It takes more than a vintage Neve 8068 console, Benchmark, Pultec, and Fairchild gear, and vintage mics to make a studio special, although those things really help! The real magic at Pie Studio, the recording studio where webisode #2 and #3 of 'Masters From Their Day' was shot, is the vibe. Perry Margouleff, owner and head engineer of Pie Studios, has created a space that immediately inspires when you walk through the door.
Pie Studio's capacity to inspire is demonstrated in the latest two webisodes of 'Masters From Their Day' (www.MastersFromTheirDay.com), a web-series where each episode shows a song being produced in one session.
The featured artists of webisode #2, Annie and the Beekeepers, are an indie-folk trio from Brooklyn, NY. The song ("In the Water") that they chose to record for this project was written a week before the session and incorporated many elements that are foreign to their usual sound. In spite of this unfamiliar territory, the band, with guidance from producer and mix-engineer Elias Gwinn, delivered an inspired performance that hits the mark - creating a dark, moody track that warms and cools you at the same time.
"The sound of the Beekeepers trio is anchored in Annie Lynch's acoustic guitar and vocals, Alexandra Spalding's cello, and Ken Woodward's double bass," says Gwinn. "The development of this song led them to a different format that they felt suited the song, with Spalding doubling the vocal and playing a breathy banjo and Woodward wielding a toothy electric guitar." The result is a hypnotic, reflective, gospel-inspired mantra that lulls then jolts the listener.
While simultaneously playing the banjo strings, Spalding slid her hand on the banjo head to create a percussive 'egg-shaker' effect. Gwinn highlighted this technique by focusing a Microtech Gefell M930 large-diaphragm condenser where her hand was sliding, recording it through a Benchmark MPA1 and ADC1 (microphone preamplifier and A/D converter, respectively).
Woodward's electric guitar sings from one side of the room towards the other. The cabinet was recorded with a vintage BBC 4038 ribbon microphone, and opposite end of the large live-room was recorded with a Neumann U67, both going through the same Benchmark mic-pre and A/D chain as the banjo.
Lynch's vocals were recorded with a Microtech Gefell UM92.1 large-diaphragm tube condenser, and Spalding's vocals were captured with a U67. During an interlude when the two singers deliver ghostly 'ohs', they are both singing simultaneously into opposite sides of the UM92.1 set in figure-8 mode. All vocals were also captured with the Benchmark MPA1 and ADC1.
Studios that have hosted other episodes of 'Masters From Their Day' include Kaufman Astoria Studios and Manhattan Center Studios (an unreleased, upcoming episode). Both of those studios are also anchored by Neve consoles (VR-series) and feature enviable recording gear. However, Pie Studios not only has the advantage of some of the best recording equipment imaginable, but it also has a collection of guitars and amps that would make an avid collector blush.
Steve Five, the guitarist and singer for band, The Library Is On Fire, wrote a blog post (http://psychicbodega.blogspot.com/2010/04/broken-guitar.html) about accessing Pie's plethora of priceless musical instruments while shooting 'Masters From Their Day' webisode #3 (the second shot at Pie Studios). As he described it, "The most humbling experience I've ever had in a recording studio was playing Keith Richards' 1950 Butterscotch Blonde Fender Esquire, replete with missing low 'E' string and open tuning."
The band also employed a veteran guitar amp, called the 'Echosonic' (http://www.scottymoore.net/echosonic.html) that was custom built for Scotty Moore, Elvis' first guitar player. This exact amplifier was used on numerous Elvis recordings and live shows and was even used to amplify Elvis' vocals during his early years when a 'real' PA system was not available.
The two webisodes from Pie Studios will be released in mid-August and mid-September ('Annie and the Beekeepers' and 'The Library Is on Fire', respectively). The mastered track from each episode are offered as free lossless downloads on the project page (www.MastersFromTheirDay.com). The finished track from each episode is mastered by 3-time Grammy-award winning mastering engineer, Gavin Lurssen. Benchmark Media Systems, Inc., makers of high-end mic-preamps and A/D/A converters, are the creative force behind the project, and their pre-amps and converters are used exclusively throughout the productions.
More information about Masters From Their Day is available at: http://www.MastersFromTheirDay.com.