STUDIO NAME: Lava Tracks
LOCATION: Kamuela, Big Island, Hawaii
KEY CREW: Charles Michael Brotman
CONSOLE: Oram BEQ 24-channel/8 bus (72 inputs at mixdown)
MONITORS: Tannoy AMS 10s, Yamaha NS 10s
RECORDING HARDWARE: MOTU 2408 (2x), 24 channels of ADAT XT, HHB Burnit Plus and Glyph CD burners
RECORDING SOFTWARE: Logic Pro, BIAS Peak
COMPUTERS: Apple Power Mac Dual G4
MICROPHONES: Manley Stereo Gold, Neumann U87, Neumann KM184, AKG 414TLII, Royer R121s (2x), AKG D112
OUTBOARD: Manley Variable MU Compressor, LA-2A (2x), ADL1000, Roland SRV-2000, TC Electronic M3000, TC Electronic Finalizer 96K, Digitech 2101, John Hardy mic pres, Bellari Sonic Tube Exciter, Line 6 POD, Alesis Q2
SOFTWARE: Spectrasonics Trilogy and Stylus, FXpansion BFD Drums, Waves plug-ins
ACOUSTIC GUITARS: Santa Cruz Model H acoustic; Eric Sahlin 1990 classical, Ramirez 1976 classical; Epiphone Masterbuilt EF-500, David Gomes acoustic
SYNTHS: Korg KARMA, Roland GR-50, JV-880, JV-1080, JD-800, XP-50, D-50, Juno-60, U-220, R-8, Korg M1, Wavestation, Kurzweil Micro Piano, E-mu Proformance 1, Proteus 1, Alesis D4
EXTRAS: Equitech balanced power throughout; all Mogami cable and patch cords
STUDIO NOTES: Nestled in the heart of pristine Paniolo country, on the Big Island of Hawaii, right there next to the banyan tree we’re guessing (sadly, the EQ T&E budget wouldn’t permit an in-person fact check), is Charles Michael Brotman’s Lava Tracks recording studio. Built from the ground up under the guidance of acoustic architect Chris Pelonis, Brotman’s goal for Lava Tracks was to create an acoustic paradise in paradise: “I’m an acoustic guitar player who’s been fascinated with the sound my entire life,” he says, “and that’s really a lot of what the studio is about. My life-long quest — and I don’t think I’ll ever fully achieve it — is to record guitar so naturally that the listener feels like they’re sitting there right in front of the guitarist.”
Although that quest is still a work in progress, Brotman has achieved something no one else has. Namely, bagging the first ever “Best Hawaiian Music Album” Grammy for 2005’s Slack Key Guitar Volume 2, a compilation he not only performed on, but also recorded (at Lava Tracks), produced, and released on his own Palm Records label. So something must be working.
Here, Brotman, Lava Tracks’ chief (ok, only) engineer, riffs on how the studio came to be.
“Chris got very involved with the kind of music I produce, and he wanted to build an ideal room for cutting acoustic guitar tracks. We knew we wanted a lot of airspace, high ceilings, and large bass traps, and that we didn’t want any right angles, no parallel walls, etc., so Chris did the algebra to make sure we didn’t end up with any strange standing waves. Beyond that, it was about tuning the room once it was built — making sure it was bright enough but not overly bright.
“An unexpected benefit of some of those parameters is that the room works great for a lot of other things, as well. Vocals sound great in this room, drums sound really bright and live, and electric guitars sound great, too.”
Even though the studio is optimized for recording acoustic instruments, Brotman doesn’t draw a line in the, uh, lava when it comes to projects. “Depending on what it is and how busy it is around here, I’m up for just about anything,” says Charles. “I’ve done everything from rap to ADR (automatic dialog replacement) sessions for Wayne Newton.” Danke schoen, brah, danke schoen!