Until very recently, Conway Recording Studios was something of a mystery to me. Forty years in the business, with A-list, Top-10 artists walking through the doors late in the afternoon or long past midnight; a world-class, three-studio complex that has stayed true to its original mission; a lush, palm-filled island on the edge of Hollywood, with beautiful tropical gardens outside and Vincent van Haaff-designed sanctuaries inside. At the center of it all, owner Buddy Brundo, one of those truly unique personalities that helps drive the recording industry, mostly unknowingly and nearly always behind the scenes. I had met him a couple of times over the years, but I knew very little about him, or his wife, Susan, or Conway. I’m still not sure why.
I certainly knew of the legend and had heard third-hand stories of this wild-man Buddy who raced cars and had a boat and lived a life of music, recording and studio extravagance/decadence. Cavorting with rock stars and tossing Benjamins to valets. Watching the sun rise more often than not. Smart, beloved, generous and a whole lot of fun, with an amazing studio. That seemed to be the story, at least from the outside.
Then I got a call from Lisa Roy, a longtime friend and another of those unique personalities that helps drive the L.A. industry in so many ways, yet very few Mix readers know about. She’s a connector, someone who brings together labels, artists, engineers, producers, studios, manufacturers, designers, educators, and all that. She’s also part of the extended Conway family, more personally than professionally. She said, “Tom, you know Conway is turning 40 this year, and Buddy, he never pushes for publicity. I think it would be great if Mix could do something. It’s a great story.” I drove down, spent the day with Buddy and Lisa, and indeed found a great story. But it wasn’t the one I expected.
I did find out that there were at least half-truths to most of the stories I had heard, for sure, and Buddy doesn’t shy away from his open and wild side. That’s who he is, and he lives a good life. But I also saw the true commitment to what he does in running a world-class studio. And Conway is quite a studio. Three studios, to be accurate, all designed and built by the late, great Vincent van Haaff, who passed away just a few days before my visit. On our afternoon tour, every time Buddy mentioned Vincent, whether explaining a design feature or drifting off to a memory of his dear friend, he would stroke the wood on the studio walls. I’m sure he doesn’t even know he did it. Conway Studio A was the first studio that van Haaff designed.
It can be tricky writing about a top-level studio celebrating its 40th anniversary, sort of like handing a coach in his prime a lifetime achievement award. “I’m not done yet!” For sure, over four decades Conway has weathered a few storms and ridden a few waves. Ours is an industry dependent upon technology and art. Techniques and fashions come and go. Production styles change. But big artists will always pay for great studios, and Conway has hosted the best of the best in each and every decade, staying current all along while delivering old-school service. Conway hasn’t just survived over the years; Conway has thrived.
A lot of that has to do with the fact that Buddy Brundo simply loves music. He loves making music. And he loves to be around people who love to make music. He cares deeply about his staff, and he would walk on fire for a friend. He sure does love his wife, Susan. But beneath all the trappings of a life inside the L.A. music scene, at heart he’s still a Buffalo boy from 1972 who just moved west, with his eyes wide open. That seems to me a pretty good way to look at life.
Tom Kenny, Editor, Mix