Mar 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Heather Johnson
After three years in a sort of active limbo, super-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have finally moved into the new, private headquarters for their Flyte Tyme Productions in Santa Monica.
It's an exciting, yet bittersweet time, as the multi-Grammy — winning production team bids farewell to The Village, where they've occupied the third floor during most of the long waiting period. They'll be missed. “Our whole staff fell in love with these guys, and so did our other artists,” says The Village's CEO, Jeff Greenberg. “They're two of the hardest-working producers in the business, and they're charming. It's been a great honor and a lot of fun having them here.”
I caught up with Flyte Tyme staff engineer Matt Marrin the morning after a late night of testing speakers in the new five-room studio, which is housed in an 8,000-square-foot, steel-enclosed building originally designed by David Forbes Hibbert as a visual art space. At the time, three of the five studios were operational; the remaining two, Jam and Lewis' personal spaces, had about a month to go.
One reason for the lengthy build time, Marrin says, had to do with acquiring the necessary permits from the city of Santa Monica. But mainly, a lot of inner work needed done to get the building studio-ready. “But it was the perfect spot,” says Marrin, who, coincidentally, got his engineering start at The Village. “It had a parking garage in the bottom, balconies on the top floor, terraces, but nothing was built up on the inside.”
After completing the first floor, which contains offices for Flyte Tyme's publishing companies and labels, a conference room and lounge, Jam and Lewis brought in John Vieira to oversee studio design and Paul Cox to take charge of wiring and installation. They made the most of the new digs by foregoing a large tracking room in favor of more control rooms, vocal booths of varying sizes and tielines everywhere. “It's so extensively wired that you can do anything you want,” says Marrin. “You can select any space — including the conference room, lounge and offices — to be used with any control room. With the press of a button, automatically all of your queue mixes are instantly designated to the space you're going to work in.”
Three smaller control rooms, located at one end of the second-floor space, all share one central vocal booth. A larger, dedicated studio for Jam will include a control room and one iso booth, as well as tie-lines to his large office next door, where he will keep his grand piano. Lewis' studio will contain a control room, vocal booth and a larger recording room for piano and drums.
All five studios will contain SSL AWS 900 consoles with Total Recall, Pro Tools|HD3 Accel workstations with 32 I/O of Apogee converters, Big Ben Master Digital Clock and access to iZ RADAR, 24-track analog and other recorders via a central machine room. While small in physical size, the SSL boards seem to fit the producers' needs; they broke in two of them during their residency at The Village. “Before we took delivery of the consoles, we were mixing a lot in Pro Tools,” says Marrin, “but we didn't want to rely on just that. We needed a few channels, some EQ and mic pre's, a controller for our Pro Tools systems and a proper monitor section. The AWS seemed to take care of all those things.”
At press time, they hadn't nailed down the monitor systems for the three smaller studios. However, Lewis' studio will have a set of PMC BB5/XBDs with Bryston crossovers. “They're massive,” says Marrin. “They're about six, seven feet tall and about 31 inches deep. It's an active rig so the amps come up to about six feet. You can give them as much as you want and you're not going to kill them at all.” Jam's private recording lair will contain a pair of custom Augspurgers with TAD components; not quite as tall, so they can sit on custom cabinets.
Flyte Tyme L.A. is expected to be fully operational this month. The last of their equipment left The Village in early February after parading top-tier projects such as Janet Jackson, Usher, Gwen Stefani and many others to the top floor, while acts such as Oasis, the Rolling Stones and Nine Inch Nails worked below. Greenberg says he already has the space filled. With any luck, they'll make as good a tenant as the Jam/Lewis crew. Looking back, Greenberg says, “It's been a gas.”
Another historic studio has been saved from demolition recently. On January 19, 2006, the building and contents of Cello Studios — formerly Ocean Way East, formerly United Western Studios — went up for auction at the Sulmeyer Kupetz bankruptcy law firm. The highest bidder: Doug Rogers, president and creative director of sound developer/distributor EastWest Sounds (www.soundsonline.com).
EastWest purchased both building and contents. The facility will remain as an operational studio, and will be restored to its “former glory,” according to Rogers. “The studios are fine, but the peripheral areas need a lot of work,” says Rogers. The building suffered some water damage after the extensive floods early last year. “The roof needs replacing, the entire front of the building needs refurbishing, as well as all of the lounges, hallways and offices. We're going to bring the studio up to 21st-century standards while preserving the studios.”
The Neve consoles in Studios 1 and 2 will remain, and EastWest will install new desks in Studio 3, 5 and the Mix room. Location Connect, the company contracted to identify and evaluate all of the equipment for sale (with the exception of the microphones, which were tested by Wes Dooley of Audio Engineering Associates), deemed all equipment a-okay. “Our engineer, Richard Robinson, tested the consoles and every bit of outboard, including the three Fairchilds, two of which have been stored in the attic, and found all to be operational,” says Pournelle. “All of this information is being presented to the new owners.”
News of the sale comes as a great relief to the L.A. studio community, which has lost nearly 30 rooms spread between several facilities during the past year, according to Studio Referral Services' Ellis Sorkin. “There were people seriously depressed about it,” says Sorkin, who helped some of Cello's regular clients find new places to work.
But Cello's filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 28, 2005, hit the community especially hard. [See April 2005 “Grapevine” for more info.] Many feared that the historic building — built in 1917, redesigned in '61 by Bill Putnam — would end up in the hands of a revenue-minded developer who would ultimately demolish it. That almost happened. If Rogers hadn't won the bid, 6000 Sunset Blvd. would have gone to a wealthy real estate developer, and the prime corner space would have surely become the site of a new shopping mall.
But that won't happen now, and within a matter a months, regulars such as Jim Scott, Rick Rubin and Jon Brion will have the opportunity to return to Cello, now known as EastWest Studios, although they'll naturally have to work around a busy calendar of EastWest projects. “We needed a good facility for what we do,” says Rogers. “We're all sound fanatics over here, and because we're not relying on outside studio business, we can acquire things that most studios couldn't justify. We'll have sounds, software and recording under one roof. Our aim is to have one of the top studios in the world.”
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