L.A. Grapevine

Apr 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Maureen Droney


Education Guide

Mix is gearing up to present its longstanding annual Audio Education Guide in its November 2014 issue. Want to have your school listed in the directory, or do you need to update your current directory listing? Add an image, program description, or a logo to your listing! Get your school in the Mix Education Guide 2014.

For some time, I've been suggesting (yet an other!) designated Grammy Award category: Best Cartage of the Year. With the proliferation of home studios and the decimation of recording budgets, the challenges of the business have grown exponentially. Just ask Jimmy Giglio of Mates, the North Hollywood cartage, rental, storage and rehearsal studio company founded by his partner, Bob Brunner.

“It's true,” Giglio says with a rueful laugh. “With budgets down, people are cutting back. What they don't realize is that in this business, a lot of times it's the little guys that make things happen. Rehearsal and cartage are bottom-line necessities, but, especially with cartage, most people just don't realize what goes into it. Sometimes, what we do is actually physically dangerous. There'll be 400 to 500-pound equipment racks, 2-inch tape machines and a driveway that a truck can't fit up. It takes four guys and three hours, sometimes on short notice, and safety always has to come first.”

There's probably nobody in town with more insider knowledge of the Los Angeles music scene than Brunner and Giglio. Although they won't talk, they're privy to the who, what, when, where and why of just about everything that goes on. Says Giglio, “It's easier to list who hasn't worked at Mates than who has. But when you come to Mates, it's your business and nobody else's.”

It all began back in the early '80s. That's when Brunner, who'd grown up in New York “around the music business” (his father was a press agent for such jazz notables as Louis Armstrong), opened his first rehearsal studio. “I fell into this,” he admits, “and I learned from the school of hard knocks. In the beginning, I made so little money I actually lived here for four years. I never had any investors, but when Guns N' Roses blocked out a lot of time for Use Your Illusion 1 and 2, there was an influx of money that I poured back into the business. That's when I started the cartage division.”

Giglio, a Massachusetts native, elaborates on the details of his introduction to Brunner: “I came out with a band in 1982. In between gigs, I had nowhere to live, so I was sleeping on the couch at Mates. I wasn't the only one! A lot of people got their start here. Finally, in 1997, I came back off the road from Brazil, realized it was time for a change and went to work with Bob.”

Today, Mates has three rehearsal rooms, 60 or so storage lockers, 12 employees, five trucks and somewhere around 150 cartage accounts. The largest rehearsal stage has a sophisticated acoustic environment with an Electrotec (now PRG) P.A. and monitors — powered by Crown amps — and a Soundcraft SM12 monitor desk. The two smaller rooms, also equipped with monitor systems, are likewise set up for privacy with separate bathrooms.

Brunner relies on his large network of friends to stay on top of new gear. “I have a lot of help around town, great contacts with their ears to the ground and great suggestions: People like sound tech Tony Byrd and Ted Leamy, who's with JBL now but was with Electrotec for a long time.”

Business continues to grow. A new addition to the complex is a Pro Tools production and recording suite, a joint venture in artist development with producers Mike Clink and Noel Golden. On the cartage side, there's more than pick up and drop off. Some sessions require a Mates tech to set up equipment or to work the entire session. There are backline rentals, and Mates now handles worldwide freight forwarding for many of its touring clients. “We work a lot with Sound Moves,” says Giglio. “For the techs, artist managers and tour managers, it just became simpler to have us help in that area. They can take care of things with one phone call. There's so much going on with a rock tour, when people need something done, they want it off their plate without having to worry about it. They can just talk to us once and it's done.”

The friendly mom-and-pop (actually, pop-and-pop) vibe of Mates remains constant, but these days, Brunner tries to quit by five to go home to his family. “It's hard to make myself leave,” he admits. “I like what I do: being around artists and creative people, and especially the production managers and technicians — the unsung heroes. It never fails to blow my mind what it takes to make a show or an album happen. At Mates, we try to make things a little easier for our clients to do their jobs and to make them comfortable while they're doing them.”

Hollywood Sound Recorders has completed a major renovation and is celebrating both its reopening and the debut of its hybrid 64-channel Neve 8068/API console. Founded in 1965 by songwriter Jesse Hodges, the venerable Hollywood Sound complex has, during the years, hosted a long list of classic recordings by such artists as Earth Wind & Fire, Prince, George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, as well as current hits by Slayer, System of a Down and the Black Crowes. Most recently, along with much of the rest of Hollywood, HSR had been struggling. Now owned by Hodges' son Jon, an entrepreneur in his own right, HSR is re-emerging as a comfortable, hip and live music — friendly environment for budget-conscious bands.

Situated in the heart of what has been a slowly but surely gentrifying area, HSR seems poised to take advantage of both its history and the energy of the neighborhood. There's also new energy in the building. In addition to the main first-floor studio, two newly constructed studios, occupied by producers Dave Cobb and Brad Todd, are now on the second floor, as is L.A. Entertainment, a record label/promotion company joint venture between Hodges and producer/composer Jim Ervin.

Hollywood Sound's original studios were known for being solidly built and much of the infrastructure has been left intact. The big change is that the facility's two smaller studios have been combined into one that boasts a large tracking area with five iso rooms, new bathrooms and a spacious lounge.

“Basically, I've redone, at least cosmetically, every square inch of the building,” explains Hodges, who's carved a successful nonmusic business career out of two golf-related companies. “My dad started with a little studio, and over the years bought out the entire building. It was a great place in its day, but it hadn't been making money for a long time. I grew up around the studios, but I'm not a musician; I'm more of a businessman. When I took over the building, I wasn't sure what to do with it. Finally, I decided that I wanted to keep it as a studio. There were a lot of great records made here, and I want to bring that history back. A lot of people helped us with the new studio design, like George Augspurger, Chris McClure, Steven Klein and Chris Pelonis. It was a big decision for me and it's been a lot of work, but everybody seems to love the result.”

Except for cosmetics, the original control room of Studio A was left mostly intact. “In the control room, all we really did was take out the raised floor, which used to be a foot or so higher than it is now,” Hodges comments. “That makes the room feel much more open and spacious.”

The upgrades have resulted in a warm, earth-toned design with natural bark wall treatments that somehow manages to feel both modern and vintage with a comfy living room vibe. The “best of both worlds” theme continues with the console: a combination Neve 8068 and custom API with 550A EQ modules. Tied together through the Neve center section, the console features 16 bus outs, eight aux sends and 48 channels of Flying Faders. (An additional 16 faders are slated for Flying Faders, for a total of 64 automated inputs.) Work on the console was done all in-house, under the auspices of chief tech “Chuckie,” with the help of an international consortium: engineers Aleks Tamulis, Bryan Davis, Selim Achour and Garen Avetisyan.

Other equipment in the main studio includes Pro Tools, a Studer A827, an Ampex ½-inch ATR 100 and a good complement of outboard gear: UREI, dbx, Summit, Avalon, Universal Audio, Altec, Lexicon, Eventide, Yamaha and TC Electronic signal processing. There are also two EMT plates: a 240 and a 140. Main monitors are George Augspurger with JBL and TAD components; near-fields include Tannoy Super Gold with Mastering Lab crossovers, Noberg BCS 16Bs, Yamaha NS-10s and Auratones.

The second floor has its own separate entrance, a reception area, a lounge and bathrooms. The studios, which were built as “rooms within rooms” to provide sonic isolation, feature picture windows that look out over Hollywood. Cobb's studio is fitted with an SSL 4000 E/G Plus, and Todd's is a Pro Tools suite with an abundance of outboard gear and microphones.

“The renovation is really in memory of my father,” says Hodges. “It has been a labor of love that I couldn't have done without the support of both my wife, Amy, and my mother, Betty. My hope is that the studio will be able to thrive for another 40 years and continue to make music that lasts forever.” Visit www.HollywoodSound.net for more info.

Got L.A. news? E-mail MaureenDroney@aol.com.

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