Originally Posted by Greg Curtis
There is beauty in highly functional design. And so much more, I think, when it incorporates true artisan work. This kind of fine hand-labor is going extinct, btw.
There was a lot of work on my end to achieve your vulgarity. I made many trips to the warehouse that processes all of the mahogany veneer shipments to the West Coast of the U.S. I hand selected every sheet that we used, so that the grain and the size of the grain matched with no imperfections. Out of hundreds of sheets (I had to wait for the new shipment to come in to get the largest selection) only a handful matched up well enough to make the cut. I convinced a hardwood mill to make a special run of 15-foot mahogany QRD planks, and they will never do it again because the failure ratio was so high due to splitting and warping. I had to hand-make each of the walnut and mahogany diffuser boxes, which employed machining and powdercoating aluminum, as well as milling the wood, because RPG company wanted to charge an astronomical amount. I sought out and found a group of native Hungarian woodworkers living in Northridge to do all of the on-site veneering and staining because the large professional firms (that did Disney Hall) wanted $85,000 to do the same job that I got done for 1/10th that employing Zoltan Fejes and his crew. They have also built a bunch of desks and cabinets for the studio. I could go on and on. Do you see the point? One man's vulgarity is another's hard work, time, and vision.
And the work pays off in that it appeals to a clientele that can actually pay real hourly rates that allow a good modern studio to exist. It's not for me to enjoy, after all. It is more of a weight at times when we are not booked!
A lot of my clients are European and love our place, so you do not speak for all of Europe. European design, historically, is a vast museum of intense aesthetical beauty bowing to functionalism at times. So, I'm not sure what you find vulgar in my studio. Please tell me because I'm finding your viewpoint interesting. Hopefully it is not just political, because that would be disappointing.
I hope I din't write It wrong, I was very tired when I posted that but I din't want to call your place vulgar or imply that there is anything wrong with it - I reread my comment (I actually wrote it 5 times but still had trouble putting across what I wanted to say so Just cut most of it off before posting what was left) and I don't know why it is sending the wrong message.
I was trying to praise your work but at the same time express that your own expressed outlook on what is doable does not match with how you did things yourself. Part of my point which brought your studio into it all was that you achieved a "million dollar" look but at the same time I personally did not believe that you paid as much as it was worth in the end, am I making sense? Also wanted to make sure that my criticism of the studios people build today hoping for success won't be understood as aimed at you specifically.
Was also trying to say it in a way that won't be asking you to reveal how much you spent! Suffice to say there is nothing in the presentation of your studio that would make me say "oh hey, that is some cheap wood on those racks" but at the same time I assumed what you said yourself, that you put a lot of tears and blood rather than just money into making sure it was all neat.
For instance I buy used gear over long periods of time where I sometimes get things 3 times cheaper, however they are fully functional and often look like new anyway so my little private studio is about 20k in british pounds when it comes to gear but I hardly paid 20k for it. If I manage to get some of my plans underway it will be more like 200k in the near future but again will make sure to actually spend as little money as possible to achieve the same result since if I pull it all off for half or less of the cost then I have to earn that much less to avoid bailiffs.
The other poster also seemed to get the impression that I am criticising your facility so just to make it clear, I find nothing wrong with your studio and it's anything but vulgar
. I neither find nothing wrong with your reasoning or your data.
I just think that with the resources available to someone starting a business in the US it is possible to do amazing things compared to someone anywhere else in the world and that it is annoying for someone from the outside to see those inside being constantly depressed about the situation of the industry.
There is a strange dichotomy in Europe where we are cynical and tired but at the same time get annoyed with cynicism and tiredness and being fed up. Not saying it's ok, just how I see it.
Similar way people in the UK (where I live as an immigrant) moan a lot about their country yet whenever a foreigner says the same thing they instantly get defensive about it and then suddenly the health care is best, the roads are best, the government is excellent and so on. Kevin Smith calls himself fat every minute of his live shows but gets angry when someone else says the same thing - that is a very western thing that me and probably my cultural brethren from central/eastern europe find hard to understand at times.
Also the audio world is full of speculation - in the US there is space and money so studios are big and lavish.
In the UK there is money but not much space so studios are small yet people still sell it as if it's the same deal.
So either those in the UK are right which means that the US is wasting space or those in the US are right and those in the UK are living a fantasy thinking that they are doing it on the same level as their friends from LA or NYC. How it is exactly I don't know but anytime a cheaper or smaller solution performs as well, I want to figure it out first!
I was also talking about generally paying a lot for design, by that I mean paying a lot for something that is not worth a lot. Paying a million dollars for design and earning millions in return thanks to just that is not paying a lot for design I would say, am I making sense? Just that in some cities, like in London for instance, there are so many studios designed by the same company or famous designer where it's simply just nothing special, 10 studios which are exactly the same, same measurements, same arrangement etc. Like a row of modern houses in germany and they all are not getting much more business then what could be called as "project studios" existing in the same market. I would never pay as much for a modular german house design as I would for a completely custom design.
Where I was born people build these houses nowadays that are akin to this 18th century gentry ideal and some of them get the design from a catalog for about 500 dollars and some get the exact same design made custom for 5000 dollars which in the latter case I would call vulgar.
I think that a designer who would get anything scientific, like the angle or height of racks wrong is not worth half a pence. Even someone with 0 experience should be able to design a studio to the cutting edge of scientific knowledge.
Studio design is not at all more complex than designing facilities for other industries. Years ago, I've done this visual project in factory that had these amazing metal furnaces and still used early 20th century British made machines for working the metal into bimetal tapes.
Everything had to be adjusted to very strict measurements every day yet you din't have some big name designer with a beret overlooking it. Someone got paid a lot of money to figure it out but just repeating the same setup was done by engineers hired there on a daily basis including opening more production lines.
In the same sense technical integration should be within the skills of a recording engineer in my opinion. I am not an engineer but I know how to operate my side car and all of my gear, make my own cabling, do simple tests, look after basic acoustical performance and so on. As a musician I used to and still look after my own instruments - I bought the tools and learned on the job.
The way you did your own studio is exactly what I champion my self and as you said yourself, you paid 1/10 for the same quality work without paying 85k. Exactly my point.
I put great value into artisan work of the finest order so I always search out for great craftsmen. I'd rather find someone who has great ability but no business sense, pay them sensibly, overlook the work in person and achieve great results than to hire a tailor made solution that costs an arm and a leg. I get my instruments done that way and Intend to build my own place that way once I finally get over the stupid phase I am in now (long story, not even about money that much either).
I totally dig the lavishness of the US - I would love to live in an art deco era NYC and play a D'angelico.
People thinking about business as if it was before the big economical stink is what annoys me though or when it is being said that it's impossible to survive with a bit less.
Right now there is a lot of snow in the UK and I just gear up and carry on as normal yet a lot of people I had business plans with are panicking and thus slowing down my own schedule to a halt.
In the UK for instance a major sofa/painting supplies/home improvements shop closed recently and one standup commedian aptly pointed out that no wonder those shops closed, the company bought up prime real estate, created these massive shops and reportedly most of them where rubbish since a their typical huge shop would lack many essentials for home improvements thus customers where arriving but leaving without spending as much money as they where ready to spend.
They painted the shops by numbers to put it one way and they went bankrupt - my outlook on that is that the numbers they painted the business by where simply wrong!
It was like the sofa section from the fictional massive costco in the movie Idiocracy.
All these industries always refuse to accept that some gospel truth regarding the numbers might be wrong.
I bet many producers would swear 20 years ago that coke dinners are the way to go for putting out a decent record and now look at the music industry.
Anyway I think it is possible to run a studio or any business regardless of the economic situation and that everything, from design to type of drinks served in the rec room is responsible for success or failure.
I travel long distances to get instruments since archtops and other jazz related stuff (B3 anyone?) is priced through the roof, a quality Gibson Super 400 is easily 26 grand and up.
So sure it is shitty for everyone nowadays but those with the smarts and sense can still manage I think and it's not good to just blame things on a crumbling industry.
Everybody wants neumann but there is a reason that it was affordable back in the day - those who knew bought it all up and those who where not convinced enough did not.
One of the reasons why I try all kinds of gear, project studio or not.
I generally think that the "standards" of today are a bit rubbish since they all rest on the past yet where not standards in the past. Gear like the vari mu and massive passive
are pretty recent "standards" - looking at the forum you can't go wrong with massive passive
nor can you go wrong with a control room design that has the racks behind the engineer.
When Charlie Parker was blowing the minds of audiences he was not trying to achieve an authentic bebop sound, he was reaching for the modern, for the new, for the fresh.
You always need to look at how things used to be done but all of these legendary people, engineer, musician, whatever at the time usually experimented with iconoclastic ideas and gear while being informed by history and tradition yet being an iconoclast is a big no no nowadays. Nah it's all neumann and neve and even no matter how low fi, lexicon is always king and so on.
I for instance plan to design the racks into a more compact setup where instead of them being behind the engineer that space is reserved for an arranging setup with controllers and maybe another workstation so that the same control room can be for arranging and programming when it is not used for tracking or for mixing. No ssl, ITB mixing and then outboard arranged in the same place where the console would normally be, also in a fashion that does not require moving away from the sweet spot so not a very wide table but more like pipe organ manuals and stops in a church. Also toying around with an idea of the control room being lower than the live room to improve visibility. I have some experience in photography and there we have these ceiling systems which replace booms and those are very robust, where you can locate something hanging from such a system anywhere in the room at any height including heavy things like lights, with minimal effort. Given the cost of decent mike boom stands if I could make this kinda thing work with microphones it would mean less space needed to store the booms and less cabling on the floor (cabling is usually distributed through the ceiling... hard to explain really, could send a photo if I can find one if you are interested) thus less money spent on replacing cabling - dealing with counter weights is also a bitch and these ceiling systems have integrated and adjustable counter weights.
The many symphony halls and other similar institutions perform amazingly over in eastern europe yet most of them where designed and made with a fraction of the cost that people pay in the US for a project studio.
Some of those places with new funds moved to almost completely digital solutions which would probably not even be mentioned at the many trade shows in the US I would imagine.
What's my point... I think it's mostly that if something is not working out it might be because a huge desk is a time waster in some situations rather than a time saver or that certain studio design is not optimal given what the majority of the clients do in there and so on.
In the past it might have been brilliant to figure out that Neumann is the way to go but nowadays it might be brilliant to figure out what those vintage mics can be replaced with for same or ... better results!
It's a bit like audiophile versus audio pro. We laugh at the audiophile cabling and speaker stands and other things we find silly but we have our own little gospel truths that can be done without and I usually try and see what the classical people are doing today in these big institutions and follow that instead of whatever was used to record "I got you babe" back the 60ties.
Anyway all peace and tranquility to you sir!