Thanks for all the great insight thus far. Here's to more fantastic posts!
You seem like the kind of producer that goes to great lengths to make your bands absolutely 100% comfortable throughout the recording process.
Have you ever been involved in a project where you felt that you couldn't get the best from a band? What kind of lengths have you had to go to in the past to get an chilled and creative atmosphere in the studio?
Tool strike me as a band that seem to really create their own vibe wherever they record (the candles, Dannys backdrop etc). Care to share any thoughts on the above?
I've worked in some real dumps. Sound City was a dump. I tried to dress it up by fixing the broken stained glass, replacing furniture and light fixtures, painting the hall and office. But it didn't change the fact that you still had to wash your coffee cups out in a broken bathroom sink, and the couches were so gross that you needed to cover them up to sit on them... But it was "comfortable" and it did have a certain vibe. My room at Sound City had upgraded lighting, a nice couch, and a hell-a lot of great equipment including my Neve 8038.
When I moved to Weed I wanted the new studio to be comfortable enough that you could put your feet up on the furniture, but not so awful that you wanted to leave right away. When I found the theater building I knew it was the place. The theater had all kinds of special spaces to record and hide out, and it had a commercial kitchen with espresso machine and modern appliances, and an apartment for bands that was an upgrade from a touring bus but not too fancy. Just in case there was apartment trashing going on, and there was.
The Tool guys like the mystical candle/pentagram crap... but I stopped lighting candles in the studio because when you are a studio owner you don't need fire hazards where they are not fully monitored. No more candles unless the singer is a big baby. I used to carry all kinds of Christmas lights and lava lamps into the studios but since the entire theater is an art piece, no need to dress it up any further.
In some ways I want the clients to feel uneasy and on edge. That they are not sure what is around the corner. Haunted studio stories abound at my theater, and they keep musicians on their toes, restless and uncomfortable. I'll keep the lights bright and the room cold if I'm trying to get a certain type of performance from an artist. Once I told Maynard from Tool to run around the block several times before we would continue recording vocals. He needed to be angry in order to really get that blood-curdling scream. He came back in after the run and really let it rip. That was the master take on "Crawl Away" on Undertow. A really pissed off Maynard.
Here are photos of what happens when a band gets "comfortable" in the studio's apartment...