Gregory Town Sound | Mix March 2010 Cover

Mar 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Kevin Becka

ANALOG HEAVEN ON THE BEACH

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Alexander realized that power would be a major consideration. “We needed an extensive power system because the Bahamas' electric is not terribly reliable,” he says. “Power is 120/60 nominally, but for tech power we're using a Tripp Lite online UPS system that generates the electricity. We just use the incoming electricity to charge a battery.” All power goes through an Equitek balanced power system and there is an automatic transfer switch so if anything gets out too high or low, the studio still has lights and A/C.

Two packed racks sit at the back of the main room.

Two packed racks sit at the back of the main room.

Apart from its idyllic location and optimal design, it's the gear that shines at Gregory Town Sound, where vintage signal flow is king. It starts with an all-star array of mics from Schoeps, Neumann, Coles, AEA, Sennheiser, Telefunken, Shure, AKG and more. All can be recorded through the studio's wrap-around Helios console or an EMI-designed REDD 37 once owned by Abbey Road and used in Studio 1. “The Helios was Henry's choice,” says studio manager, gear and guitar tech Alex Alvarez about Hirsch's positive influence in Kravitz's gear-buying decisions.

“[Kravitz] purchased a Helios and was trying to go after more of a Stones and Zeppelin sound. That started off around the Circus album when we went that route.” After the Circus album, Kravitz sold the console and bought a strawberry-red Helios from 10cc, which had some key components missing and ended up being racked for optimal use. Kravitz bought the current Helios at Gregory Town Sound from Leon Russell about seven years ago. It sat for two years in a locker and then was refitted by tech Dave Amels before it came to the Bahamas. The REDD 37 was purchased 18 years ago by Kravitz, who was urged to make the leap by Hirsch. “Lenny had to take every dime he just made,” says Alvarez. “He hadn't sold a million albums yet and he took a chance at it.”

Other vintage gear is housed in the racks and includes EQ and dynamics processors from API, Fairchild, EMI, RCA, Universal Audio and Retro. (For a complete list of Lenny's gear, visit mixonline.com.) Speakers are ATC SCM200 ASL and B&W Nautilus 805 monitors, among others. The studio also has a collection of analog multitrack machines including a Studer C37 2-track, a J37 4-track once owned by Abbey Road, an 827A 24-track and an A-80 2-track, as well as a 3M M79 with 16-track headstack. There is also a Pro Tools system with Apogee converters clocked by Antelope Audio.

The newest piece of gear is Endless Analog's Closed Loop Analog Processor (CLASP), which ties the analog recorders and Pro Tools together. “We have five machines now in the studio,” notes Alvarez. “Three machines are dedicated to CLASP, the other two are for delay effects.” Kravitz likes CLASP because he can use his tape machines as he would an effect, jumping between tape speeds and machines. “I can say I'm going to record the drums through the 3M, or take my vocal and go through the Studer or the EMI. I get to pick and choose track by track, and then I'm in Pro Tools through my converters. I've finally got the best of both worlds.” CLASP stores setups for three machines, and CLASP creator Chris Estes is custom-designing an accessory for Kravitz that relay switches between his three machines with the click of the mouse.

Apart from Alvarez (who wears many hats at the studio and on the road), the rest of the team at the studio includes engineer T-Bone Edmonds and guitarist and Pro Tools operator Craig Ross. When asked about workflow, Edmonds says, “We mix as we go. As it comes in, Lenny will say I love that or this needs a little bit more top or bottom. Once it's gone through CLASP through whichever tape machine we use and into Pro Tools, Craig does whatever editing and manipulation has to happen. We'll add a plug-in here or a plug-in there, but normally if we want to change something, we'll take it back out of Pro Tools and run it through what I call the ‘Juke Box,’ which is my playback system in the Helios. I'll EQ it, maybe run it through a Fairchild depending on what it is I'm trying to do and then send it back to Pro Tools. It's really a team effort between, Craig, Alex, myself and Lenny.”

As for what's ahead, Kravitz spoke about going to the Oscars and upcoming projects, including a world tour to support his current album in progress, Negrophilia. “I did this movie called Precious, I'm doing another film this spring with Lee Daniels and I'm doing a photography show in Europe this year.” For now, Kravitz couldn't be more at home in the Bahamas. “I'm finding that I'm able to get all the sounds I'm looking for. I owe that to Ross Alexander who did an amazing job on the room. The flow of the writing is going well out here: Being in the middle of nowhere, living a simple life is conducive to writing.”

Kevin Becka is Mix's technical editor.






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