Studio name: Sweetfire Studios
Location: 424 3rd Ave., 2nd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11214
Key Crew: Michael Barile (pictured middle), Producer/Head Engineer; Hamboussi (pictured left), Producer/Studio Manager/Art Director; Georgios Pesios (pictured right), Engineer/Session Musician; Francine Barile, Assistant Engineer/Customer Relations
Latest projects: Constantine Maroulis, Stoned Fire, DareDevil Squadron
Computer, DAW, recording hardware: (2) Apple Mac Pro 66GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor 3GB, 6GB memory; (3) 640GB internal hard drives, 18x double-layer SuperDrive, (4) Alesis HD24 hard-disk recorders
Software/plug-ins: Apple Logic, MainStage; Avid Music Production Toolkit, Avid/Digidesign Pro Tools; McDSP plug-ins; Waves SSL 4000 Collection
Console: Avid Control|24, Mackie SR32•8 with a 24-channel expander board
Synths, modules: Clavinova 88 weighted keys, Fender Rhodes, Farfisa organ, M-Audio 61-Key MIDI Controller
Guitars, basses: 1985 Fender Stratocaster with scalloped fretboard, 1961 Fender P Bass, Modulus Flea Bass 4
Amps: 1978 Marshall JMP 50-Watt head, Marshall JCM 800 (modified by HMJ for Steve Stevens [Billy Idol, Michael Jackson]), Marshall JCM 800 (modified by HMJ for Scott Ian [Anthrax])
Kits/Snares: 1996 custom Drum Workshop shells; Tama Artstar shells, 1986 14"x8" Tama Artstar Snare; (2) 14"x6" Custom DW Snares
Mics: 1978 AKG C 414 EB, (2) D 112; (4) Audio-Technica AT4033; Audix i-5; Electro-Voice RE20; (2) MCA matched vintage mics; Neumann TLM 170; (4) Sennheiser e 504, e 602, MD 409 U 3, MD 421; (5) Shure SM57, (3) SM58; Studio Projects C1
EQ/Preamps: Ashly SC-66A stereo parametric EQ; Avalon Vt-737sp; (3) 1989 TL Audio Stereo Tube preamps, VI-1 8 channel valve Interface.
Compressors: Aphex Systems 661; 1973 dbx 160, 1974 dbx 161, dbx 166; 1960s Urei LA-4
Effects: Alesis MidiVerb II; dbx Subharmonic Synthesizer; Korg A1 prototype, A2; Lexicon LXP1, MPX1, PCM70, Prime Time
Room treatment: Auralex Acoustics
Power Conditioning: (4) Furman power conditioners
Monitors: Mackies, Polks, Radio Shacks, RORs, Yamaha NS10s
Headphones: Sennheiser, Sony
You say you appreciate new technology, as well as “traditional recording values.” How do you strike the balance?
Barile: It’s obvious what technology has done to make our lives a lot easier. However, I go back and forth in terms of what the trade-off has been. For us, the most important thing is to use all of the performance as much as possible. Cutting and pasting the first verse into the second loses something for me. I call it “the progression inside the progression,” which is the human factor. A better way of saying it is that a drummer never plays the second verse the same way he/she plays the first verse. If you’re a musician, you’ll understand that playing a song affects you, so by the time you’ve gotten to the second verse, you’ve already played a chorus, which means that emotionally, you’re in a different place. The same thing applies to the second chorus; it’s usually more intense. It’s a “progression inside a progression.” This gets completely lost when you’re cutting and pasting. “Reel rock” is never played that way! Technology should be used to enhance talent, not create it.
What are your goals for the studio?
Barile: It was always my intention to approach recording from the artists’ perspective. I used to hate going to recording studios because of the sterile environment and being told, “You can’t use this sound, or that amp.” Also, playing in a telephone-booth style room 40 feet away from the drummer didn’t help the vibe either. So, we created a large live-room scenario that has taken away all the things I hated about recording studios. We still have a vocal iso booth and baffles, but the way the studio was built—over 20 years ago—works to accommodate the artist. In addition to recording artists, we also do scoring, jingles, movie soundtracks, voiceovers, and editing.
What gear couldn’t you live without at Sweetfire?
Barile: My Ears! I know it may seem egotistical, but it’s true. I’ve been fortunate that because of my ears I’ve always been able to get the sound I wanted, regardless of the equipment available. With that being said, more important than the gear used is my staff and the talent that walks through our doors. Without them, what good is anything, really?
What is one “aha moment” you’ve had in your career as a producer?
Barile: It was learning that being the greatest songwriter, guitarist, bassist, drummer, singer, band, or musician is only half of what it takes to be successful. The other half is knowing that no one can make it on their own. There are people who do know better than you. And, for every great goal there are greater sacrifices.