Gregory Town Sound | Mix March 2010 Cover
Mar 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Kevin Becka
ANALOG HEAVEN ON THE BEACH
Lenny Kravitz's personal studio is built 100 feet from the beach on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, a 110-mile-long sliver of land 50 miles east of Nassau. “I've always loved my roots,” says Kravitz. “My grandfather was born on an island called Ingua, the most southern Bahamian island closest to Cuba. My parents used to send me down here for summers; we'd come here for Christmas and holidays.”
As if locating the studio in a Caribbean paradise wasn't enough, Kravitz stocked it with a dream collection of gear collected throughout his career. From the start, Kravitz always knew the sound he was going for, which started his analog love affair. “I started recording at [Henry Hirsch's] Waterfront in 1985 or '86, and I knew I wanted to make a certain kind of record,” Kravitz remembers. “I saw the way technology was going in the late '80s. Records were sounding very processed — it was all about those big gated drums and everything sounding unnatural; in some cases, it was cool for different artists, but it didn't work for me. I knew I wanted an intimate-sounding album.” Through his association with Hirsch over a number of albums, Kravitz would be introduced to and then buy the gear that created his desired sounds.
Gregory Town Sound started as a garage built by Kravitz to protect some of his belongings during hurricane season. It is a ranch-style concrete structure poured in place with a cantilevered roof. “It's the most amazing studio that I've worked in, and it has the gear I've been collecting for 20 years,” says Kravitz. “It's an incredible place to be creative.” Also being an interior and furniture designer, Kravitz started with an aesthetic in mind and then brought in Miami-based acoustician and designer Ross Alexander, who has been doing studio integration and design since 1981. “What I do is put on paper what I want: Wood here, cork there, do this and that,” says Kravitz. “Then Ross does his mathematical measurements and tells me what I can and cannot do. From there, I can go forward with that design or change out a specific material so I'll get the sound I want.”
The building is 1,800 square feet with a 400-square-foot control room and 600-square-foot studio, in addition to a bathroom, lobby, machine room and an air-conditioning closet. “The concrete deck was almost 12 feet and we had beams below, so we were able to get the ceiling heights we wanted,” says Alexander, whose design philosophy is to start optimizing the room dimensions within the restrictions of the space offered. He uses a computer program to look at the normal modes and finds certain ratios that will work. “To me dimensions are very important,” Alexander explains. “If you have a poorly dimensioned room, you'll be fighting trying to fix it all the way down the line.” Alexander then employed Miami's Acoustical Components, which custom-built all the treatments to his specs. The control room and studio were built with Kravitz's style of recording in mind. “He can actually set up two drum kits out there so he can switch back and forth,” says Alexander about the studio that has a large window facing the water and houses a baby grand piano, a number of guitar amps and other instruments.
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