Capitol Studios

Nov 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Maureen Droney

Quality Takes Center Stage in Hollywood


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The new Neve 88R in the refurbished, re-wired Studio A.

The new Neve 88R in the refurbished, re-wired Studio A.

Something very interesting has been going on for the last 18 months or so at the historic Capitol Records Tower and Studios in Hollywood. Although embroiled in uncertainty during that time due to the impending sale of parent company EMI to Universal Music, the studios, label archives, and overall facility headquartered at 1750 North Vine Street have all been part of an ambitious effort to position EMI Capitol on the leading edge of the current music industry trend toward both sonic and artistic quality.

The Creative Hub

EMI, of course, is one of the last remaining labels to own studios. Both Capitol and London’s Abbey Road are unquestionably historic treasures, temples of sound that encompass a rich heritage of quality. Capitol’s studios, for example, were designed in the 1950s to accommodate the debut of stereophonic recordings, and are well known for classic recordings by artists from Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and the Beach Boys to Ray Charles and Diana Krall. Now, the Capitol team is building on that imposing legacy of quality sound as the industry moves into the future.

“Capitol’s studios were purpose-built to make superior recordings for Capitol Records,” explains Dan McCarroll, president of Capitol Records. “We want to re-live that theme. Especially in today’s world, where almost anyone can get access to some kind of music-making software, having a true world-class studio at our fingertips is an incredible tool to help distinguish our recordings from everything else that’s out there.”

Among the three main studios, multiple mastering rooms and numerous other recording spaces housed in the multi-story building, a new philosophy aimed at maximizing creativity has taken hold.

“We want to ensure that the Tower and the studios are a place where artists can feel, and be, at their most creative,” says EMI Music EVP Barak Moffitt. “We also want to encourage serendipity in the creative process. On a daily basis, we have talent flowing throughout the building. People are making amazing, and sometimes unplanned, creative connections with each other. Now our goal is to let the industry overall know that we are building an innovative, active—and iconic—creative center where the Capitol historical legacy is also creating the legacy of the future.”

To do all this, the team started by going back to the basics. “We wanted an ‘artist first’ experience,” says Moffitt. “We started by tracking the steps of an artist working here and examining what their recording experience was like. We made room in the front of the parking lot for performers and creative professionals. We added welcome signs, along with badged entry and parking cards for our regular artist, musician, producer and engineer clients. And although the studios, of course, have private lounges, we also built attractive common spaces where people can interact—and that serendipity can happen.”

Several well-known producers and engineers have become artists-in-residence with personal studios in the Tower, among them Jon Brion, Greg Koller and Eric Cadieux, who work with McCarroll on a wide range of projects, and Niko Bolas, who moved into the Tower more than a year ago. Says McCarroll, “Artists need to be in an environment where experimentation is encouraged. Having Jon Brion and his team in the building has been amazing—whether it’s behind the console putting their mojo into a mix or working in the live room with an artist. When you get that kind of creativity going with your artists, you’d better make sure you’re recording.”

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