Recording Sweet Spot: Bushwick Studio

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BUSHWICK, Brooklyn: Though still known for its relatively affordable real estate, industrial sprawl and epic loft parties, Bushwick was much more of a frontier ten years ago when guitarist and engineer/producer Josh Kessler had just built his studio there.

“This was a huge rave building in the late 90s,” Kessler says on our recent tour of Bushwick Studio. “I was moving out of my rehearsal space at Complete Music and looking up in Harlem when I found this place online. I saw potential in the basement,” he says, which – aside from the squatters – “was totally open and empty.”

12 years later, Kessler has a best-kept-secret kind of recording studio in an increasingly bohemian neighborhood. And while the studio has been amassing its impressive arsenal of gear and serving its circle of producer/engineers, bands and composer clients, music production has migrated more and more into exactly the kind of homey but very-well-equipped studio Kessler has to offer, today.

Upon seeing Bushwick’s main space which consists of a gear-filled control room – featuring a hot-rodded Allen & Heath Saber console, Pro Tools HD3 rig and Ampex ATR-102 ½” machine – with adjacent 200 sq. ft. recording space, you might assume this is a small overdubbing/mixing studio and get to work. But you’d be missing something. The main 500 sq. ft. tracking room (with 100 sq. ft. booth) is located in the basement, with 13 and ½-foot ceiling, reversible acoustic paneling, vintage Hammond and Leslie, 1920s snares, piano, EMT plate reverbs, and more. With over 40 mic tie lines running into the three rooms, Bushwick makes a much more flexible recording facility than initially meets the eye.

Bushwick’s main tracking room. (100 sq. ft. iso booth out of the frame)

“And we can really change the sound of the room,” notes Kessler, “We can make it pretty Motown dry, or easily pull the carpet up to liven it up for rock drums. The ceilings are gabled too, which really helped the room. People compliment the sound of drums especially, but we’ve also done some film scoring and string sessions in here.”

The facility is well-appointed for scoring picture, with a large monitor positioned in the main tracking room, as well as the upstairs recording space/lounge. “We’ll port video into the live room downstairs for the players, and into the lounge for the director to listen to the score as it’s being built,” Kessler explains.

To the widest potential clientele, however, Bushwick Studio’s most appealing feature will be its gear (see below), including coveted microphones, and some one-of-a-kind equipment built or modded by Kessler’s tech-friends Larry Janus and John Chester. While the studio has been frequented by producer/engineers like Nic Hard and Godfrey Diamond, and composers like Jeff Grace, it’s mostly served as Kessler’s own recording, mixing and mastering facility. And that’s something he’s looking to change.

“It’s really about finding people who will appreciate the space and the gear the way I do,” he says. “My equipment is pristine, and nobody would want for anything if they worked here.” And, he assures, it’s all included in a reasonable day rate. Get all the deets below!

Facility Name: Bushwick Studio

Website: http://www.Bushwickstudio.com

Location: Bushwick, Brooklyn

Neighborhood Advantages: Loft buildings with tall ceilings. Non-Disney vibe. Tight community. Cheaper rent…(Less so these days). Ease of transportation to the city. We’re only a block and a half from the L train.

Date of Birth: October 2001

Facility Focus: Tracking, Mixing, Mastering, Film Scoring, Overdubs, Production

Mission Statement: Bushwick is a studio built upon offering the best tools audio engineering has ever put forth.  The studio boasts one of the best microphone cabinets on the East Coast for example – seriously.  The studio has continually evolved through the years, updating and upgrading, and also doing what we can to obtain things engineers ask for.  As a studio, the mission is to provide creators a place they love working in, with an atmosphere that feels familiar, light, and full of attention.

Josh Kessler explains the SR-71 Blackbird (based on the classic Fairchild compressor/limiter) made by Larry Janus of Tube Equipment Corp.

Clients/Credits: Aberdeen City, Joe Bonadio, Andrew Borger, The Bravery, Rob Calder, Keith Carlock, The Cloud Room, Dave Eggar, The Punch Brothers, Signal To Noise, Dave Sinko, Bernie Worrell. It’s a long list. See a longer, partial list here.

Key Personnel: I own and run the studio by myself, I am generally pretty key to the day-to-day function.  Other than that, the key personnel are the engineers and producers that work here, or that I’ve yet to meet, those I would like a chance to provide for.  To all, I hope I can accommodate whatever they desire to help them make the records they would like to make.  If it’s in my powers to do so, I will find a way to provide.

System Highlights: An astounding array of world class microphones and a singular selection of outboard, rivaling that of any top tier studios, though about 1/2 to 1/3 the cost you might find at studios boasting similar gear selections in Manhattan, and even those still won’t have a mic cabinet like we do.

Equipment highlights include 3 U47’s, 3 M49’s, 3 Elams,  4 Coles 4038’s, 6 channels of rebuilt Tube Telefunken V76’s and V72’s,  12 channels of  very modified Vintech X81’s,  Buzz Audio REQ 2.2 Mastering EQ, Antelope Trinity master clock,  1938 Hammond BC, 2 EMT plates from the Hit Factory,  Klein & Hummel o500 C’s,  SR 71 Compressor (Modern day Fairchild), Custom varispeed box for ATR, including Wow & Flutter Function – useful for Beatles style ADT and playing with music….

And check out a more comprehensive list here.

Most importantly: Everything works as it’s supposed to. Things that breakdown are fixed.  Things we want to improve, we do. Many studios suffer from gear not operating to spec or as it is supposed to.  Not Bushwick!

Distinguishing Characteristics: Fantastic Live room for drums that is quickly changeable from a very live sounding room, to a very controlled, dryer sounding room… Fantastic instrument and gear options. Ear opening monitoring for visiting engineers… Different sounding rooms and lots of ways to integrate them into the sessions.

Studio’s Secret Weapon: It’s usually pretty easy to round up folks for Group vocals if someone needs that. Cost? Often its been some beer and a good time… Lots of fun artists running around the building at all hours of day and night.

Also, there are lots of musicians playing various instruments living in the building at any given point in time. Need something last minute, say, vibes or horns? There just might be a talented cat available.

Keys in the Bushwick live room

Rave Reviews (What do people tell you they like/love about your studio?): The mics and the main room.  Also, many folks who upon arrival had never recorded in a split-level studio comment on how much they wind up loving it. The fact that the studio doesn’t have a window into the main control room (it does have one into a large overdub room) allows musicians to feel more comfortable more quickly. They get into “their” space more quickly and that translates into better performances.

Most Memorable Session Ever (and why?): SOOOOO Many! “Which ones your favorite kid?” Heheheh.

Session You’d Like to Forget: I’ve been present for a few band break-ups and some musician firings.  That is never ever pleasant. Though with all the laughs and sweet emotions I’ve had I still count myself very lucky.  At times, “It’s a pretty sweet gig.”

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