risk of getting a cheap SSL from some closing post house, or a beater from a dormant midtown studio, we would pony up the extra budget to buy a fully refurbished desk from Sonic.
We decided on a 40-channel frame that had previously been installed in Sony Studio in Toronto. It is a late E series, and we decided on an E after researching the records made on various SSL revisions over the years… It turned out that some of our favorite records from NYC in the early ’80′s (Roxy Music’s Avalon, David Bowie’s Scary Monsters and Let’s Dance, Blondie, etc…) were made on the E series console that was apparently installed in Studio C at Power Station (now Avatar) during the time.
Phase Three: Planning the Install
We like to be prepared, so we were extremely dilligent in this regard. We mapped out a 40-input patchbay, to the DL’s, and then made a chart that corresponded to every tie line in our facility, to determine how we would integrate the desk with our wiring infrastructure. The multi pair to be cut and the DL’s were ID’d and numbered to the corresponding DL on the desk, so that as soon as we could cut our Auditronics free, we could begin pinning the DL’s in advance of the console’s arrival.
We blocked out a bunch of days between decommisioning the Auditronics and the arrival of the SSL to allow John Charette (Charette Electronics) to prepare and crimp all the DL’s in an empty room, allowing us to organize all the wires and dress them nicely.
For the physical part of getting the desk in, we made a wooden mock up of the exact footprint of the console as it would be on it’s back for transport. We tried every possible possibilty to determine the best route to take the console in, where it would have to turn, etc.
We found one problem… a corner that was a few inches too small, however it seemed that lifting one end up about 3 feet would let us clear it.
Phase Four: Load In
This part sucked.
SSLs are really really really really big and heavy. We did not split the frame, in order to reduce the chance for electronic issues at the install.
Everything went pretty smoothly right up to the point that we knew was going to be a problem. It was incredibly rough, but we got it through.
Thanks to a few really really strong friends on our crew, we were able to deal and lifted one end of a 9′, 800lb frame about 5 feet in the air and swing it around a corner. We got through with a barely scratched console leg edge, and a small tear in some tolex on the back of the meter bridge. A bummer on a console that looks factory fresh, but nearly invisible.
After that, it was smooth, and by the end of the day, install tech Steve Laisi was running a fault list on the desk. After a few days of thorough testing and dealing with some minor problems (normal for a large console commissioning) the desk was up and running. John started mixing a record immediately (while the tech bench was still set up instead of the couch) and it’s been rocking every day since.
The Auditronics is happily kicking ass in Studio B.
– David Weiss
Visit the Bunker on SonicSearch.
Ready to get together?
This informal talk, hosted by one of the industry’s top mastering engineers, is an up-to-the-minute look at music production, focusing on best practices in making great recordings. But this will be more than just tech talk — the artistry involved will take center stage in this casual but highly informative forum.
Joining Mr. Hull will be John Davis and Aaron Nevezie, producers/engineers/co-owners of the Brooklyn studio known as The Bunker.
Again, the event is FREE and open to the public. In addition, attendees can enter to win a $250 gift certificate to Alto Music.
Off the Record with Scott Hull at City College
Thursday, November 15 at 7:30 p.m.
City College Campus
Shepard Hall, Room 95
Southeast corner of 140th Street & Convent Ave
Detailed directions to City College can be found here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over the past two years, crowdfunding – whether it’s through Kickstarter, Indiegogo, PledgeMusic, or a custom page on an artist’s website – has grown at a rate that’s impossible to ignore. At the current pace, contributions to Kickstarter campaigns alone are expected to account for over $150 million in arts funding in 2012. That’s more than the entire National Endowment for the Arts.
While this figure does speak to the historically low levels of national arts funding, it also says a lot about how quickly crowdfunding has become a major force in the creative economy. Just two months ago, Amanda Palmer raised over one million dollars for her new album and art book, and today, self-released artists who use the platform to secure tens of thousands of dollars to make new albums have begun to look “normal.”
In June of this year, a website called AppsBlogger shared an infographic that suggested that as many as 68% of music projects on Kickstarter ultimately reached their funding goals. But based on the newest numbers from Kickstarter, the success rate for music projects is closer to 55% today. Thankfully, this is still a bit higher than the overall Kickstarter success rate, which hovers around 44%.
According to the service itself, there’s a stark line between the campaigns that succeed and the ones that fail: “Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing in more ways than one,” the company warns. “While 12% of projects finished having never received a single pledge, 82% of projects that raised more than 20% of their goal were successfully funded.”
Some artists, it seems, know what they’re doing, while some quite simply, don’t.
So what is it that separates the winners from the losers? The research suggests that it all comes down to one word: Planning. Studies show that winning campaigns are most likely to come from artists with large social networks, who create videos, offer many different reward levels, keep their campaigns short and focused, and – perhaps most importantly of all – set sensible, pragmatic goals.
What To Budget For
There are many how-to articles on the web that will give you comprehensive advice on all the ins and outs of a successful crowdfunding campaign. This isn’t one of them.
Today, we’ll focus on just one thing: setting a realistic goal for your campaign. To fill in this blank and help figure out a budgetary goal that will work for you, we reached out to a handful of our most-trusted producers, engineers and studio owners from various levels of the industry.
Nadim Issa of Let ‘Em In Music does good work and keeps his rates affordable, which has helped him become one of the busiest studio owners in his zip code – especially where up-and-coming artists are concerned. His spacious and casual Park Slope tracking room has hosted bands like Ava Luna, Soft Black and Dinosaur Feathers, as well as singer-songwriters like Sharon Van Etten and Julia Nunes.
Issa says that a growing number of his clients are coming to rely on crowdfunding, and when we spoke with him, he had just finished work on a project that was funded entirely through Kickstarter.
“For a full-length album, I’d say to shoot for at least $5,000 and up to $20,000,” says Issa. He then adds that the $5,000 figure would allow for a spirited, quick-and-dirty recording more than a refined production.
“If the artist already has a significant built-in audience then certainly that number can be much higher than either of those. Maybe $5,000 for every week spent working on the album is an appropriate rule of thumb.”
Let ‘Em In Music stands at the more affordable end of the spectrum, but Issa’s basic figures were echoed among many of the producers and engineers we spoke to.
Jonathan Jetter of Right Angle Recording in Manhattan has also found work with a growing number of crowdfunding artists. Nearly all of them, he says, have used “some kind of humorous promo video to advertise the campaign.”
To him, the $5,000 figure also seems a bit too low for a traditional full-length album. He mentions that his client Abby Payne raised more than $6,000 for her new EP, while Railbird used crowdfunding to secure a few thousand to work on their new single and video.
“Obviously, the target amount varies based on each band’s circumstances,” Jetter says, “but I think $10,000-$12,000 for a full-length is a good ballpark number.”
“Things will sound good, and there’s enough money to send the album out for mastering with someone who’s not necessarily working at [one of the top rooms], but who is still very good. The band will have to rehearse a lot, pre-production will be essential, and we’ll have to move fairly quickly – but we won’t be cutting corners, and it still leaves just enough wiggle room to deal with one or two unexpected things.”
“If we’re contracting a bunch of session players, or if we’re also trying to build in a PR budget, then that number might have to go up a bit. And if I’m just mixing the record, $400/song seems to be the ballpark number for success without bankruptcy for anybody.”
Even producer Chris Coady, who’s made a name for himself making albums that have become cultural touchstones with bands like TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blonde Redhead and Beach House agrees that a wide variety of budgets can work. You just have to be aware of what you’re getting yourself into.
“You can make a good-sounding record for $5,000. Of course, at that rate you’d probably just be buying some interfaces and microphones and speakers and figuring out how to use them,” said Coady. who got his humble start more than a decade ago when a friend’s band gave him their entire recording budget to buy a 24-track tape machine and hand-me-down Soundcraft desk.
“Any good producer would probably want at least $10,000, and you could make a good record for that,” Coady says. “You could also make a great record for $100,000. At that point, you’re really buying more and more time.”
“Any good producer would probably want at least $10,000, and you could make a good record for that,” Coady says. “You could also make a great record for $100,000. And at that point, you’re really buying more and more time.”
Coady maintains a healthy skepticism about what crowdfunding might mean for the long-term health of the music. In our conversation, he wonders aloud if artists lose some of their purity by appealing for funds in this way, and when he looks at some of the most desperate campaigns, can’t help but feel a little sad. But Coady also says that on some level, the approach does appeals to his punk rock roots, and from a practical standpoint, it looks like the successful campaigns can work. Crowdfunding has paid him his rate once so far.
Narrowing Down The Figure
“I think a good starting point for most indie bands is to budget for a minimum of one day per song for tracking and a minimum of a half day per song for mixing. Apply that to whatever the studio and/or producer rate is, and then add in appropriate pre-production sessions (which really can vary from project to project and producer to producer) as well as at least $100-150 per song for proper mastering.”
“For EPs, I think it’s good to have an extra day built into the budget, and for full-lengths, an extra couple of days. There are usually new ideas that come out in the studio, and it’s nice to have the space and time to try them out. Those little things can often elevate a recording from a ‘professional sounding demo’ to ‘a record’.”
“If the recordings will be overdub-heavy or have more elaborate orchestration, whether it’s layering guitars, keys, strings, horns – you name it – then tracking and mixing times would go up proportionately. If the band is going for a live type of vibe, then the tracking could move even quicker.”
That’s about as straight-forward as it can be said. If there’s a common theme here, it’s that there is no one-size-fits-all figure. Just guidelines.
To really hash out the details and come up with a concrete number for an effective campaign, it’s best to get a producer involved early on in the process. That’s what John Davis, co-owner and engineer at The Bunker Studio in Williamsburg had to say. Davis has worked with artists like The Black Keys, Dangermouse, and Lettuce, and his no-nonsense approach to making records has helped him and partner Aaron Nevzie expand into an impressive new 3,000 square-foot space this year.
“The biggest mistake people make in any case is not consulting with an experienced producer/engineer beforehand,” he says.
“The other biggest mistake is probably working with people who are completely useless and just call themselves ’producers‘ because they make beats.”
“People are a little too quick to give themselves titles these days – whether it’s a ‘mastering engineer’ who just bought some software and decided that, he too can overcompress your record – or someone who thinks that being a ‘producer’ means just sitting around in the control room, arguing with the band and watering down their vision.”
It may sound a little harsh on paper, but Davis has seen this first-hand, just like so many of us have: The well-intentioned artists, without guidance, working on albums that never seem to come to completion; or that lurch forward in jerking, sporadic chunks of undefined frenzy, until they fizzle out into a useless pile of exhausted dreams.
“People with experience know how much time it really takes to make things and how to stay on track,” Davis reminds us. “If you talk to anyone who knows what they’re doing they’ll tell you that you can’t do shit with $4,000 dollars if you want to make a full-length. You should be making an EP.”
“With a real producer – anyone who has genuine experience – their job is to deliver a master on time and in budget. If anyone tells you they can do it for a lot less, be very suspicious and ask to hear their work. They probably don’t have much experience at all.”
When he presents some offhand numbers, Davis is quick to remind potential crowdfunders to think about whether their budget will just be for production, or if a portion of it will be earmarked to press, distribute and promote the album as well.
“I’ve had some artists who’ve used Kickstarter just to cover the back-end,” he says. “The mastering, duplicating and promoting. That can sometimes be more expensive than the recording.”
“Online PR and marketing is its own little cottage industry now,” Davis says. “Sometimes people talk about how it’s so amazing that this little band is blowing up on Pitchfork, but they don’t realize that little band has one of the biggest promotion agencies in the world backing it up.”
“There are certain companies who are good at making bands blow up online,” he adds. “Of course that’s not going to work for everybody, because those agencies have to think you’re capable of being ‘blown-up’ too. But a good producer can say, ‘Well okay, it’ll take $12,000 to produce and then maybe it’s four months of online PR for $8,000, so you’re gonna need $20,000 total – and then we have to think about whether we’ll be pressing these up as well or if there will be a label for that.’”
For Davis, these numbers aren’t meant to be taken literally. The point is that unless you plan your project with someone who has seen many projects through to completion, then the chances are huge that you will suffer the same pitfalls as countless artists before you.
How To Run A Successful Campaign
There’s something to be learned from every failure, and from every success. Thankfully, if you plan on having a career, you don’t have to learn them all first hand. Zach McNees, who weighed in on last week’s mixing tips and contributes his own articles to SonicScoop regularly, has quickly become something of an expert on Kickstarter campaigns in particular.
“At this point I’ve worked on eight recording or mixing projects that were funded by Kickstarter,” he says. “I’ve consulted directly on the setup of four of them.”
“I originally discovered Kickstarter two years ago when my friend, a songwriter called Bleu, launched a campaign to fund the distribution and promotion of a new album that was already in the can. Bleu was really smart, and he sat down with a TV writer who gave him some pointers on how to do his video, and he came up with an amazingly creative set of rewards that really showed he was giving as much back to his fans as they were to him. His goal was $8,000 and he raised just under $40,000, which really blew my mind.”
Julia and Enter the Haggis’ campaigns in particular have been a stunning success. Julia raised nearly $80,000 and Enter the Haggis are close to $60,000 right now. What really stuns me the most is the average dollar amount spent per backer. Enter the Haggis’ fans are averaging $78 per person at the five week mark into their campaign. Amazing.”
For all his enthusiasm, McNees is still clear-eyed about setting workable goals. “I wouldn’t recommend using Kickstarter if you’re not going to try to raise at least $10,000,” he says. “The reason for that is that you can only go to that well so many times to ask your fans to support you and a product that doesn’t exist yet. For the more established acts with a strong fan base, a year to a year-and-a-half is a good rule of thumb in between projects.”
McNees, sees this approach as perhaps the most sensible option for established self-releasing artists. But he doesn’t think it’s for everybody.
“Young bands that are just getting started and haven’t played many shows or written many songs would be wise to avoid diving directly into fan-funding,” McNees warns. “You have to have fans for it to work!”
“Establish yourself as an artist that people want to listen to and go out see, and then when you’re ready to make your record, hopefully you’ll be able to arrange it so that you’re not paying 100% out of pocket.”
Crowdfunding isn’t the only way to go, and there’s no guarantee of success if you do decide to try it. But if you have some kind of following already, can secure a little expert help, and set some realistic goals, it’s certainly a workable strategy. Like the producers we spoke to for this article, I’ve seen that first hand.
I’ve mixed bands that have used this method to cover costs and I’ve set up campaigns for non-profit arts organizations that rely soley on this kind of support. If there’s one last piece of advice that I’d add from my own perspective, it’s that the key word in fan-funding is “fan.”
As much as we’ve talked about what to secure for yourself, effective campaigns are not so much about what you want and need, but about what you give to your audience. Zach McNees seems to agree:
“Most importantly, any artist thinking about getting into fan-funding needs to be prepared to prove to their audience that they’re willing to give back just as much to their fans put in,” he says. “Julia Nunes said ‘Kickstarter should be less like a fund-raiser and more like a bake sale’.”
“That’s really what it comes down to. If your fans understand that you’re putting your heart and soul into it and going above and beyond to provide them with truly original, unique and exclusive rewards, your campaign will be a success.”
GREATER NYC AREA: This month’s buzz finds a typically colorful spread of artists recording, mixing and mastering new works around town. The Beach Boys and Animal Collective, Empire of the Sun and Tiësto, Kurt Elling, Beirut, 50 Cent and Amanda Palmer – just to mention a few – have all been working on new releases in NYC-area studios. Which producers and engineers have been tracking, mixing and mastering these projects? And where? Read on…
First up, Grammy-winning jazz singer and songwriter Kurt Elling tracked his latest album for Concord Music Group at Sear Sound on the custom Avalon/Sear 60-input console in Studio C. Producer and Concord senior director A&R Chris Dunn produced with engineer Chris Allen at the controls. Elling’s band on the album includes Kendrick Scott on drums, Lawrence Hobgood on piano, John McLean on guitar and Clark Sommers on bass.
Chris Dunn also recently produced a “Concord Jazz All-Stars” album at Sear featuring Christian Scott on trumpet, Ben Williams on bass, Jamire Williams on drums, Matt Stevens on guitar, Gerald Clayton and Kris Bowers on piano, Logan Richardson and Walter Smith III on saxes – with Ted Tuthill engineering.
Also at Sear…electronic music duo Empire of the Sun tracked for their upcoming album in Studios A and C with Nicholas Littlemore producing and Tuthill engineering – Sear’s original Bob Moog / Walter Sear Moog modular synthesizer (Moog #2) was programmed and recorded for the album… Composer Bill Ryan recorded new music with a large percussion section and a string/woodwind ensemble, and Silas Brown engineering…and soulful singer/songwriter Amos Lee tracked vocals for the Zac Brown Band, with Allen at the controls.
Italian rap group Club Dogo (Universal Music Group) have been mixing and mastering their upcoming album at Engine Room Audio in lower Manhattan. The group’s DJ/beatmaker Don Joe and engineer Andrea “db” Debernardi flew in to work with head engineer Mark B. Christensen. Their latest single ‘Cattivi Esempi’ has reached #2 on the Italian music charts. The single, along with the rest of the album was mixed and mastered at Engine Room.
Also at Engine Room…Christensen mastered 50 Cent’s latest “Gangsta Grillz” mixtape – assisted by Benoit Holliger and Gabe MG, and Trey Songz’s new single “Heart Attack” – produced by Benny Blanco and Rico Love. The track is the first single off his upcoming album Chapter V, and the first track that has been ‘Mastered for iTunes.’ Christensen also mastered the new dance track by Jersey Shore’s Pauly D for G-Note Records.
Brooklyn rock band VietNam has been finishing up a new record with Matt Boynton at his Vacation Island Recording in Williamsburg. Boynton is mixing the album for the Brooklyn vinyl label Mexican Summer. Beirut has also been back at Vacation Island – where they mixed their ’11 album The Rip Tide – to mix their new EP with Boynton.
The Beach Boys stopped into Avatar Studios during their 50th Anniversary Tour for a vocal recording session in Studio C with producer Joe Thomas (Brian Wilson’s Imagination), and engineer Mike Czaszwicz, assisted by Tim Marchiafava.
Also at Avatar…Composer Teddy Shapiro’s film score for Great Hope Springs – directed by David Frankel and starring Meryl Streep and Steve Carell – was recorded in Studio A. Shapiro produced, and Chris Fogel engineered the tracking sessions. And source music for the film Killing Them Softly was performed and produced by Wynton Marsalis, and recorded by Jeff “Jedi Master” Jones. Bonnie Raitt recorded a live performance for World Cafe… The Young Presidents tracked new material with producer/engineer Rob Fraboni, assisted by Bob Mallory… Jimmy Fallon and the Roots recorded a comedy album, Blow Your Pants Off, with Lawrence Manchester engineering…Jon Hamm recorded a voiceover for the NFL Network…And Kurt Elling recorded a big band production of the Sinatra classic “The Best Is Yet To Come” for the Breeders Cup, with Steve McCabe and Neil Jason producing, and Roy Hendrickson engineering.
Next, the new Animal Collective album is finished – Joe Lambert just mastered it at his studio in DUMBO. Due out on Domino Records, Centipede Hz was recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, TX, and co-produced by Ben H. Allen, who co-produced, engineered and mixed Merriweather Post Pavilion. Allen mixed the record at Maze Studios in Atlanta, GA.
Meanwhile, The Lodge‘s Emily Lazar, Joe LaPorta, Sarah Register and Heba Kadry have been busy mastering a host of new records, including Alanis Morissette‘s brand new album Havoc and Bright Lights – produced by Guy Sigsworth and Joe Chiccarelli and mixed by Chiccarelli – Neon Trees’ Picture Show, Santana’s new album Shape Shifter, Jimmy Cliff’s new album Re.Birth, produced by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, Shiny Toy Guns’ new album, mixed by Tony Maserati, and The Mars Volta’s album, Noctourniquet – produced by Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and mixed by Lars Stalfors
Other projects recently mastered at The Lodge include…Oneida drummer Kid Millions’ new album as Man Forever; Australian pop star Guy Sebastian‘s new single “Gold”, mixed by Manny Marroquin; Mexican rock band Fobia‘s new album on Sony Music Mexico, mixed by Jason Carmer; Tiësto’s remix of Kanye West’s “Lost In This World” off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy; and the new album by Lotus Plaza – the solo project of Deerhunter’s Lockett Pundt – which was mixed by Chris Koltay.
Also at Germano… Paul Falcone has been engineering sessions on some new material by M.I.A., with Missy Elliott and Danja producing…Mike Fraser mixed a Nickelback live album with songwriter/producer Gordini producing…Ryan West mixed Slaughterhouse… Kid Cudi recorded guitars and vocals with Dot da Genius producing, and Bill Sullivan engineering…Alicia Keys was in working with Mark Ronson, with Ann Mincieli engineering… Steve Perry was in to record vocals and keyboards with engineer Dave Rowland… TV boy band Big Time Rush were in writing and recording with producers Claude Kelly and Sandy Vee…and Isa “Machine” Summers (of Florence and the Machine) was working on a remix, with Pete Hanson engineering.
Brit rockers Bloc Party recorded their new album, Four, at Stratosphere Sound with Brooklyn-based producer/engineer Alex Newport, assisted by Atsuo Matsumoto. Check out the album trailer (featuring session footage) below. Also at Stratosphere…spoken word artist and singer/songwriter The Floacist and Raheem DeVaughn recorded with producer Nolan Weekes and engineer Arjun Agerwala…and Louis CK returned to track music for the new season of his F/X show Louie, with engineer Adam Tilzer.
Dance-pop duo Chromeo have been tracking vocals for their new album via the AKG C12 at Flux Studios in the East Village. Lawson White has been engineering the sessions in Flux’s Dangerous Room, with Dan Cherouny assisting.
Also at Flux…Mack Avenue jazz band The Hot Club of Detroit spent several days tracking live in the Dangerous Room and then moved operations into the Fabulous Room to mix their upcoming record – with engineers Todd Whitelock and Damon Whittemore…Whitelock and Whittemore also engineered new recordings by Tia Fuller, with Dianne Reeves…Fab Dupont mixed the new album by Nigerian-American rapper ElDee, and has been producing the upcoming record by French jazz singer Cyrille Aimee. Aimee and band have been at Flux for rehearsal and pre-production, and will track the full band recording in Dangerous, and then mix with Fab in the Fabulous Room.
You’ve probably heard about Amanda Palmer‘s amazing million-dollar-Kickstarter campaign? Well, the artist brought her fan-funded “Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra” two-LP set to Masterdisk to be cut on vinyl. Scott Hull cut the reference discs (pictured).
Also at Masterdisk…Hull mastered the 35mm Cast Recording – produced by Dean Sharenow and Ryan Scott Oliver for Sh-K-Boom Records; Tony Dawsey mastered the new Corey Jon album, Galactic Soul, which was recorded and mixed by Steve Dickey at Daddy’s House Recording; Vlado Meller mastered Kerrie Roberts’ new album Time For The Show (also mastered for iTunes); Andy VanDette mastered Mother Mother’s latest – produced by Ryan Guldemond and Ben Kaplan for Last Gang Records; Randy Merrill mastered the new Allison Weiss album Say What You Mean, which was produced by Chris Kuffner and mixed by Ross Petersen; and Matthew Agoglia remastered Craig Wedren’s album Baby plus some demo tracks.
Singer/songwriter Sean Wood has been working on an LP with producer/engineer Mario McNulty. The session has had them working at Studio G and Magic Shop in Brooklyn and Incognito Studios in lower Manhattan where McNulty is mixing the record.
Bell Biv Devoe were in NYC working on new material at Area 51 with producer Bink Dawg and engineer Alberto Vaccarino. Also at Area 51…Ice T & CoCo were in with DJ Dehasse working on a project for Reach Global Music in sessions engineered by Michelle Figueroa…RCA Records teen sensation Jacob Latimore has been working on his upcoming LP with producers Joe Boom and CJ. And Universal Records artist Paypa has been finishing work on his upcoming album release with Figueroa.
Also notable: Area 51 recently upgraded its North Room to Pro Tools 10HD, and added a mastering room – run by engineers Roey Shamir and Rob Murray.
Also at Grand Street…Christian Gibbs’ (of Lucinda Black Bear) new band Motherwell Johnston recorded basics for their debut album with Ken Rich engineering and Jake Lummus assisting…Trumpet player Shareef Clayton (Stevie Wonder, The Roots, Wynton Marsalis) recorded basics for his upcoming album with Rich engineering and Bobby Mosier assisting…Rich is mixing the full-length debut by Sara Syms, which was recorded at Dreamland and features Andy Stack on electric guitar, Nick Africano on acoustic guitar, Brett Bass on bass, Spencer Cohen on drums, and Misty Boyce on keys…Williamsburg rockers, Velta completed a video for the song “Cheat On Me” which was recorded and mixed by Tomek Miernowski.
Also at Excello, Jamie Block recorded with producer/drummer Dean Sharenow and engineer Hugh Pool; Brooklyn garage-rock duo Twin Guns tracked an album with producer Lase Salgado, and Pool recording to 2” tape; jazz guitarist Joel Harrison has been recording with engineer/mixer Oliver Palomares, rock band Pale Moon Gang was in to track on 2” tape with guitarist Richard Dev Green producing and Pool engineering; and singer/songwriter Lorraine Leckie has been working on an album based on the prose of art-critic Anthony Haden-Guest, with George Jackson producing, and DeChants engineering.
Also at Rough Magic, Kyp Malone’s new Rain Machine LP is still under way…Rough Magic chief engineer Alby Cohen has been tracking the LP; Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet has been mixing up a storm between Neneh Cherry’s ”Dream Baby Dream” and “Nova”, his new collaboration with London dubstep artist Burial; and Jest.com shot and recorded their “50 Shades of Grey read by Gilbert Gottfried” spot.
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: This month’s buzz finds a number of amazing singers recording around the city – from Diane Birch to Trixie Whitley, Dianna Krall to Glasser – as well as a wealth of new releases by acclaimed rappers like Kanye West, Theophilus London and Childish Gambino, new work by prolific producers such as DJ White Shadow, Phil Ramone, Chuck Harmony and Darrell Brown, and a wave of large-ensemble tracking sessions in Midtown. We also discover (another) new recording hive in Williamsburg, and check in on some big recent sessions at some of the newer studios in Brooklyn…
Let’s start at Avatar Studios…where the legendary Dionne Warwick has been recording her upcoming album with producer Phil Ramone and engineer Lawrence Manchester, assisted by Charlie Kramsky, and another R&B great, Billy Ocean, recorded his upcoming project with producer Barry Eastmond and engineer Phil Magnotti.
Also at Avatar…Diana Krall has been tracking for her new project – produced by T. Bone Burnett, and engineered by Mike Piersante, assisted by Bob Mallory. And rock band Carney – led by Reeve Carney of Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark – has been recording with engineer Chris Rondinella.
Finally, NYC-based producer/composer Paul Brill and engineer Robert Smith tracked portions of the score for Tribeca Film Festival documentary Knuckleball! (directed by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern) in Avatar Studio G.
More “legends” were recording down at Germano Studios this month…between Mariah Carey recording with Brian Garten, and John Legend working on new material with Dave Tozer, Rick Nowels and Doc McKinney producing, and Jason Agel engineering.
Also at Germano, Rob Thomas was in to record vocals on a LeAnn Rimes project with Darrell Brown producing and Niko Bolas engineering. DJ White Shadow (Lady Gaga) was in working on a new project with Kenta Yonesaka engineering, Fat Joe recorded vocals with engineer Fabian Marasciullo, The Verbs continued recording with Steve Jordan producing, and Jamie Squire was in mixing with Jordan producing and Dave O’Donnell engineering.
Down in SoHo, based out of the former Sorceror Sound space, Singing Serpent has been hosting band recording sessions in addition to the original music composition work for which the company is known. Virginia rock band Over The Ocean was in to record their full-length album with Jeremy SH Griffith producing/engineering. And blues-rock trio The Dukes of Brooklyn recorded an album at Singing Serpent as well, with producer/engineer Joel Khouri – who recently joined the Singing Serpent team as a mixer/engineer and composer.
Nearby at Serious Business Studios, studio owner/head engineer Travis Harrison has been busy producing and drumming on the forthcoming debut full-length by Brooklyn rockers Miniboone. Harrison has also been working with a steady stream of local rock bands including Gold Streets, Clouder, Weird Children, Money/Paper/Hearts, and Apache Beat, and projects with Benji Cossa, and Secret Dakota Ring (featuring studio co-founder and OK Go guitarist Andy Ross).
Serious Business continues to host two BreakThru Radio shows: BTR Live Studio and Serious Business on BTR – welcoming bands such as She Keeps Bees, Crinkles, Beast Make Bomb, Snowmine, Housse de Racket into the studio of late. Serious Business continues to open its doors to outside engineers as well – Charles Newman has run several sessions for various projects, including The Magnetic Fields and Jon de Rosa; Shannon Ferguson has been continuing work with the band A Million Years; and Hansdale Hsu has been working with Vensaire.
MSR hosted some banner sessions last year, including Q-Tip mixing Kanye and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne out of Studio C with engineer Blair Wells, recording/mixing sessions for Madonna’s MDNA, and a whole host of cast albums, film score mixes (Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Tower Heist.)
More recently, MSR hosted Southern rapper Waka Flocka Flame cutting vocals with engineer Finis White; Keyshia Cole cutting vocals with engineers Bojan Dugic and Lee Kalomiris, and producer Ray Angry; mixing for Jazz bassist Marc Johnson‘s upcoming album by Joe Ferla; Louis CK producing new music for his FX show Louie with engineer Adam Tilzer; Producer Steve Epstein and engineer Richard King mixing the cast album for Once; Dean Sharenow producing the cast album for Lysistrata Jones; Kurt Deutsch producing the Newsies cast album with Frank Filipetti engineering, and Derik Lee on Pro Tools; and Tommy Krasker producing the cast album of Porgy and Bess in Studios A and B for PS Classics with Bart Migal engineering.
Up at the Brill Building, KMA Music has been hopping with songwriting and production sessions for: J. Cole for Roc Nation, with Mez engineering vocals and Jay-Z coming through; Eve working with hit songwriter Claude Kelly, and engineer Ben Chang tracking/mixing for her upcoming album; Chris Rene in writing/recording/mixing sessions with Chuck Harmony and Jon Jon Traxx for Epic Records, Ben Chang engineering; and Fabolous recording and mixing with Lenny S producing and Serge Nudel engineering for Island Def Jam.
Also at KMA, Theophilus London came through to mix the track “I Wanna Kiss You” with engineer Ari Raskin; and Chrisette Michelle tracked a new song with Chuck Harmony producing and Ben Chang engineering.
And next, to Sear Sound where a number of large-scale sessions have been tracking lately, including: Pianist/composer/arranger David Matthews and the 20-piece ‘MJO’ (Manhattan Jazz Orchestra) ensemble tracking a new album with Bryan Pugh engineering; the cast album for a new multimedia show – 35MM The Musical – tracked (15 musicians/ 12 singers) with engineer Dean Sharenow, and producer John Johnson; and a video shoot and tracking session with rock group Halestorm, with six cameras shooting the group performing while Sear’s chief engineer Chris Allen engineered. Phil Botti and Michael Thelin produced.
Also at Sear, composer Paul Cantelon conducted a large string ensemble, piano and harp for an upcoming Hallmark feature, Firelight, with Gary Chester engineering, and Suzana Peric and Cantelon producing; HBO’s Boardwalk Empire returned to track some 1920′s dixieland jazz, with Stewart Lerman engineering, and Randall Poster producing; And a large ensemble gathered to track some of jazz musician/composer Eric Person‘s latest compositions in sessions produced by April Smith and Person, with James Farber engineering.
Rufus Wainwright also tracked music for a Starbucks commercial at Sear, with Allen engineering and Wainwright producing and playing the Steinway C in Studio A; and Diane Birch tracked for her upcoming S-Curve Records release, with Allen engineering and Homer Steinweiss (The Dap-Kings) producing.
Hull has also recently mastered the new Donald Fagen album (for CD, vinyl and iTunes) – produced by Michael Leonhart for Warner, the new Lettuce album (due out June 5), which was recorded at The Bunker in Williamsburg, and cast recordings of Calvin Berger and Lysistrata Jones for Sh-K-Boom Records.
Also at Masterdisk…Tony Dawsey mastered Machine Gun Kelly’s Half Naked and Almost Famous EP for Bad Boy; Mark Santangelo mastered Abby Bernstein‘s Talk In Tongues – co-produced by Bernstein, Chris Camilleri, Justin Goldner, Will Hensley, Adam Stoler, and mixed by Chris Camilleri; Matt Agoglia mastered Terry Syrek’s new album Machine Elves – mixed by Jeremy Krull; and Michael Tucci mastered The So So Glos new album, Blowout – produced by Adam Reich, and recorded and mixed by Kyle Johnson at Fancy Time Studios in Philadelphia.
Glassnote artist Childish Gambino was recording songs for his next mixtape up at Quad Studios in Times Square – in studio Q1. Also at Quad…Island Def Jam recording artist Jenna Andrews recorded material for her new album with Lady Gaga producer Brian Lee; Andrew Lloyd Webber was in Studio Q1 working on a special new project; and DJ Khaled, French Montana, Wale and Busta Rhymes were up in Q1 and Q2 working on various projects.
Meanwhile, rapper Trey Songz was working downstairs at Premier Studios, with engineer Anthony Daniel in Studio B. A number of other hip-hop stars were working out of Premier’s multiple writing/recording and mixing studios, including B.O.B. working with engineer Sam Giannelli, Yo Gotti recording material for his upcoming album with engineer Angelo Payne, Birdman recording with engineer Fareed Salamah, Wale working on his latest with engineer Anthony Daniel.
And NY-based production duo Espionage (Beyoncé, Chris Brown) has been working out of Premier’s Studio E, producing new tracks with engineer Francis Murray.
BROOKLYN, QUEENS & BEYOND
Blondie is back at it, and has been working on their latest with producer Barb Morrison (producer on Deborah Harry’s Necessary Evil) out of Casa Nova Studios and Morrison’s studio, The Superposition – both in Williamsburg. Tommy Mokas has been engineering on the sessions, which have involved instrumental and vocal recording and production/sound exploration.
A South Williamsburg studio complex we recently discovered…houses a new incarnation of Andy Baldwin’s Rola Pola Studio, the new Bufflebear Studio, Jean Grobler’s (of St Lucia) studio space, and The Dap-King’s Dunham Studio.
At Rola Pola, Baldwin has recently installed an SSL AWS900+ and the prized Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor. And Baldwin has been mixing some tracks from that aforementioned Diane Birch album, being produced by Homer Steinweiss of the Dap-Kings; tracking drums for St Lucia’s forthcoming album; mixing/mastering Celtic rock band The Mickey Finns‘ new album; mixing Stephanie Carlin‘s new album; and mixing the debut album for classical/freestyle/thrash band Huff This!
Meanwhile in the new Bunker Studio A, clarinetist/composer Ben Goldberg tracked some new music with Nels Cline, Ches Smith, Ellery Eskeline and Rob Suddath in sessions engineered by Aaron Nevezie; ?uestlove and Ivan Neville came in for a late-night tracking session for soul singer Nigel Hall‘s upcoming album on Royal Family Records – Nevezie recorded, and Soulive/Lettuce’s Eric Krasno produced; and Nevezie also tracked and mixed an album with New Zealand artist Tama Waipara out of the Bunker Studios A and B.
In DUMBO at the happening Saltlands recording collective, singer/songwriter Trixie Whitley has been tracking for her new album with producer Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), Steve Salett engineering and Nick Smeraski assisting; artist/engineer Dawn Landes engineered on a session with Kristin Andreasson for a children’s project; and producer/engineer Gary Maurer is working on a film project – tracking and mixing music with the band Little Silver.
Last month at Saltlands, the Yellowbirds tracked basics with Jim Smith – who also recently did some mixing for The Well-Informed. In other sessions: Saltmines resident producer/engineer Devin Greenwood tracked horn and piano overdubs for Yoni Gordon, and earlier in the year, with Sufjan Stevens; Jan Bell was in mixing a bunch of tracks with Jason Mercer; and Whale Belly tracked basics for their sophomore record with engineer/producer Nick Smeraski.
Up at The Isokon in Woodstock, D. James Goodwin has been mixing a “haunting and lush” new LP for rock band Georgiana Starlington, with Josh Kaufman (of the aforementioned Yellowbirds) producing. Goodwin’s also been tracking and mixing a full-length with Vuvuzela, “an amazing band, winding together harp, upright bass and piano in the form of progressive math rock.”
Just up the road from Saltlands, engineer/producers Daniel Lynas and Frans Mernick have been installing a new Neve V55 console at ishlab. Since being involved with ishlab, Lynas has recorded there with A$AP Rocky, Das Racist, and mixed I’m in the Forest by Das Racist affiliate Lakutis; and Mernick worked on the Hoodie Allen album All American.
Even more recently at ishlab, Cameron Mesirow aka Glasser stopped by to record some vocals on a track for Chad Valley – Lynas engineered; Empty Chairs frontman Peter Spear has been tracking drums, guitar, synth, trumpet, string quartet, and vox for their upcoming full-length; and Chaz Van Queen has been working on his second full-length – doing a lot of production and recording at home and bringing stuff in to ishlab to do additional recording, tweak arrangements, and mix.
Psychedelic dance-rock trio Dinowalrus has been back at Let ‘Em In Music in Gowanus recording the followup to their recently released album Best Behavior – also recorded and mixed at Let ‘Em In by owner/engineer Nadim Issa. The band recently recorded six new songs with Issa over five days in the studio.
Indie rock band Bridges and Powerlines have been recording their new EP with Kieran Kelly producing and engineering – tracking at both The Clubhouse in Rhinebeck, NY, and Kelly’s own The Buddy Project in Astoria.
Kelly’s also been producing/engineering the second album for Danish folk-rock duo Skipper. Tracking sessions for the album have been happening at STC Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark, and out of The Buddy Project.
Back in Williamsburg at Grand Street Recording…pop singer/songwriter Rachel Platten recorded and mixed an exclusive EP for her upcoming national tour with Martin Rivas on guitar and bass, Craig Meyer on percussion, and Tomek Miernowski engineering; the Stick Against Stone Orchestra recorded an album of music for an upcoming documentary about the late 80s band from Pittsburg, Stick Against Stone. The album – recorded and mixed by Ken Rich and produced by William Kreth – features Denny McDermott on drums, Jesse Krakow on bass, Dave Terhune on guitars and Joe McGinty on keyboards.
Also at Grand Street, multi-instrumentalist Jared Saltiel recorded and mixed an EP The Dogs at Nighttime with Tomek Miernowski and Ken Rich; Amy Lennard is recording and mixing a full length album with producer Andy Stack, and Rich engineering.
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.
WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN: There’s a trend afoot in Brooklyn, and it’s one of upward mobility. Where the borough was once a haven for DIYers, analog workshops and quirky private studios, some of the major players on the scene are raising the bar for their studio businesses and, consequently, for local music.
When the dust settles, a cluster of next-level recording studios will have opened in Williamsburg, including the new version of The Bunker – just launched this past weekend.
Located in a 3,000-sq. ft. industrial space in South Williamsburg, The Bunker’s new-and-improved recording studios mark a new era in NYC music in which indie artists have access to affordable multi-room tracking.
Studio A at the new Bunker features an impressive “classic studio”-style main tracking space with 25’ vaulted ceiling, two smaller isolated recording rooms and an iso booth. Wide glass windows and doors provide great sightlines throughout the space, and moveable walls make for a uniquely modular floorplan.
For even just this one aspect of The Bunker, the room is a huge addition to the recording studio spread in New York City, and most definitely in Brooklyn where facilities for large ensemble acoustic and live rock recording are few and far between. In an even more meaningful sense, however, the new Bunker opens the door to a next-level recording experience for much of its clientele.
“There are a lot of people playing really great acoustic music who can’t afford to make an acoustic record,” says The Bunker co-owner and producer/engineer John Davis. “There are just no spaces to properly record that kind of music that they can afford.”
For the most part, the rooms that are outfitted with multiple acoustic recording spaces would have been built many years ago, when that’s what making an album required. The Bunker is bringing that classic layout to a new business of mostly self-funded projects.
“Being able to build this place from scratch meant that we could offer something like the great studios built in the 70s and 80s,” says Aaron Nevezie, producer/engineer and co-owner of The Bunker, “A big, acoustically-designed room purpose-built for live tracking. And we’d also be able to offer that with a more contemporary business model so that we can still be indie-friendly.”
In the time elapsed since a ground-up room like this was built, a huge portion of the acoustic, neo-classical and jazz community has settled in Brooklyn – not to mention the well-documented population of indie rockers who also appreciate a great tracking room. The Bunker provides a convenient, neighborhood option to this new generation of artists.
“There are so many great musicians who live in the neighborhood,” says Davis. “When our friends need to do string sessions, they have to call their musicians who all live in Williamsburg to get on the train and go to Midtown, just to cut a string quartet for three times the cost it will be here.”
Cost, again, is a big factor for Davis and Nevezie, both of whom play in bands, and understand the independent artist’s business. That in mind, they carved out two studios in the new location – the main Studio A tracking rooms with large control room, priced at $750-a-day, and a nice-sized Studio B with its own tracking room, bookable for $450-a-day.
“The price-point was really important for us because we know people cannot afford much more than that,” says Davis. “It’s fun to do big records. It’s fun when there’s a budget. But most of the time, there isn’t. So we can split time between Studio A and Studio B accordingly…do a couple days in A and then a week in B, for example.”
Meanwhile clients that have been booking a day or two at one of the higher-priced rooms in Manhattan might opt to book a longer session at The Bunker. Either way, Davis and Nevezie see a demand.
“I think there’s a renaissance going on of people wanting to track live, and track to tape,” Nevezie asserts. “Bands that want to make it ‘real.’ So we can accommodate that. But also John and I both come from a jazz background as players. We got to do some cool jazz records in our previous space, but the new studio is the sort of place we can invite anybody we know of, at every level, and they’ll be super psyched to play in here.”
A Classic Room That Functions Like A Modern Room
While the Bunker’s build-out and migration has been about a year in the making, the decision to move and expand operations was apparently quite spontaneous, inspired by another exciting studio expansion across town at Studio G.
“We’d been wanting to move out of our previous space for awhile – we were just outgrowing it,” says Davis. “And talking to Joel [Hamilton] about what he was doing put the idea in our head to look around for our own new space.”
They found the new location faster than they could have imagined.
“We walked in here and couldn’t believe our eyes,” Nevezie recalls. “You just do not find this kind of space in New York… at least not two blocks from Grand Street in Williamsburg. We knew we had to jump on it. And then, we needed to find someone to help us build it.”
They consulted with Norwich, CT-based studio designer Rod Gervais on the acoustic designs, and hired a good lead carpenter for the framing, but ultimately did about 80% of the building themselves.
“We wanted it done right – high-end and pro – but we didn’t want to lose that community DIY-ness of it,” says Davis. “We wanted this to be ours, built by us.”
They based the design on rooms they’ve both loved working in, referencing Avatar Studios A and C, which also feature multiple acoustic spaces for a range of sounds.
“Another thing we were really set on was having a look that wasn’t too modern,” notes Davis. “You want it to feel like a classic room but function like a modern room.”
In Gervais, the guys found someone with a strong vision of how to best utilize the space.
“There are certain things that a studio designer, who is both an architect from a structural perspective and studio designer from an acoustics perspective, thinks about differently than we do as producers and engineers,” says Davis, “For example, originally we had envisioned the live room being even bigger and making the isolated rooms off the main room smaller, more like booths.
“As a result of Rod’s design, instead of having one live room with three booths, we have a live room with high ceilings, a live room that’s somewhat dead with medium ceilings, and another live room that’s bright with vaulted ceilings, and we have an iso booth. His thought was let’s get three unique sounding spaces and one booth so that you can really tailor the sounds. That way you’ll also have rooms that will work better for certain things, i.e. the drier 70s-like drum room, the brighter room that’s good for piano or strings, etc.”
In October, the guys moved all their gear over from the previous space, and worked long days getting the rooms into working order. Initial tracking sessions in the new room began in November and sessions have been running ever since, so far most notably with the funk band Lettuce, and jazz-pop singer Sonya Kitchell.
The response to the new studios has been positive. And perhaps most importantly, the co-owners find the rooms elevating the sound of the recordings, and the potential sound, from an engineering/mixing perspective.
“The drum sound is super fat and super punchy but we’re also getting a clarity we were always searching for in our old space,” notes Nevezie. “And now it’s just about putting out the right mics and having great musicians play, because it’s just there in the room.”
“We’ve also noticed that the material we’ve tracked here has given us so much more flexibility in terms of what we want to have going on in the mix. If we want to just have a mono overhead and a kick drum and that’s the drum sound, it really works. Or you can have the stereo mics or the stereo overheads, or close mics only…you just bring up the fader, and that’s the sound.”
That sound is something unique to this new space – a quality Nevezie and Davis aspired to in continuing that classic studio legacy. The great rooms always grew to be associated with particular sounds based on records where the acoustic space played a role.
“I just did this jazz session and it was one of those sessions where we really opened up the room,” Nevezie shares. “We had a bass player slightly gobo’d off, piano and guitar and double saxophones, and it was just incredible to hear the beauty of the bleed into the other mics. Being able to use that as the sound of the group, where you just bring up the faders and everybody sounds like they’re in a space together…it was wonderful.”
Facts, Figures, Features
The Bunker’s main tracking room corresponds with a control room that’s quite sizable as well. The board is a 26-channel Auditronics console, and with outboard gear stacked across in-wall racks, and Studer A80 and A810 tape machines in the back corner, the room provides ample space for people to sit, listen, and participate in the session.
Meanwhile Studio B is a great room of its own. With 250 or so sq. ft of tracking room featuring custom-built diffusion panels, and space enough in the control room for group writing/production sessions, this is also a notable new addition to the Brooklyn scene. When packaged with Studio A, the pair of rooms functions as an affordable facility to make a record start to finish.
From a business perspective, Davis adds: “This is important – to not be pricing yourself out of a market you’ve been in for a long time.”
Both studios feature Pro Tools HD and a colorful collection of vintage and modern audio and musical gear. [Click for a full list of gear.]
Some of the classic rooms in Manhattan may be exceedingly equipped but may also feel sterile for lack of the personal touch of a private studio. That you’ll find here in the racks of uniquely sourced outboard gear and the rooms filled with instruments – organs, synths, pianos, amps, guitars and more.
The Bunker’s 1969 Steinway M grand piano can roll anywhere in Studio A, and each studio also has its own upright piano. And there’s plenty of space and mic cabinet to explore different setups and miking techniques. Additionally, the Bunker will have natural reverb options via two echo chambers fashioned out of an old boiler room and a long fire-escape/hallway that runs behind the studio wall.
The uniqueness and utility of these new acoustic spaces may be The Bunker’s greatest offering.
“People are so used to recording in non-designed, flawed spaces and making it work,” says Nevezie. “We did, and most of our friends did for years. But when you can actually hear instruments in a properly built space, it just makes everything so much easier. It’s just that aside from the people who get to record at the big commercial studios, most people haven’t been able to experience that.
“So hopefully, with our location and rates, a lot more people will be able to walk into a great room, sit down at a Steinway and play it, and feel like a million bucks.”
For more details and to get in touch, visit www.thebunkerstudio.com.
WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN: Slip into the musical continuum, and you’ll find yourself streaming ahead with Erica Glyn. But exercise caution when absorbing her densely engaging new album, Static – this is an audio solider you’re dealing with, one who will sound off using any means necessary.
Even the most dedicated band member catches themselves thinking…about what would happen if they dropped democracy to pursue their own unilateral vision. With the 10 songs of Static, the Brooklyn-based Glyn has done just that: She deliberately took leave of groupthink to proclaim artistic independence, and create an adventurous nebula of trip hop, acoustic instruments, programming, distortion, alluring vocals and deadly serious hooks.
Beyond songwriting, Glyn’s deep experience as an audio engineer had no small part in producing Static. A disciple of Bob Power, Glyn sharpened her chops working with the NYC mixmaster on projects for the likes of India.Arie, The Roots, Ozomatli, Citizen Cope, and Meshell Ndegeocello. All the better to mix it with, as Glyn consciously turned standard moves upside down to merge the enveloping tracks of Static in her home studio.
For any artist, producer, or engineer looking to bust out, Static serves as an example: If you don’t like the rules, it might be time to write your own.
Erica, you said that the making of “Static” was quite intentionally a dictatorship. How was this in contrast to your previous records, and why did you feel the need to rule Static with an iron fist?
In the past, I’ve been a part of bands where I was the leading force in it, the songwriter and the singer etc…, but there was always a mock-democracy thing happening. I always wanted to play in bands and to collaborate, but in retrospect, those mock-democracy type situations never ultimately served the music, the productions nor the effectiveness very well. I was always concerned with and/or dealing with personalities — egos — and that was ultimately a distraction from the music, but valuable learning experiences all the same.
With this project, though collaborative, at the end of the day I had veto power and didn’t worry about the work that went into a part or the person who created it, myself included. If it didn’t work for the greater good of the song, it didn’t stay. It seems like an obvious thing, but when you are trying to pacify people, self included, it can be difficult to keep focused.
And at the same time as I was being highly tyrannical, I allowed the musicians to do what they do best. I worked with people that I knew I could give guidance to, while simultaneously giving them the freedom to put themselves into it. And I think that comes across in the energy of the music. For example, Leron Thomas who played trumpet on “Animal” came in to play a part that I had written out for him. Afterwards, I asked him to play some fanfare stuff and improvise over the outro. After he did one take, he got inspired and said, “Let me do another one that’ll work with what I just put down.” And then after that he did another one that fit with the previous two takes. It was great and worked perfectly with the track and I didn’t change a thing.
It was the same with Dan Neustadt and his amazing keyboard playing and synth sounds. The intro of “Commonplace” was done in one take. I just told him I wanted the song to start with a memorable hook, and voila! There were other moments that took more crafting on my part, but that was also part of the fun for me. I’ve become pretty good at Pro Tools and have been able to utilize it more like an instrument rather than a recording device.
How else did that outlook go into planning the writing and production of this album? And did everything then go according to plan?
There was no plan. I wrote a bunch of songs in about three weeks, made demos of them and then shared them with musician/producer Brice Malahude who lives in Brussels — we would Skype and file share via FTP. He got inspired and came back at me with a ton of ideas, and I would sift through them picking out what I thought worked best. As those ideas grew, the record unfolded. I worked a bunch at home, studying my Pro Tools maps, cleaning things up, trying things out, really enjoying the process, and enjoying receiving the surprises Brice would leave for me to check out.
Besides doing what I thought would serve the music best, I didn’t have an MO. I tried to let things go where they were going to go, and not try to force anything to work or fit in any direction. If things got scrapped, then they weren’t right or weren’t good enough.
Sounds like a really efficient, but still musical approach. What were the various recording environments? How did they affect the outcomes?
A lot of the record was recorded in my home studio in Williamsburg. A bunch of it was recorded at Brice’s home studio in Brussels – not to mention the pilgrimage he made to Jarno Van Es, somewhere in the countryside of Belgium.
Other than that I worked with Blair Wells at his studio, Purple Velvet, Joel Hamilton in his studio, Studio G, Shahzad Ismaily in his studio, Rivington 66, and drums, trumpet and cello were recorded at The Bunker. Oh, and Nathan Larson sent me tracks from his home studio as well. Blair and I worked at Flux one day to record Casey Benjamin on piano. They have a beautiful Steinway there and the room sounds great.
In terms of how these studio choices affected the sound, well, I think that they all are up to snuff in terms of equipment and technology — but it’s not really about that at the end of the day, is it? I think because most everyone was on their home turf, they felt at ease and excited to play with little pressure and I think that energy — that organic energy — is captured. There was never any belaboring of parts.
How did the mix phase unfold after that?
I ended up mixing the record because I sort of had been mixing it as I was producing it. I was very aware of the sonic spread of the recordings as I was working on them. So I was thinking of instrumentation, parts, melodies etc… as well as the sonics of it. And I had a very clear idea of how things should sound, where they should be placed in the mix, what instruments should be featured when.
There’s a lot in the music – it’s crafted and if you’re not familiar with all the little details that I worked hard to create, moments within moments, well, then they would get lost in the mix. Also, instruments and sounds that traditionally might take the foreground or the background weren’t necessarily taking on their traditional roles, and leaving it in the hands of someone else just didn’t make any sense.
What song or songs are an example of how your mix fulfilled your vision?
For example, in “Commonplace,” both the keys and the electric guitar are strong forces in the verses and they sit in similar registers, so who takes the lead? For me, it’s the electric guitar, hands down. But someone else mixing it might have chosen to feature the keys.
Same with “Polar Shift:” The bouzouki Lyenn played was so beautiful and the recording is pristine, and so it would make sense perhaps to feature it, and have the synth sounds take a far back seat. But that makes no sense to me in the context of the song, the production and how I envisioned it.
Have you always been an audio engineer as well as being an artist? At what point in your career did being an engineer become important to you?
I think I’ve been becoming both simultaneously. I started working in recording studios as a teenager — I was always interested in not only making music but making records as well. I used to fall asleep as a kid listening to records – and each night I would listen to a different instrument all the way through the album. One night I would just focus in on the bass, the next night the guitar, the next the background vocals.
I guess that came naturally to me. And I never wanted to be lost in the studio — I thought from the get-go that it was important to know how things worked if I ever wanted to make a record of my own. I had to know how to communicate with the people I was working with, so that I wouldn’t be at their mercy.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with Bob Power. What are some of the lessons – large and small – you soaked up under his tutelage?
Bob is an amazing teacher. Not only does he have a wealth of knowledge, but he’s also very excited to share that knowledge. And he’s extremely patient while being expectant simultaneously.
The biggest lesson I learned from Bob — and this may seem like a no-brainer — but the biggest lesson I learned from him is to listen: To really listen to the instrument that you are recording in the room that you are recording it in. That, and a bunch of technical stuff you wouldn’t be interested in.
Oh, but we are! Maybe next time. In an earlier conversation, you were adamant that – your experience with Bob Power most unequivocally excepted — female engineers are subject to various inequalities in the workplace. What were some of your experiences that you can share about that?
I would love to share the nitty gritty of the experiences I’ve come up against, but this isn’t that kind of Website. Recording studios are very boy-centric. This is not news to anyone. I definitely have been treated extremely inappropriately, and not just by the old geezer types either, contemporaries as well.
I’ve had people tell me outright that they do not want me in the studio – I was delegated to the lounge, tech room, front office, what have you – because they didn’t want to have to change the way they talked. There was a long stretch where no one would let me graduate to the next rung, no one would let me do anything technical. Working for Bob changed that for me.
Do you have any suggestions for how some of these unfortunate attitudes can be overcome?
Unfortunate attitudes — that’s up to boys to alter. In general we too often let the subtle nuances of sexism slide under the radar, which really just reinforces them.
Other than that: don’t let other people project their insecurities on to you. And, knowledge is power. Educate yourself and just do. Learn by doing. You don’t necessarily need to work in a studio these days – there is so much you can do on your own now.
Circling back to Static, how would you characterize the final result? Why is this such a satisfying artistic statement for you? And what are you looking to do next?
This is a satisfying piece of work for me, and I think it’s because I never compromised.
Musician/Producer/Engineer Blair Wells, who contributed tremendously to the back-end of the record and who co-mixed it with me, was unbelievably relentless in allowing me to revise and hone as much as I wanted. An incredible gift. And I worked with a bunch of musicians that I totally admire and who really put themselves into the music, and for that I feel grateful as well.
As for next what’s next, I’d love to perform the record — I think it would be a really fun album to re-create live. And more production work, more music making. More writing.
– David Weiss