As the singer and principal songwriter for now-defunct modern rockers Toad the Wet Sprocket, Glen Phillips logged many hours at high-end studios. For the 1994 release Dulcinea, Phillips and the band recorded at The Site (Marin County, Calif.), "which is a great studio," he says. "We were just sitting there enjoying it...and spending $2,000 a day for one channel of this incredible 80-input Neve! I just kept thinking, there's gotta be a better way than this." For their next and final album, Coil, the band recorded at Master Control in Burbank but overdubbed at their practice studio using equipment Phillips had acquired in the interim, including a Stephens 821B 24-track and Neve 1064 mic pre's.
After this experience, Phillips really got the bug. When he subsequently set about remodeling his Santa Barbara, Calif., home, the plans included building a new two-car garage. "I kind of thought, hmm, we may as well make it sound good!" Phillips says. So the new structure became a garage that doubles as a personal studio, built from the ground up with the help of locally based designer and acoustician Chris Pelonis.
Pelonis achieved a high degree of isolation using all double-wall construction. The 600-square-foot space is essentially one large room that is divided down the middle with a wall and treatments that create a live tracking room on one side and a control room on the other. "It's just two rectangles side by side," Phillips says, "but basically Chris managed to maximize the cubic feet in the live room and [implement] some really good bass trapping by using some of the space we weren't using from the control room. It sounds great-it's a good, punchy little live room-and Chris managed to not force me to spend tons of money where I didn't have to. He was good at being creative on the parts where I needed to be creative."
Not long after the studio was complete, Toad decided to call it quits (after selling 4 million albums over their 12-year career), but Phillips has been making use of the studio to demo solo material with the help of local engineer Bruce Winter. "I've ended up working a lot with Digital Performer recently," Phillips says, "just playing with loops and having fun with that. It's a brand-new way of working for me, so a lot of stuff came out, some of which I'm loving and some of which I have no idea if it's a complete waste of time!"
In addition to the Neve pre's and the Stephens, Phillips' studio is equipped with Neve 33122s, 1176s, LA-4s, a Manley Variable Mu and a Focusrite Green 5. Mics include a Manley Reference cardioid, a Stephen Paul 87, a pair of Earthworks TC30Ks, KM84s, a pair of C-500s, the Audix D Series (Phillips' basic drum mics) and an OM-6. His favorite new mics are a pair of UM70 Gefells that were modified by Inner Tube Audio. "They tubed 'em up," Phillips says, "and they're pretty damn nice-perfect on acoustic guitars." All the digital cabling is Monster Cable, and Phillips monitors through Mackie HR824 active monitors.
When Mix spoke to him, Phillips had finished demoing and was looking forward to beginning tracking on his first solo album with Winter, using the studio's newly installed Mackie D8B. "We wanted the D8B because we're going to be doing a lot of switching around between tracks," Phillips says. "Some stuff is going to be very acoustic, live-in-the-room oriented; other stuff's gonna be really built up around loops and layers. Just saving the down time when we reach a stopping point will be a very good thing-reset the console and it's on the next song. We also just wanted a hub that was in the digital realm. I have the D8B patched in kind of post-patchbay, so for mixdown I can use all the analog outboard I have coming off tape, have complete automation, and I can have Performer running into it and then just get my mix out of the back end of the console."
Phillips lives with his wife and their two toddlers, and he says that working at home "is both a blessing and a problem. Sometimes I'm really ready to see everybody and it's easy; sometimes I'm just deep in the middle of something when there's a knock on the door and I know I'm not gonna get back to it for an hour! Learning how to sequester myself while still being in the garage is interesting." But having his own studio gives Phillips a kind of freedom that's hard to beat. He's making his own record in his own way, while, at present, sitting out the worst of the chaos in the wake of the Seagram/PolyGram merger. "I'm just trying to get as much control and security as I can," Phillips says, "especially now that the band's not together. I chose what I bought very carefully to make sure I would get the best sound I could without having to go into the hole and be forced into making it a business. As I have it, I know that if I need to do albums for nothing, I can."