Excerpts From Making Tracks

Can you give me a visual tour of Allaire?Basically, there are two main wings to this place, the north and the south wing. The north wing contains the Great Hall Studio, while the south wing contains the Neve Room. In each wing there are a number of bedrooms as well. This is a lot more than a studio; it’s like a hotel. There are about 14 bedrooms and there’s a kitchen that sometimes operates all day long.
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What kind of construction issues were you dealing with when Allaire was built?

The infrastructural issues were immense. In order to have proper sound isolation, they had to build a room around the Great Hall to protect it from outside noise and to keep noise from getting out, so they wrapped the whole building in scaffolding to do the work.

The fellows who were supervising the construction started calling me and asking me questions from afar. “Should we do this, or should we do that?” “People have told us we should have these monitors, what do you think?” I was answering questions for three months over the phone until they finally asked me to get involved in a more serious way. I drafted Ken McKim, who had been the very respected Chief Technician at Bearsville, since I knew that I couldn’t tackle this thing alone. Ken and I basically walked the process through from the blueprints. They hired John Storyk, the renowned architect and acoustician, and I felt it was important to have George Augspurger involved, too. George’s philosophy has seeped into just about every good studio in the United States. He’s a really capable guy and has got it all together on the theoretical end and the practical end. He used to be a speaker designer at JBL, and he’s the person responsible for the sound of the control room.

So you got the best of both worlds . . . John Storyk and George Augspurger.

It works, because John was in charge of the entire architectural operation. He has a big office with a very capable staff; there’s a lot of detail in those plans. It contrasted with Albert [Grossman]’s approach, since when I worked for Albert, Albert would sit down . . . he wouldn’t even sit down. He had a contractor or a builder working for him all the time, and he would draw something on a napkin and just say, here . . . and the guy would do it [laughs]. John Storyk’s work was really specific, you know, with hundreds of detailed Auto Cad drawings.

Did you spec out the Neve? You have very nice SSL and Neve consoles.

Well, we didn’t really plan it, frankly. I suggested that we get a small analog console for the project studio. It would make a lot of sense because people could use the mic inputs and all that. And the fellow who was the supervisor at that time said, “Why don’t you see if you can find a Neve?”

So you found one. Can you tell me about it?

It’s an 8068 with 32 channels that came from a commercial studio in Miami. We did it just as a very informal way to get things going before the Great Hall studio was ready.

So the Neve Room was always an “open-air” studio with the artist and control room in the same room? Why did you take this approach?

It’s just a really easy way to work, and you don’t have to build a control room. One of the most interesting aspects of that development is that people would come up and have to adjust to it or relate to it. Some people are quite happy to do it. Steve Lillywhite and U2 and others have done it countless times.

Has this approach worked particularly well for certain kinds of artists?

I don’t know, I don’t think it’s discriminatory in any way. Psychologically, it’s nice because it doesn’t feel so imposing; there are literally no walls. There’s sort of a mythical and a real aspect to that. When you take the walls out, you do put the engineer at a slight disadvantage because they can’t monitor exactly the way they might be accustomed to, but it also makes it easier to communicate. At the end of the day, you’re trying to put some energy into the record and this approach just helps make the energy happen. All the electronics and all the recording gear is still really first rate: the Neve console, the API outboard, the really nice limiters and EQs and compressors and stuff like that are all there. We try to give our clients the best of everything.

Jeff Touzeau’s new book, the beautifully assembled Making Tracks, gets deep into some of the world’s most interesting recording facilities, and is available at many a fine literary establishment. Check it out — it’s cool.