New York Metro

Sep 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Paul Verna

Polls


Mix Regional

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The allure of Allaire: By definition, “New York Metro” focuses on recording activities in and around the Big Apple. Whether a residential studio nestled in a sylvan paradise well beyond the city's limits qualifies for inclusion is open to debate. What's certain is that Allaire Studios in Shokan, N.Y., caters to some of the industry's top talent and offers an alternative to urban facilities. It's hard to imagine a recording environment more physically beautiful and more conducive to meditation and creativity than Allaire. The place is the epitome of the residential studio, in that it offers the best of all worlds technologically and acoustically (a huge Neve tracking/mixing room and an even bigger SSL studio), peerless technical support and luxurious — though not opulent — accommodations.

In these days of tight budgets and creative (i.e., homespun) recording solutions, Allaire seems almost anachronistic. The studio's proximity to the storied hamlet of Woodstock, N.Y., brings to mind The Band's basement sessions at Big Pink. Allaire also conjures up images of the now-defunct Manor residential complex in the English countryside, where Mike Oldfield set the stage for the era of indulgence by holing himself up for months to craft his masterpiece, Tubular Bells. It seems impossible that a new studio could be born in the 21st century with a concept that thrived in a bygone era, and has since been all but discarded. Nevertheless, Allaire makes it happen in the most convincing way.

Founded a mere two years ago by entrepreneurs Randall and Jackie Wallace, the studio has already amassed an awesome credit list: David Bowie, Norah Jones, Tim McGraw, Joan Baez, the Gipsy Kings, Tim and Neil Finn, Cassandra Wilson, Sir James Galway, Guster and Natalie Merchant, to name a few. Many of these artists have sung the praises of Allaire in interviews, and Bowie has gone as far as buying a large tract of land in the studio's vicinity, according to The New York Observer.

Artists flock to Allaire because of its secluded setting, its breathtaking views, its giant acoustic spaces, its state-of-the-art equipment and its staff. The two-room facility — which was designed by John Storyk and George Augspurger — offers a wide range of options. The Neve studio, which houses an 8068 with Uptown auto-mation and Fred Hill mods, is a 37×30-foot area with the console set in a corner of the room facing inward diagonally. There is no control room; just open space with an adjoining foyer and lounge (plus a third room that can be used for isolation). For mixing sessions, gobos are arrayed behind the mixing position to tone down the “liveness” of the room.

Despite its impressive size and lavish equipment offerings, Allaire's Neve room is dwarfed by the Great Hall, the studio's centerpiece. Measuring 35×50 feet with a cathedral ceiling that rises to 45 feet, the Great Hall also features 20-foot-high windows that offer panoramic views of the Catskill Mountains. Unlike the Neve room, the Great Hall does have a separate control room, and it is as impressive as one might imagine: a 30×26-foot space with a Solid State Logic 9000 J, Pro Tools|HD system, and all of the analog recording and processing gear a top engineer might specify.

The two recording studios and their nearby accommodations are housed in an estate built in the 1920s by Henry Pitcairn, a Pittsburgh-based in-dustrialist who used the Shokan estate as his summer getaway, where he often entertained guests with musical ensembles.

The Wallaces bought the mansion in 2001 and promptly fulfilled their dream of turning it into a recording complex. One of their first and brightest moves was to hire Mark McKenna as studio manager. A veteran of the L.A. scene (most notably as a staff engineer at A&M Studios), McKenna found his groove in the early 1990s as manager of Bearsville, the archetypal Woodstock-area residential studio of its day.

Asked how his years at Bearsville prepared him for his role at Allaire, McKenna says, “People want to be treated well and professionally, and it takes a tremendous amount of effort to do that. When people come to a residential studio, you really have adopted them for the duration. You're dealing with every aspect of their existence: from their sleep to their diet to their laundry. Whether they get any sleep becomes your area of concern. Your areas of responsibility get spread out logarithmically.”

Of course, the payoff is that if you succeed in providing artists with such a profound level of service, then they reward you with lavish appreciation and repeat business, according to McKenna. “In this magical sort of environment, people can have an experience that's much more memorable than they'd have in a facility in an industrial park,” he says. “Their heads are going to a different space. They're getting away from the city, the suburbs, transportation, noise, hassles, etc. They're being infused with the environment up here.”

Besides McKenna, other key staffers at Allaire include chief technical engineer Ken McKim, staff engineer Brandon Mason, property manager Britt St. John and office manager Susan Perrin.

A fond farewell: Dear readers, the time has come for me to move on. With a great mix of emotions (sorry, I couldn't resist), I leave behind the post of New York editor — which Mix allowed me to fulfill on a part-time, freelance basis — to pursue a full-time position in the communications/marketing department at Avid Technology.

However, I will stay involved in the music recording industry through my production company and studio, Vernacular Music, which will remain active. I also intend to continue freelancing for Mix, albeit with less frequency than in the past three years. Whether as an engineer or journalist, I plan to stay in touch with all of you, and I encourage you to continue to keep me abreast of your activities. I can still be reached at pverna@vernacularmusic.com.

I would like to personally thank a group of individuals who have gone beyond the scope of their jobs to educate, entertain and, in some cases, inspire me. I owe them all a huge debt of gratitude and look forward to continuing my friendships with them.

In the New York PR sphere, I had the pleasure of working with Debra Pagan, Howard Sherman, David Steinberg, Daniel O'Connell, Bob Griffin and Robin Hoffman.

Among New York studio owners and staff, I would like to acknowledge Troy Germano, Kirk Imamura, Dave Amlen, Steve Rosenthal, Randy Ezratty, Simon Andrews, Murat Aktar, Doug Levine, Hugh Pool, William Garrett, Oliver Straus, Andy Taub, Mark McKenna, Dae Bennett, David Hewitt, Karen Brinton, Tommy Uzzo, Andy Chase, Adam Schlesinger and Kara Bilof.

The region is populated with gifted producers, engineers, mixers, sound designers and other professionals. It was a great honor to work with so many of them on Mix stories, including Tony Visconti, Eddie Kramer, Phil Ramone, Frank Filipetti, Rich Tozzoli, Kevin Killen, Elliot Scheiner, Peter Hylenski, Paul Soucek and Greg Calbi. Other singularly talented folks who helped out include John Storyk, Francis Manzella and Benjy Bernhardt.

In the manufacturing community, Rick Plushner, David Kawakami, Bill Allen and Eric Klein deserve special recognition for their selfless contributions to my coverage.

Although the bulk of my work for Mix involved the New York area, the subject matter of my stories often transcended geography. Some of the non-New York people who had the greatest impact on my work at Mix are Chris Stone, Mr. Bonzai, Bob Ludwig, Gail Ludwig, Adam Ayan, Hank Neuberger, Lisa Roy, Bob Clearmountain, Betty Bennett, Nat Thomp-son, Lance Vardis, Joe Chiccarelli and the late Denny Purcell.

Finally, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Mix folks who brought me into the fold, supported me, accommodated me and supplied me with a steady diet of fascinating work: Tom Kenny, Blair Jackson, George Petersen, Sarah Jones, Sarah Benzuly, Chris Michie and Barbara Schultz.

Thank you all.






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