FM Recorders Goes Public

Mar 1, 2006 12:00 PM, Compiled by Heather Johnson



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Hidden away in a large, unmarked warehouse on the Oakland/Emeryville, Calif., border, hit production team Denzil Foster and Tommy McElroy have busily churned out tracks for En Vogue, Regina Belle, Silk-E and others since 1994. With 16,000 square feet at their disposal, the duo never outgrew the space — just the opposite. As recording technology become more computer-centered, they found they didn't need as much space as they used to. But bands around town would love it.

Co-owner/producer Sep Valizadeh (seated), engineer Mike Wilhelm (left) and engineer Rich Graff in the FM control room
photo: David Wright

In early 2005, after teaming with co-owner/producer/manager Sep Valizadeh, FM Recorders ( opened as a public facility, but with a distinct focus on developing independents and, more specifically, becoming a tool to reinvigorate the San Francisco Bay Area music scene. The transition from private to public began in early 2004, when Valizadeh launched an open-mic night to recruit new talent. Soon, bands began soliciting him, wanting to know how they could get in on this East Bay action. “We couldn't really say no,” Valizadeh adds, “because we started to achieve what we initially set out to do, which was to create a scene.”

The 1,200-square-foot, Chips Davis — designed LEDE control room features a Euphonix 2000-M digitally controlled analog mixing desk, and an extensive selection of outboard gear and microphones. “We have two [Otari MTR-100 24-track] analog machines, a Pro Tools MIXPlus system and a Tascam MX-2424 hard disk recorder online,” says Valizadeh. “We can slave them together, and with the Euphonix TT007 unit, we have transport control in any part of the room.”

Recent mods include adding tielines and a headphone cue system to Live Room B, a highly reverberant rehearsal/recording space that works well for drum sounds, full band projects and recording their own samples and reverbs. Live Room A, also known as the “fish tank,” was also designed by Davis and features rotatable panels to alter the room's acoustics. Hallways, lounge area, office area and even a bathroom can serve as additional recording areas.

Perks at FM include the use of numerous keyboards and synths, guitars and amps, and a Hammond B3 organ, among other items. Tenant Steven Jarvis' equipment-rental business is right down the hall. Bands also work with one of several in-house engineers, although it's not unusual for Valizadeh or McElroy to lend a hand. The studio, however, is only one element of FM Recorders' much larger vision. In the coming months, they will develop, produce and record new acts, as well as launch a new division that will take their involvement in the local scene one step further.

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