Sound City

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by audiokid, Dec 20, 2015.

  1. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

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    Let's not forget places like Mushroom and The Warehouse in Vanc. B.C. and AIR London.....
     
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  2. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    Never heard of mushroom studio. Sounds fun tho ;)
     
  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

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    Google it. Very busy for many many years and a great read on its history. Its now in Toronto.
     
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  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    It wasn't my intention to ignore those other studios, I was just giving a quick sampling of some other famous rooms, off the top of my head as they came to me...

    Of course there were many others; it was the "golden age" of recording - unlike today, where only a smattering of "real" studios still exist.

    More studios on the "If these walls could talk" list:
    (feel free to add to the list)

    Capitol Records ( L.A.) - Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Stan Kenton, Louis Prima, Kingston Trio
    Motown/Hitsville (Detroit) - all the 60's Motown acts - Temptations, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson
    Stax (Memphis) - Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Booker T & The M.G.'s, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, Albert King
    Sun ( Memphis) - Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis
    Chess (Chicago) - Bo Diddly, Muddy Waters, Rolling Stones, Etta James
    CRC (Cleveland Recording Co., Cleveland) - Grand Funk, James Gang, The O'Jays, The Pretenders, Devo, The Cleveland Orchestra
    Metalworks (Mississauga/Toronto) - Triumph, David Bowie, Anne Murray, Rush, Prince
    Eastern Sound ( Yorkville/Toronto) - Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Elton John, Dionne Warwick
    RCA ( Nashville) - Willie Nelson, The Everly Brothers, Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer, Elvis Presley
    Bearsville ( Woodstock, NY) - 10cc, Todd Rundgren, Bonny Raitt, John Sebastian, NY Dolls, The Pretenders
    Sigma Sound (Philadelphia) - the classic "Philly Soul Sound" - acts produced by Thom Bell; a producer who was a pioneer in "that" sound; The Spinners, The Stylistics, The Delfonics; Sigma also pioneered the "blue-eyed soul" sound; artists like Todd Rundgren, Hall & Oates, and Bobby Caldwell


    It's amazing to look at lists like these and realize that, while there are a few of these studios are still around, most are actually gone now - And we ask ourselves, how can it be that so many of these great rooms, having such a rich history no longer exist?
    It's sad that so many are empty, or in some cases, even completely vaporized; now empty lots, or parking garages, or condos. Most folded due to dwindling business and lower production budgets, or because the original owners and operators are retired, or have passed away. Some were the victims of fires, some moved, or closed up completely, because the once-pleasant locations that they originally occupied are now bad sections of town to be in.

    Some have become museums - Hitsville, Chess, RCA - allowing us a look back at a time when studios were instrumental in forming the sounds and styles that have since become famous.

    I don't think we'll ever see an era like this again... call it 1950 to 1985 (or so)... when engineers set up real mics, sat at consoles with producers, capturing the sound of musicians all playing together; recording songs that were well-crafted and arranged.

    So many hits today are now composed and recorded on laptops, or iPads, thru headphones; pre recorded libraries of loops, beats and samples are thrown together in places like airport lounges and hotel rooms, and then are given to someone who is a Pro Tools "wizard", who has a "formula", a track record of success in turning out the latest and greatest generic-sounding pop songs, all of which sound so similar in texture, both in production and "sound".

    While there are of course exceptions (thankfully); most songs aren't really recorded anymore, nor are they "mixed" in the traditional sense either... they are edited - using pre-recorded loops, samples and drum tracks, auto-tuned and rhythmically corrected to a pitch-perfect, frame accurate, metronomic, robotic style, and then simply copy-pasted, over and over again - and edited to "perfection"... often to the extent that any trace of human soul and frailty are cut out and wiped away completely.

    All these famous studios ( including the ones that Dave mentioned) had their own vibes, their own "character", and while a lot of that was because of the gear they had, most of it was because of actual people - those talented performers, musicians, writers, engineers, arrangers and producers - all coming together to achieve the same goal, all contributing their talents towards making great music.

    The smaller these modern "studios" get, the less number of creative people are involved, and the less number of people, the more narrow the focus of the music and the "sound" becomes.

    And, in the interest of full disclosure and honesty on my part, I've been guilty of the exact same thing. I too have engineered and produced music that sounds narrow in scope. It's difficult to not fall into that trap these days, with the advent of the format and the tools we have available to us. I try to use real musicians on as much as I can - but budgets get tight, and record sales aren't like they used to be, when you could be assured that your outgoing costs could be recouped.
    I'm not making excuses though... I am guilty.

    Although, I do feel blessed that I was of a generation and at a time when recording studios still recorded real musicians and ensembles; when the focus was on the talent and the creativity of a group, instead of all being founded in the "formula of one".

    FWIW ;)
    -d.
     
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  5. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

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    We need to petition Slate Digital to make a virtual room simulator of all these great rooms...

    Imagine that...Slate Virtual Room Simulator...lol;)

    - They are probably already onto it...hey Steven if you are reading this, I'll go you halves...:D
     
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  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    But it's not just the rooms... nor was it just the gear... it was talented musicians, who had their own styles, and, it was those individuals who were sitting in the Skipper's Chair ... the "Helmsmen", if you will... steering the vessel towards the best musical fidelity possible.

    So, until someone manages to invent a virtual Keith Olsen, Bruce Swedien, Tom Dowd, Thom Bell, Sam Phillips, Bill Putnam, Geoff Emerick, Alan Parsons, Roger Nichols, Hugh Padgham, Bill Szymczyk, Russ Terrana ....

    ;)
     
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  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

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    These are the people who's work I have studied for years.
     
  8. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    Ocean way has a pluggin that does his for their room. Complete with variable mic positions !!!! Impulse response capability is available in the few convolution reverbs I've used.

    Had no idea James gang recorded in Cleveland! Thats why I love talking to you guys. Music is such a vast world.

    May I also add some 'no name' studios of which I'm too lazy to look up.

    Paul Simon did a record at one I belive if Africa with a group of local African studio musicians. I want to say Graceland, maybe rymin' Simon?? Not sure, but whatever studio they were in was big and fairly live. You can really hear/feel the air. They recorded live. Killer bassist. There's a documentary on it, I belive it was on Netflix, because it was an anniversary of the album. They reunitied and did a performance in Africa. I reccomend anyone into music watch this very cool documentary.

    Also the studio that did bob Marley in Jamaca, left its mark on the world, and is largely unsung. Could name the studio, or engineer of the top of my head.

    And then of course, Normandy Sound, in warren RI, which gave us new kids on the block! Lmao!!This one is particularly close to my heart ;)
     
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    Ya. Joe Walsh had his own band at the time, "The Measles", who were all students at Kent State... they came up playing the dive bars along Water Street.

    The James Gang - Jim Fox and Tom Criss, were Cleveland guys; the band was already established, but had lost their guitar player - Glen Schwartz - when he left for California to start another band, "Pacific Gas and Electric".
    Walsh and Schwartz were friends, and so he approached them as a possible replacement, and was quickly added - this was probably around '68 or so - at which point they hooked up with engineer and producer Bill (pronounced "sim-zik"), who was engineering and producing for ABC/Dunhill Records at the time - artists like BB King and J Geils.

    Criss left the band in '69, and Dale Peters stepped in on bass. In 1970, they released the album, James Gang Rides Again, which had songs like Funk 49, Tend My Garden and There I Go Again.
    They did a lot of concert openers for bigger acts - Cream, The Who, The Kinks and Led Zep - which brought them a lot of attention, and helped to fuel their success.

    In '73, Walsh went on to form and play in the band "Barnstorm", ( songs like Turn To Stone and Walk Away) and eventually went solo with "The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get", also produced by Szymczyk, although he continued working with former Barnstorm members Kenny Passarelli on bass and Joe Vitali on drums as his band on that album, and which included the now iconic Rocky Mountain Way, along with Meadows and Dreams. The album was recorded at Caribou Ranch, where Szymczyk had been frequently working.

    And unless you've been living in a cave for the last 30 years, I think everyone pretty much knows what happened with Walsh from there. ;)

    I still bump into Joe Vitali from time to time... we've worked several sessions together over the years - on both sides of the glass - although it's been quite some time since.

    Here endeth the lesson... well, this lesson anyway. :) LOL

    FWIW
    -d.

     
  10. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

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    Yes Donny, the definition of "professional recording studio" has followed the same arc as "professional photographer." You don't have to be as good, or as careful because pitch correction and photo shop will save your hide. So a lot of under-trained people have hung out their shingle. And a lot of good careers have been lost because of the cheapening it brings. There used to be colour separators and printers and photo labs, and sellers of high end 2" tape and now...poof. It will only get worse.

    It was this statement that got my back up:

    Things change, and sometimes it sucks, but to say people have no business even participating in the act of recording doesn't help anyone.
     
  11. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

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    So how much of "it" is the room, the engineer, the producer, the board, the gear? It would seem that producer has something to do with it, but in not so sure about the rest.

    With some artists, I don't think I would matter who was behind the desk, or where they recorded, or what gear they used. They'd be great either way: Knopfler, Tedeschi Trucks, Otis, Dave Matthews, etc.

    I read an interview with Page where he said he liked to switch up producers and engineers so nobody could say it was somebody else that was responsible for Zep's sound. He wanted it to be known that it was him.

    With others, the producer/engineer is integral: Parsons on Dark Side, Lanois on Emmy Lou's, Wrecking Ball and Dylan's Time Out Of Mind.

    Remember that album Def Leppard produced themselves instead of having done by Mutt? Exactly. Me neither. Couldn't even tell you what it was called.

    ...and so it goes.
     
  12. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

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    I will wade in here for a moment. On the subjective premise that it has to do with the room and the gear....well, yes and no......there's nothing like a great sounding room with gear matched to capturing the "sound" of the room. It's also is a bonus if the gear is all in excellent working condition, a phenomena that plagued even the best rooms throughout history. The room's that got a majority of the work in music's golden age of recording had budgets and staff on duty to repair and maintain these magic boxes.

    BUT. The artist or the artist/producer team had to have a vision and the artist/performer had to be able to deliver the goods and either be skilled enough to know what goes where when writing an arrangement or the intelligence to hire someone who does if they don't. These magical rooms with all that gear weren't anything more than the vessel to operate within at any given project. So, how were they chosen? This would seem to be an interesting find if its at all available....some interviews give these answers and others simply don't dwell on this. We ALL know why the Beatles recorded at Abbey Road.......don't we? A more iconic pairing has not been seen before or since. What if one of the other record companies the Beatles demo stuff was shopped at had thought for a minute that this was something special? NONE of the studios at that time had anything close to the complete infrastructure of EMI. And without the SOUND of that first record, seriously, look at everything released in 1963/64 and find me ONE SINGLE ARTIST that had a sound like that........without that sound and the subsequent thing we know now as Beatlemania, would EMI have relaxed the rules as much as they eventually did just for The Beatles? I think a lot of other artist's choice on where they made their magic was through an interconnection of people places and things. Very few if any artists who became major contributors to the pantheon of musical history, chose a studio blindly out of the phone book. A great number of works of art landed where they did simply because the rooms were all booked by others at the time needed to record.

    I mean that as an example of why it is important for people of all genres, walks of life, LEVELS OF ARTISTRY, to have access to any kind of recording equipment their heart and budgets desire. There may be another Beatles out there......perhaps.....

    I'm sorry that the industry has eaten itself alive....its exactly what has happened. The Godlike excess of the process in the late 70's and 80's spelled doom for itself. The way the companies were and still are, ran. The music business was a popular place for certain financeers to launder ill-gotten-gains. Still is.

    Yes, the advent of technology has put people in a 'professional role' that for the most part they have no business or training to be part of, and I'm sure that the artist in a lot of us cries out loudly against this. It's our own perception of the battle for recognition and the dimming of our own ability to be a creative force among all the flotsam and jetsam washing up on the shores of this instant-gratification'd generation we find ourselves in. Tough. It is what it is. If you're good at what you do and you forge onward simply out of the love of what you do and what you create, then you are holding yourself true to your vision. Bemoaning the whys and wherefores of the 'business' being cheapened and not stopping at your door for work is not a testament of anything but the luck of the draw. Artists will obviously go where they can afford to go. If these same artists aren't concerned with quality then their product will suffer. The dregs of this are evident on any public access playlist you can find.

    The small studio owner has been forced to reconsider their position in the grand scheme of things. If you aren't keeping the lights on enough to maintain a lease and a bunch of gear then you have to make tough choices. One choice is to look at your business model and figure out what you can be competitive in in the market in your area. There's always a niche. However, if it gives you the heebie-geebies to record Pop princess wanna-bes with their parents producing, then thats a choice. Some will have to be very honest with the limitations of their space. Saying that you'd love to record all the big bands in town when you are only equipped to handle a singer songwriter doing 2-4 tracks at a time might be a stretch. HEY! I can do television voice-overs and music production!! You'd better be completely up-to-date with your digital system and have sync to video capabilities of the higest order and be faster than someone else that already does this....and believe me there's a lot in every town. I know a few myself. First, they are superb engineers and second, they can all arrange for orchestras. I would hire them but never compete with em....

    This has become a niche market. A lot of the older guys give up completely. So sets of skills honed for years are wasted. Others sell off most of their gear because updating for what seems like a chance-in-hell to ever succeed seems futile. Then they bitch and pine for the old days and blame the economy and the aliens for their plight. A wise man once said to me, "Doing what you love for work is like not working at all"

    One final thought. Look around your local area. How many "vanity studios" can you find or know about? I'm not talking someplace with its shingle out for business....I'm talking Dr.X#&@CC who has enough money to equip a build-out on this property and makes records with his musician friends on the weekends....Maybe plays in an 'oldies' rock band.....Or guys like me who don't have an overhead and just record what they want when they want.

    There's a bunch ..... One thing I'm finding is if you put out a couple of recordings a year and take a LOT of time making them perfect, then someone is going to notice. That someone could be a pro group, perhaps a step above local who "just can't get the sound they want" from their friends studio. Thats when being the Producer matters more than anything else. And that's My niche.
     
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  13. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Well-Known Member

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    Ya they pulled the board out of Mushroom many years ago and shipped it to Toronto. The studio has flipped hands many times over, it's currently decommissioned but being used on the downlow for some music stuff but it isn't the same. At one point I think the band Marcy Playground or Matchbox 20 bought it.... I only vaguely remember something like that maybe 12 years ago. It's just a stone throw away from my house and I drive by everyday. Some big albums were done there and parts of albums -- particularly Zeppelin II
     
  14. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

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    Iv'e never heard it put so well...Dave (@Davedog ) you havce summed it up (pardon the pun) in a nutshell.

    This is the type of attitude that may just keep this business alive and kicking
     
  15. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

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    Bump.....


     
  16. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    good news! Sound City has been reopened. whoo-hoo!

    from Wikipedia

    "The studio was officially closed to the public from 2011 through 2016, but in early 2017 a partnership was formed between Sandy Skeeter (President of Sound City Inc. and daughter of Tom Skeeter) and Olivier Chastan in order to reopen the studio. Sound City is now the home of two Helios Type 69 consoles and continues to utilize classic analog recording techniques in many of its productions (though a Pro Tools rig has been installed in each studio, for the convenience of its clients)."
     
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  17. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

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    Great news. Love the Helios.
     
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    I sincerely hope they can make it. In the years since they closed their doors, many other pro rooms have closed theirs as well. I believe they may have a niche, based partly on their location and partly on their legacy...the way it would work would be to have some big acts come there to record again. But the studio biz isn't what it used to be, there's been a lot of water under the bridge since they closed and Grohl bought the famous Neve.
    I've never worked on a Helios desk, but their reputation is stellar in the industry. Hopefully it -'and the staff - can attract enough clientele to make it worth it.
     
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  19. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    I heard some producer saying the mixer in place was a joke. I don't know if they were talking about the Helios or another desk they just put in place. :confused:
     
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  20. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    no that isn't the Helios they were talking about. Fairfax studio recently occupied the rooms and they had a couple of old ALTEC mixers with separate monitor systems there. cool boards but pretty antiquated. they were built for 4 track to mono. that's why they had separate monitor mixers.

    if it were me i'd be looking for another Neve.

    studioA-7433.jpg studiob.jpg
     
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