Ten years ago, many of the producers and engineers who keep the studios humming at 23 East 31st street were working about a dozen blocks away – at the old Sony Music Studios over on West 54th street.
When reports first got out that Sony would be closing their studios to cash in on a lucrative real estate deal, there was plenty of talk in the mainstream press about how the proliferation of small project studios spelled doom for the big recording rooms of the past. But the truth is that the big rooms still exist (they’ve cropped up on the other side of the river where rents are cheaper.) And to many of the Manhattan music professionals who were displaced by the closing of Sony studios, the availability high-quality smaller production suites have been a kind of salvation.
Enter Fireplace Studios, founded by former Sony engineer Gabriel Schwartz in 2006, after the label’s old recording complex closed down.
His main space, which is equipped with an ample live room and racks full of API preamps and vintage Urei compressors, is home to “a network of engineers around the city,” many of whom he first met back in the Sony days – among them producer/engineer Chuck Brody (Bear Hands, Phantogram, J.Lo).
This main studio has hosted sessions for Pixar, Spoon, Ted Leo, Ad Rock, Theophilus London, The B-52s and Peter, Bjorn and John, among others.
But Fireplace is just the flagship room in a penthouse full of independent recording studios. Just across the lobby from Fireplace, Sony veteran William Garrett keeps his own production room called Electracraft. When the original Sony studios closed, Garrett barely missed a beat, and today hr continues to book Sony artists and writers at his new space.
His own background is varied – Garrett has mixed records for artists from New Kids on the Block to Slayer and tracked film scores with The Velvet Underground’s John Cale – but his studio’s real specialty is pure and unapologetic pop. Electracraft has recently been home to writers and producers like Rob Fusari, the man who helped launch Lady Gaga’s career, and Frankie Storm, who’s written hits for Rihanna and Britney Spears.
Two more private production studios round out this mini recording-complex. Swedish producer Fredro Ödesjö has his own personal room, Rattlebrain Productions, where he works on tracks with hit songwriters like Claude Kelly and Aplus, and artists like Sinead O’Connor and Maxi Priest. And, until the end of this month, producer and Sony A&R man Stanley Brown has kept a private production space here as well. As of press time, this suite, a comfortable 10×16 control room with a 4×4 vocal booth is available to a new tenant.
These four music spaces share a long, L-shaped lounge that’s lit by over 100 feet of skylights set high up in the lofty ceilings of the penthouse. A tidy kitchen stands in the elbow of the room, and a snack machine guards a back door that opens out onto a Manhattan rooftop with a view of the Empire State Building.
Schwartz, Garrett and Ödesjö shared another, slightly larger studio nearby until the whole building was essentially sold out from under them two years ago. When it came time to move, Schwartz knew he wanted to stay in Manhattan, even though real estate prices conspired to make the outer boroughs the only sensible choice for a large-scale build-out.
“I’m well aware of that trend,” says Schwartz, “but I never really considered it an option for us.”
“I know that a lot of studios are closing down in Manhattan, and I figured that if we could keep a Manhattan address, that would put us in a good position going forward. I mean, people just love being in Manhattan. If you’re working on a really budget-driven project, then obviously you’re going to go wherever it’s cheapest. But for many of our sessions, a Manhattan address is essential. That’s true for a lot of the label work as well as the post sessions.”
As much as he’s committed to staying central, Schwartz doesn’t look down at the outer boroughs: “I’ve definitely thought about opening an additional location in Brooklyn. If I were to expand, I think that’s where I would go. I mean, I’ve got all these production rooms that people are always trying to get into, so I’ve toyed with the idea. It’s definitely a trend that I understand and that I think makes sense.”
For now, what makes even more sense is a penthouse full of busy production rooms just southeast of Midtown. For the producers and clients of Fireplace, Electracraft and Rattlebrain, the size is perfect, the price is right, and the location is key.
As of press time, a new lease for one production suite, roughly 200 square feet with an isolated vocal booth, is now available. Get in touch via http://www.fireplacestudios.com/contact.