A Year at London BridgeSEATTLE STUDIO GETS NEW OWNERS, NEW LIFE 2/01/2007 7:00 AM Eastern
It's been a little more than a year since Seattle-based producers Jonathan Plum and Geoff Ott purchased the city's legendary London Bridge Studio (www.londonbridgestudio.com) from brothers Rick and Raj Parashar, and it's been quite an education and a boon for the new owners.
During the Parashars' tenure, the facility was essentially dedicated to co-owner/producer Rick Parashar's album projects. For nearly 20 years, he produced local and national bands in the 5,000-square-foot studio, which is centered on a 1970s-vintage Neve 8048 console. Producer and studio struck Platinum in the early '90s with the production of Pearl Jam's unforgettable debut, Ten. London Bridge became a recording Mecca for the burgeoning grunge scene, hosting Blind Melon, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, among others.
But by the time the Parashars' lease came up for renewal in '05, Rick Parashar decided he'd had enough of the studio business and suggested that Plum and Ott — former London Bridge employees who had worked on many of those era-defining productions — take over the lease and buy out the business.
“It took us by surprise,” Ott says. “It was like, ‘Next month it's up, and they have renters for the space that can make it a Carpet Warehouse.’ Jonathan and I both knew the studio and how special it is — the great tones and the history that it has. I put a lot of heart into my decision.”
“We both were relatively established as local music producers, and we were doing just fine producing music without owning a studio,” Plum recalls. “But we realized that being attached to a name like London Bridge and having the ability to use a facility like this certainly couldn't be bad for our producing careers.”
Plum accepts the lion's share of responsibility for managing the business, and both have developed excellent communication skills, as it's essential they both know about upcoming bookings and personal projects. “We were also in direct competition with each other as producers,” Ott says. “But we were friends first, and we've been friends. We iron things out and have established a code of respect for each other.”
In their early weeks as high-end studio owners, Ott and Plum upgraded the facility to Pro Tools HD and acquired a pair of Royer ribbon mics, an Alan Smart compressor and two Distressors, among other items. They also revived a piece of the studio's illustrious history: “The studio used to have a Studer 2-inch 24-track, but six years ago, the previous owner had ripped it out because they were done with analog,” Plum says. “He snipped the cables from the remote control and put it in the garage, where it sat for five years getting dusty. One of the first things we did was revive that tape machine.”
As an example of what owning a top-end studio has done for his career, Ott says, “One band I worked with this year was Tysen. They're a Christian rock band and they've had some good success. I was able to get signed on to the project and do it for a flat fee where I could utilize open studio time to mix. Before, I would have been stuck in the environment of a small studio — basically, a computer and a few mics — which is not as creative as having a big studio with all the tools, spaces and rooms.”
London Bridge also hosts a good deal of orchestral recording, in part because, as Plum points out, the nonunion musician pay in Seattle is lower than rates in L.A. or New York, and because the studio is the only one of its size and location with hardwood floors. Recent high points include the Dori Amarilio-produced sessions for ESPN's version of the Monday Night Football theme and the score for videogame Lineage.
“Compared to L.A. and New York, our rates are probably ridiculously cheap,” Plum says, “but we have to stay relevant in Seattle. We'd like to charge more, but we also are really glad we can have great local bands record here.”