Jan 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Maureen Droney
Midas Records (www.midasrecords.net) in Canoga Park is a company with a plan, a major component of which is a full-service studio dedicated to nurturing Midas artists. Founded by Ron Clapper, a successful entrepreneur, businessman and game developer, Midas has a stated goal of creating long-term careers founded on a diverse marketing base. “A studio was part of the business plan,” explains Midas VP of A&R Andrew Nast. “Ron dedicated a wing of his warehouse to it, and we built it from the ground up. I called in Tony Clearwater, because I'd seen the work he'd done for The Matrix and for [Robert Margouleff's] Mi Casa Studios. He had a lot of ideas. He was also able to do the job in only 60 working days!”
The 800-square-foot live room and a 400-square-foot control room, with lots of wood and muted earth tones, look like they took a lot longer than that. “For this project, I did both the architectural work and the interior design,” says Clearwater. “They wanted a big live room because they're expecting to do a lot of drum tracking, live bands and piano. They also wanted a large control room. I used a ‘cloud’ on the ceiling, which hides a huge bass trap. In the corners, I tried something new: 605 insulation over pegboard, with Novawall [fabric] on top of that in a kind of pillar/plinth shape that worked particularly well for bass trapping. Bob Hodas tuned the room; when we shot it, it came out just about perfect.”
The innovative speaker stands housing Midas' main Augspurger speakers were also designed by Clearwater. Solid but unobtrusive, they're made of welded steel weighted with sand and look to be something that could catch on with other studios that don't use soffits for their large speakers.
A Euphonix CS2000 is the centerpiece of the control room. Paul Cox did the studio wiring, and Joe Taupier, manager of West L.A. Music/Hollywood, put together the bulk of the equipment package. “They had a short time frame and wanted to keep all their options open,” relates Taupier. “Pro Tools¦HD with a Waves Diamond bundle was the recording system choice. They also have a Martinsound MultiMAX EX for 5.1 monitoring. Among other gear, they have Brent Averill mic preamps and an Apogee Big Ben studio clock. The mic package includes Blue Bottle and Blue Mouse microphones, Royer 122s, AKG 414s and Sennheiser MD-421s.”
Midas' first ADA/WEA distributed release, Believe in Angels… Believe in Me, by teen singer Angel, was produced by The Wizardz of Oz. Angel is a former member of No Secrets, whose single, “That's What Girls Do,” made them a Nickelodeon mainstay. In keeping with Midas' marketing vision, Angel spent the summer working her record with a mall tour, television appearances and VH-1's Save the Music tour.
Midas' second artist, Auggie, is part of the Jackson family clan: He's the 18-year-old son of Rebbie and nephew of Janet and Michael. Auggie's album is being produced and engineered by Nast, and recorded entirely at Midas Studios, with guest appearances by such veteran musicians as Larry Goldings, David Williams and Benjamin Wright.
Some of the most striking commercials you've seen — and heard — in the past few years were scored by Endless Noise (www.endlessnoise.com). Nike's “Freestyle,” with its Stomp-like track composed from shoe squeaks and basketball bounces; Audi's “Progressions,” with its mash-up of David Bowie's “Rebel Rebel” and “Never Get Old”; Nike Golf's cheerfully retro underscore to “Hackeysack,” featuring Tiger Woods juggling a golf ball; and Nike's “Before”, depicting athletes warming up to the sounds of a tuning orchestra are all examples of the unique blend of original music and sound design that Endless Noise specializes in.
I stopped in for a visit with Jeff Elmassian, Endless Noise's founder/creative director, at the company's new home — a suite of offices and studios with a wraparound balcony overlooking Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade. Considering its body of award-winning work, and in spite of the fact that it houses three Pro Tools — outfitted studios and several production offices, the facility proved surprisingly intimate and deceptively nontechnical-looking.
Elmassian, who previously partnered in a successful and much larger commercial advertising sound company (also named Endless Noise), explains, “Through the '80s and '90s, commercials were all we did and we had a big facility,” he says. “But my background was in films. Eventually, I decided to take a hiatus from commercials to work on films again. For that, I didn't need a lot of space and I started working at home out of my guesthouse.”
When he returned to advertising work, one of Elmassian's very first projects was the Nike/Tiger Woods spot. Its success started a roll, causing him to re-launch Endless Noise — from the guesthouse. Elmassian was also determined to continue his film work.
“I wanted to keep myself balanced between the film and commercial world, and I wanted to keep a lower overhead,” he says. “The leanness of the operation let us concentrate on building up a strong creative side to the reel, culminating in the Nike ‘Freestyle’ campaign, where the guys are juggling the basketballs. That project perpetuated more creative work, and we ended up with an A-list company that I was still operating out of my guesthouse.”
The guesthouse vibe continues at the new digs. Decorated by S2 Interior Design, the Santa Monica facility houses 10 employees, including executive producer Celia Williams, composers Andy Rehfeldt and Chris Guardino, and sound designers Scott Friedman and Kevin Keller.
“In our original incarnation, we had a 5,000-square-foot space with four studios, a large recording room and a big warehouse,” Elmassian notes. “All that to cater to what was a third of the work we're now producing here in half that space. Before, with the amount of tapes and all the people coming in and out, the production environment and infrastructure required was so much bigger. Now, we can do 80 percent of what we need on our own, in smaller studios, with less equipment. For orchestral sessions or for live drums, we have access to some of the best studios in the world, like Capitol, The Village or the Paramount Scoring Stage. We prefer to go to those places for both the technical advantages and for the vibe. And even with tight budgets, clients appreciate that.”
Today's work logistics, thanks to servers and FTP transmission, have also helped increase the company's reach. “Not that long ago,” Elmassian says, “it was a lot more difficult to work with clients in New York, Chicago, Europe or Asia. It just took more time and expense to collaborate and make changes. Now, people understand that, almost anywhere, you're a phone call and a five-minute upload from getting your changes. That's opened a lot of creative doors for us.”
Endless Noise's sound designers are musicians first; the company seeks out projects that require the seamless integration of sound effects and music. Currently in the works are projects for Dell Computers, Cheerios, Chevrolet, MasterCard, Lucky Charms and Claritin, among others. Also ongoing at the facility are updating and remixing for new versions of songs a lá the David Bowie mash-up. And, of course, Elmassian continues working in film, with his recent musical contributions to animation featured in Warner Bros.' Baby Looney Tunes Christmas. “We're not a production line and I don't ever want to become one,” he concludes. “Today, I think people are seeking out a place where they can render the creative kind of work that comes from personal involvement. That's something we definitely offer.”
Got L.A. stories? E-mail MaureenDroney@aol.com.
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