NASHVILLE SKYLINE

Mar 1, 2001 12:00 PM, Dan Daley

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The adaptation of Nashville to the New Economic Order continues. In February, Sound Stage opened a new and comprehensive Pro Tools-based studio. The 48-fader Pro Tools system is situated in a studio at Sound Stage, which previously held an older SSL 4000 Series console that has been moved to a second studio in the former Warner Bros. Records building Sound Stage owns on Music Row.

The surge toward hard disk-based recording has accelerated in recent months in Nashville, observes Sound Stage owner Warren Rhodes, who says he also plans to convert the facility's accounting office into a Pro Tools hosting suite — an acoustically treated studio room in which users can bring their own Pro Tools and other hard disk recording systems in and use them in an environment close to other studio activities around the Row and also access other aspects of Sound Stage's complex. The new Pro Tools suite, which retains the studio designation Second Stage, opened in early February with a daily rate of $650, including a Pro Tools-trained engineer; the planned host suite will charge $250 per day.

These moves are a response to an evolving economic and technological landscape that is changing the way Nashville's music recording business operates, says Rhodes. “The number of calls for Pro Tools that we've been getting has been steadily increasing,” he states. “The trend in [surround] mixing is toward cheaper rooms, and this addresses that trend, with multichannel capability and a less-expensive console. Also, it's easier in that people can simply come in and plug in their drives and not have to go through a transfer process to get started working.”

Hard disk recording as a technology and a methodology is hitting Nashville the same way that two other major trends in pro audio — project studio-type equipment and the shift to producer-owned facilities — did over the last decade: late and hard. As recently as the mid-1990s, Pro Tools systems were relatively rare in Nashville, and their use on records for high-profile artists sometimes came close to requiring nondisclosure agreements, reflecting the sensitivity with which the country music industry felt about using technology — digital auto-tuning, especially — to tweak recordings that the industry preferred to have the world regard as almost totally organically created.

The rapid expansion of demand for hard disk recording capability in general, and Pro Tools in particular, has also underscored the lack of well-trained operators in Nashville. “Suddenly, we find that we have more Pro Tools [demand] than we have trained operators,” Rhodes states. Responding to that circumstance, Rhodes has become part of the board of directors assembled by David Frangioni, owner of Pro Tools dealer and studio design facility Audio One, which has offices in Nashville as well as Miami and Boston, for the Audio One Southeast Pro Tools Training Center, a Pro Tools-specific training facility opened in north Miami in January. That training facility will supply Sound Stage with Pro Tools operators and serve as a general resource for entry-level technical employees, Rhodes says. That move, in turn, is part of a larger agreement, pending at press time, for Audio One and Sound Stage's maintenance and rental division, Interface Audio, to joint-venture a new maintenance and equipment rental start-up in the Miami area sometime later this year.

Woodland Woes: Woodland Studios, one of Nashville's most venerable facilities that was nearly destroyed in the tornado that devastated the city in April 1998, is still in limbo. But there has been some movement. Studio owner Bob Solomon has moved the equipment, including the Neve 8088 and VR-60 consoles, out of the building and across the street, into a former bank building, which he purchased late last year as a hedge against the ongoing imbroglio with the owners of the building, which has been Woodland's home since it opened in 1968.

Solomon says there are no immediate plans to convert the bank into a recording studio, but he stressed that it is his intention to get Woodland back up and running — somewhere, sometime. Much of that rests on how Solomon's litigation against his insurance company turns out — he is suing them for failing to provide promised coverage — and how his ongoing dispute with the owners of the original building works out. Solomon, who bought Woodland in 1990, says the group of owners has not made necessary repairs to the building since the tornado. A limited number of sessions have managed to take place at the studio over the last three years, the last of which was blues guitarist Robert Cray's new album, before Solomon pulled the equipment, mostly he says to protect it from the elements coming in through a leaking roof and from a lack of heat and air conditioning.

Solomon says he and engineer/producer Roger Moutenout, who had leased space in the back of the studio for his own equipment, have discussed the possibility of taking some of the equipment and setting it in the bank in what Solomon calls “Daniel Lanois-style — no control room, just a console and a microphone.” But no decision has been reached on that, which Solomon says would be an interim move in any event. “I still want to bring the studio back,” he says. “It has been unbelievably frustrating dealing with all of this.”


Send comments and information to Dan Daley at danwriter@aol.com.






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