A Home for Mavericks

Jun 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Rich Wells

WEST COAST VIBE IN THE MIDDLE OF NEW YORK HUSTLE

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In the heart of New York City's Chinatown you'll find a comfortable and well-appointed studio called Mavericks (www.mavericksrecording.com). Named after the legendary Northern California surf spot that was a favorite hangout for ex-San Franciscan (and Mavericks proprietor) Bobby Lurie, the studio was designed to function chiefly as the recording facility and “hideout” for Lurie and other participants in his various musical ventures.

The studio's 900-square-foot main room

Lurie, the drummer for longtime cult band Billy Nayer Show, has found time to work on a variety of other projects, including scoring the award-winning documentary The God Squad and the Case of the Northern Spotted Owl, and helping to realize Billy Nayer Show's feature-length film musical, The American Astronaut, a highlight at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. While he sometimes engineers at the studio, he also employs the talents of seasoned staff engineers Randy Funke (McCoy Tyner, Tom Tom Club, John Scofield) and Allen Farmelo (Wu Tang Clan, Ian Gillan).

Since Lurie finished construction of Mavericks in 2002, many outside projects have also found their way into the studio. Last summer, Mavericks hosted avant-garde guitar guru Marc Ribot, who dropped in for overdub sessions destined for Tom Waits' latest release, the three-CD Orphans. (The sessions were engineered by Karl Derfler.) Tony Levin and David Torn have booked time there, as well as guitarist/composer Robbie Aceto and saxophonist Matt Cowan.

Mavericks owner Bobby Lurie

Mavericks occupies a 1,200-square-foot ground floor suite in a commercial building. The custom-built, 900-square-foot main room (used for tracking and mixing) is fully floated to avoid sound transmission to neighboring businesses. (Other rooms include an iso booth, machine room and storage room with kitchenette.) The tracking end of the main room, designed for a more live feel, sports custom-built wood diffusers featuring a “skyline” design that resemble a randomized version of a popular acoustic diffuser product. Wood-slat diffusers and patterns of angled wood squares line the ceiling to break up floor-to-ceiling standing waves. Bowed wood panels on the walls also help to offset potential standing-wave issues due to the room's rectangular shape.

At the other end of the room is a somewhat deadened mix area, with a 32-channel Neotek Élan II at its center. The Élan features full mute automation and a modified master bus by Purple Audio. Clients can track analog to an Otari MTR-90 mkIII (with a choice of 16- and 24-track headstacks) or digitally using a Pro Tools HD system with two 192 I/O interfaces; a Studer A810 ¼-inch 2-track is also available.

Mavericks boasts two Coles 4038 and Royer SF-12 and R-121 ribbon mics; Neumann condensers including a U67, two U87s modified by Bill Bradley and two KM84s; two Soundelux ELUX 251s; vintage Beyer 160 ribbons; and an assortment of great dynamics. Outboard mic preamps range from Brent Averill 1073s and API 512s to Purple and Chandler preamps and somewhat more esoteric units: Dredge Tone preamp/EQ and a Ridge Farm Gas Cooker mic pre. Clients can switch between ProAc Studio 100s, Yamaha NS-10s and the new Barefoot Sound MicroMain27 monitors, which have quickly become a favorite of Lurie's.

According to Lurie, part of the allure of recording at Mavericks is its one-room design. “While working on a Billy Nayer Show record, we noticed that when we got to the mix stage, the sounds were holding together and sitting in the mix really well without much effort,” he says. “We found this was a result of the overdubs being done in the same room as basics. The room seems to be just the right size, where you can place a singer or amp in various spots to get variations in sound and not have to gobo the hell out of everything. And the tracks still share the beautiful room characteristics. Plus, being in one main room is so much faster and easier for communication.”

Lurie also appreciates the versatility the room provides for drum sounds. “Depending on how we mike and gobo the drums, we can get huge variations in sound for a tight '70s kit sound or a huge, thunderous room sound — all without changing the position of the kit in the room.”

But a vital aspect of Mavericks' success is the change of environment the studio provides as compared to the neighborhood (and city) surrounding it. Says Lurie, “Mavericks has an almost beach house kind of vibe to it, which is really bizarre walking off the street in Chinatown, New York City. Artists, engineers and producers can hang out in the control room to do everything from guitar and keyboard overdubs to final vocals. Musicians really relax when working here, and that's 90 percent of the battle.”


Rich Wells is a musician and freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

COMPLETE GEAR LIST

Console: 32-channel Neotek Elan II with Purple Audio Master Section

Monitors:

  • Barefoot MM27

  • Yamaha NS10 with Audio Research Amp

Microphones:

  • AKG D-12

  • Audio-Technica ATM25

  • Audix D6

  • Beyer 160/M88

  • Coles 4038

  • Electro-Voice RE 20

  • Neumann U67/U87/KM84

  • Royer 121/SF-12

  • Sennheiser 421

  • Shure SM7/SM57/SM58

  • Soundelux 251

Recorders:

  • Otari MTR 90 Mk III with 16- and 24-track heads

  • Pro Tools HD3 - 2x 192 24 in/out on a Mac G5

  • Studer A810 1/4-inch

  • Tascam 122 Mk II

Mic Preamps:

  • API 512C/560

  • Chandler TG Channel/TG 2

  • Dredge Tone SE

  • Neve 1073s

  • Purple Audio Biz Pre

  • Telefunken V72

Dynamics:

  • Chandler TG 1 Limiter

  • dbx 160

  • Distressors

  • Gyraf Gyratec Stereo Vari-Mu

  • Manley Elop

  • Purple Audio MC77

  • Requisite L2M Compressor

  • Ridgefarm Boiler

  • Transient Designer

  • Universal Audio 1176

Effects:

  • Demeter Stereo Realverb

  • Drawmer Powergate DS501

  • Eventide Eclipse/2016

  • Line Six Echo Pro

  • SPL De-Esser

  • TC Electronic PCM 41/42

RECENT PROJECTS

LISTEN: Must Play
Tom Waits' Orphans, "Road to Peace"

LISTEN: Must Play
The American Astronaut, "Love Smiles"






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