Don’t pass up Part 1!
Although Nyback Builds teams are busy building rooms all over L.A., “They’ve never tried to replicate something that existed previously, but they absolutely nailed it,” Blair says with admiration. “You walk in and it still feels the right way. I told Josh, ‘I want you to be proud of what you did; not because you built it well, but because the feeling is still there.’”
The control room and live room sound as good as they ever did, says Blair, who has been working out of a studio space in North Hollywood since the fire. He finally got to work at Boulevard in late November and says he was blown away by how faithfully the room has been restored. “It was like déjà vu. I didn’t expect it to sound the same, but it does.”
The control room now features Atomic Instrument SixTen midfield monitors. Blair bought a second pair for his NoHo room. “They are loosely based on some of the better Altec designs of the day. A lot of those designs were two-way; this is three-way. I also have a pair of Amphion One18 nearfields.”
BRINGING IN A CLASSIC CONSOLE
Boulevard Recording also now sports a new Sound Techniques ZR36 console, featuring 24 in-line plus a dozen System 12 input channels, with 56 channels on mixdown. The brand, established in 1964, went out of business in the early 2010s but was resurrected by Danny White and his team a few years ago. Blair’s ZR is the first new Sound Techniques console to be delivered to a Hollywood studio since Jac Holzman put one into Elektra Sound Recorders in 1968, shortly after Sunset Sound installed theirs.
Before cutting a couple of records with Richard Thompson a few years back, Blair listened to some early releases by Fairport Convention (the band Thompson co-founded), which had been produced at London’s Sound Techniques studio, where the original desks were designed and built. He thought nothing of it again until his insurance money came through. Then, he says, a friend in Georgia who had used the new ZR console, engineer/producer Jason Kingsland, connected him with White, who is based in Southern California. “Danny and I hit it off,” Blair says. “We like the same music and the same studios, and we’re both obsessed with recording history.”
White sent Blair an 8-channel Sound Techniques sidecar to evaluate. He took it to a studio that had an API similar to his former desk and cut some tracks. “When I started doing the overdubs on the Sound Techniques, I said, ‘I wish I had cut everything with this!’’ he recalls. “People ask me what it sounds like. An API is punchy, with midrange sparkle. A Neve is woolly and harmonic. This Sound Techniques is immediate, big and clear. Clear does not mean transparent; it means you get what you expect, in the best way possible.”
Blair even had a hand in one of the desk’s features. “I use a summing mixer; it’s part of my sound,” he explains, “so I said, ‘What if we added a feature where you press a button and it turns it into a summing console?’ Now, you press one button on the master fader, all the faders are disengaged, and everything goes to 4 dBu line-level. I could open a mix session while I’m tracking, hit the button, and all the faders stay where they are for the tracking session, but I can sum my mix down.”
After using the sidecar for a while, he realized how well his mixes were translating. “I wasn’t fighting anything,” he says. “Everything I recorded through it was effortless to balance. Every mix was much easier. The Sound Techniques ZR has changed my view on everything. I am so happy to have it and for people to hear it.”