Joe Franco, owner of Beat Street Productions (www.beatstreetnyc.com), has a couple of things going for him. As the former drummer for Twisted Sister, Franco's glam-rock bonafides are in order. He also happens to be one of the nicest and least pretentious snare slammers you'll run into.
A lifelong New York resident, Franco coupled his drum chops with a bent for computers and became one of the most successful drum programmers in town during the mid-1980s; in 1995, he hung out the Beat Street shingle. Franco's strategy has been to offer a package of original music and audio post services, keeping an entire television project under one roof.
Beat Street recently completed the third and final season of Between the Lions, a PBS children's program. The show won three Emmys last year, and Franco, along with engineer Anthony Erice, has been nominated twice for his work as sound editor.
“I knew that the [show] producers wanted a real band, not just a keyboard player and a drum machine,” says Franco. “I'm a rock 'n' roll drummer. The cool thing about the show is that I get to play a lot of styles that I don't generally get called for. The show teaches literacy to children in a way that's fun and engaging. Sesame Street taught kids numbers and letters; Between the Lions is where we put it all together. It centers on a family of lions that live in a library. We record all of the voice-overs here, which are then sent to the animators, who build their work and send it back here for music and sound design. All told, we put together 70 episodes over the three years.”
Franco also composed approximately 30 Afro percussive grooves that were used as segues and programmed several hip hop grooves. “We also use sound libraries,” he adds. “We couldn't do this work without Soundminer. You type in ‘dog,’ and Soundminer finds about 500 samples with descriptions. We took all of our effects libraries and dumped them to hard drives. Currently, we have three workstations — all G4 733MHz machines running Pro Tools. We've recently ordered two HD systems. The third, which is an edit station, will stay as is. We're going HD not for the higher sampling rate, but because HD gives a better track count and more DSP.”
All of the video that passes in and out of Beat Street sits on IDE drives. Audio is saved to hot-swappable Cheetah drives, and the sound effect libraries move between stations on FireWire. Room A was built by Frank Comentale, and John Storyk designed the B room. In addition to Erice, the Beat Street staff includes music engineer DUG and sound designer Mike Knoblauch.
“We have two recording rooms,” Franco continues. “The third room is an edit station, which we use for digitizing video, making saves and restores and setting up a show when the other two rooms are in use. A show will come in, get digitized and then an OMF file is set up. We then see where we have to do ADR work. Managing all of this data as efficiently as possible is absolutely essential.”
Franco is picky when it comes to tracking drums. “When I bought the Pro Control, I got deeper into mic pre's,” he explains. “I love Neves and API mic pre's for tracking drums.” Currently in stock are a pair of Neve 1093s and a pair of Chandler LTD-1s, which “are Neve 1073 clones that sound great.” Beat Street's rack also includes eight API 512s and a pair of 550B EQs, two Daking 52270 mic pre's and pair of his 91579 compressors, plus a pair of Distressors and some dbx 160s and 165s.
Franco recently stepped behind the kit at Cove City Studios in Long Island for the band that backed Kelly Osbourne on her remake of “Papa Don't Preach.” Magellan, the prog rock band that Franco formed with bass player Tony Levin, recently recorded an album at Beat Street, which featured flute player Ian Anderson and the composing/production skills of Trent Gardner.
Franco also recorded a sample library, Reel Drums, released by Wave Distribution (reviewed in the August 2002 Mix), and recently signed a new endorsement deal with Drum Workshop. “I'm a rim shot fanatic, and I love this set!”
Gary Eskow is a contributing writer to Mix.