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Fonogenic Studios

A Creative Hub Blossoms From a Project Studio

Within the vast sprawl of greater Los Angeles, two native Angelenos—veteran session and touring keyboardist/producer Rami Jaffee (The Wallflowers, Foo Fighters, Sonic Highways) and composer/keyboardist/engineer/producer Ran Pink—conspired to develop a superbly appointed and well integrated multi-room facility for music and film that offers its constituents, and their friends and fans, a sense of community.

More than simply a recording and mixing studio, people seek out Fonogenic Studios in Van Nuys, Calif., because of its particular vibe. It also provides a rehearsal and performance space that is often used for video shoots, film projects and parties, and is capable of hosting charitable events for organizations. From its Studio Live stage, Fonogenic presents and records (via analog or digital) concerts and jam sessions for audiences in the studio and elsewhere via Fonogenic’s clientele includes the likes of Eddie Kramer, Don Was, Joe Perry, Ross Hogarth, and Jill Scott, as well as independent artists and bands.

Client services include pre-production, recording, mixing, mastering, record production, voice-over recording, and music for film, TV and videogames. “If photogenic means looking great on camera, then Fonogenic must be what it means to sound great on records,” Pink says. “We originally envisioned it as our project studio, but as time passed the word spread and we’ve ended up having to turn projects away just to make time for our own. Not a bad problem to have, though.”

Fonogenic’s expansion to a full-service facility became possible when in 2013, Jaffee and Pink added a staff of three: engineer/producers Samon Rajabnik and Joshua Stuebe, and creative director/studio manager Leah Korbin. Jaffee met Rajabnik in Kansas City, Rajabnik brought in Stuebe, and Stuebe brought in Korbin.

“I started to get super busy,” Jaffee says, “and we thought, ‘Let’s rent this [studio] out and get these people paid really well, and we’ll still find time to do our own little projects. It’s become a real on-the-map studio that people can rent out. It’s a massive space but the trick is, we actually can have three or four projects going on at once.”

Pink, who began playing piano as a child and later attended Berklee College of Music, discovered the structure in 2005. “This building used to host a company called Fonovisa, which is a Spanish language music label that was bought by Univision,” Pink says. “The place had been a photo studio with some smaller music rooms on the other side of the hallway. We tore up the studio side and designed what is now our tracking room, control room and B room. ”

Pink says he and Jaffee “met in NYC while he was playing with Minnie Driver and I was performing with my sister Shanee and Mark Noseworthy as Pink & Noseworthy. A few weeks later I got a call: ‘Ran, I’m leaving town with the Foo Fighters for a year and I want to get all my gear out of my house and put it somewhere where it will be loved and used.’ I couldn’t say no! I brought in some techs to assimilate our studios and we turned the control room into a beast.”

The control room houses a 30-channel Trident Series 80B analog console with Yamaha NS10 near-field monitors, Barefoot Sound main monitors, a Crane Song Avocet monitor controller, Avid Pro Tools HD10, Apple Logic Pro 9 and outboard from Inward Connections, Chandler, Universal Audio, Empirical Labs and more. “When you merge two studios, great things happen,” Jaffee says, adding, “[Stuebe] acquired the Ampex [MM1000] 16-track, 2-inch [tape recorder] that was at Columbia Nashville from ’68 to 1980. So, Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, a bunch of Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton—all [were recorded] to that machine!”

The Ampex tape machine is optionally available for use in Fonogenic’s Studio Live room, which is sponsored by PreSonus, Cerwin-Vega, and Klotz Cables, and equipped with a PreSonus StudioLive 32.4.2 mixer. “We finally installed a splitter box,” Jaffee says. “I think it’s 32 channels that you can split from the stage going into the control room across the hallway, and also to the PreSonus board. You have all the fixings of a studio and you have a great venue. Whenever somebody wants to do a cool show in L.A., I’ll say, ‘Do it here. You get a film crew and we’re popping it out live to the Web. Anybody in the world can tune in!’ I’ll interview artists in between and we have five camera feeds, so every once in a while people see who’s there: ‘Hey!’ [Laughs] So it’s kind of an Andy Warhol meets Rock and Roll Circus meets…I don’t know, Jools Holland’s show? And I’ve always been part Paul Shaffer and part Bill Graham.” 