The reason Hal Winer named his gorgeous new Ossining, N.Y., recording room BiCoastal Music (www.bicoastalmusic.com) may have to do with the long road he followed — from New York to L.A. and back — to make it happen. “In the '70s, my father got an investment opportunity in a jingle house in New York City,” Winer recalls. “I had been playing music since I was a kid, I went to see the studio and I was done — I had to own a recording studio.”
Cocktail time at BiCoastal. L-R: Mick Guzauski, Ben Parris, Rob Thomas, Neil Dorfsman, Daryl Bornstein, Hal Winer and Joy Rose.
Photo: Sean Smith
Winer developed his skills as an audio engineer and went on to land an internship at a New York studio, but he quickly grew frustrated with making coffee instead of music. His next stop was L.A. for more of the same, leading to a detour as a union set painter in Hollywood, and then back to New York City for a stint in the family business. When an opportunity to cash out came, Winer jumped on it, and in 1997 got the Ossining property, which is 40 minutes from Midtown by train.
The first incarnation of BiCoastal paid Winer back handsomely, landing him two Grammy nominations for his first label project there, Reunion (2001), by jazz guitar great Jack Wilkins. “As a result, it became known as a jazz place, but it got too small after a couple of years,” Winer says. “So I decided to make the studio bigger. I sent out a mini-bulk e-mail to various acousticians and designers, telling them what I do, that I didn't have much cash and that I needed help in making this place work. Russ Berger [of Russ Berger Design Group] called me the next day, and we just hit it off.
“At first, I just wanted a bigger place for my own work, but Russ felt my idea was right for the current industry climate — that I could expand and cater to freelance clients,” Winer continues. “The record industry was a mess, big city studios were having a lot of trouble at the time and the overhead up here was much lower than it was in New York City. On the creative side, I was close enough to the city to still be a player, but far enough away so that artists could feel like they were getting away.”
The newly expanded facility brings a seriously elevated dimension to the just-upstate recording scene of Westchester County. It starts with the warm, open and natural-sounding 25×30-foot live room with 22-foot ceiling. “It's got a very smooth and natural decay,” he says. “Russ calls it a loosely coupled space: Everything below the soffit is diffuse and absorptive; everything above is live and reflective; and the pairing results in a room that's very easy to work in. In a typical month, I'll host woodwinds from the New York Philharmonic, an acoustic jazz trio and a rock drums session. The natural room ambience works with all of them, and clients come here because of it. Add that to rooms with natural daylight, and you've got a very pleasant experience.”
While everything's Zen in the live room, BiCoastal's ergonomic control room bristles with up-to-the-minute technology. At the center of the Pro Tools HD and 5.1 surround-equipped room is an SSL C200 with plenty of I/O and Pro Tools control from its surface. “The C200 sounds great, it's easy to use and I can turn projects around in 30 seconds,” Winer says. “When it comes to the outboard gear, I thought it was best to give engineers a selection of mic pre's, so we have units by Daking, Manley, Chandler, Vintech and Millennia. We also have a nice selection of vintage squashers and effects: TC Electronic, Lexicon, Daking, Universal Audio, Empirical Labs, Pendulum and Eventide, among others.”
When it came to selecting the right gear for critical listening, Winer found himself facing a dilemma. “I called all the engineers I knew and I couldn't get two of them to agree on a brand of monitors they liked. It was important to have mains that people could actually use. So Russ suggested that I come to Dallas and listen to his Precision Kinetics custom monitors. I was totally impressed. The speakers are not fatiguing in any way, and they're extremely smooth, accurate and revealing. For 5.1 work, we also have an extra pair of surrounds permanently mounted behind the producer's desk to ensure that the producer will get an image similar to the engineer's behind the console. The room is a wonderful listening environment, and the monitors make for mixes that translate very well.”
With recent clients Rob Thomas, Matt Serletic, Neil Dorfsman, Mick Guzauski, Jay Newland, Daryl Bornstein, Scott Hull, Gary Tole, Bob Mintzer and David Sancious, word is getting around about this oasis. As for Winer, he knows he's definitely found a home. “It's about listening for me,” he says. “It still gives me goose bumps to sit down in front of the console and listen to an amazing mix.”
David Weiss is Mix's New York editor.