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Kampo Music Studios

In 1971, the Kampo Cultural Center was created in Noho, a fixture of downtown culture that joins Soho and the East and West Villages, as a means of fusing

In 1971, the Kampo Cultural Center was created in Noho, afixture of downtown culture that joins Soho and the East and WestVillages, as a means of fusing art and creativity. The followingdecade, the complex gave birth to Kampo Music Studios, which hasgone on to create a mystique all its own. A single-room facilitycentered around an SSL E Series console, Kampo soon grew rightalong with the surrounding area, based on the ideal of combiningmusic and art and promoting the downtown vibe.

The highest level here is the artistic interest, the artisticintegrity, says studio manager Alex Abrash, who joined the staff inthe early 1990s after stints at Electric Lady Studios, UniqueRecording, Sigma Sound and Hit Factory. We’re trying to make aplace that encourages art and creativity.

I came in here a little naive, Abrash admits, because I figured,Well, why isn’t this place packed? So I just closed it down for amonth, did some modifications, built some things and it just tookoff.

Part of that revamp involved contracting John Storyk to designStudio C, to get the job done right, Abrash says. The control roomsaw the early ’99 installation of an SSL Axiom-MT digital console,a move Abrash admits was a calculated gamble but has since paidoff. I wanted to put something that was going to not only becurrent, but was also going to be future-ready as well, he says.We’ve had 100 percent success with the Axiom. Our installation wentoff without a hitch, and we’ve had nothing but positive feedbackfrom the engineers who have sessioned on the board, including BruceSwedien, Eddie Kramer and Ray Bardini.

Unlike many of the digital boards out there, the Axiom is veryuser-friendly, Abrash continues, especially because it so closelyresembles the hugely successful J Series console. That was asignificant factor. I knew I wanted to go digital and provide thebest possible fidelity for mixing projects off of Pro Tools andother high-quality source machines.

After installing the 96-input MT into the same space where hepreviously had a 40-input SSL E Series, Abrash began to marketKampo’s surround capabilities. Studio C is very unique in New York,because it’s a surround-ready room. There’s nothing you’ve got toplug in or patch or anything. I’ve got everything from the monitorsystems to the mixdown machine [Tascam DA-78, 24-bit 8-track]. Oneof the more exciting projects to make use of the 5.1 capabilitieswas the remixing of Jimi Hendrix’s Isle of Wight performance forDVD. Eddie Kramer did some amazing things manipulating those oldtapes to provide a rich, real-sounding concert experience. It was athrill to witness him pull out that classic Hendrix sound, theEddie Kramer sound.

Rounding out the control room are a Genelec 1038 surroundmonitoring system, Pro Tools MIX Plus, and a slew of digitaloutboard gear, including Sony’s 777 reverb and the TC ElectronicSystem 6000.

Kampo houses three music rooms, along with a private,producer-owned Pro Tools suite. Studio A works as arecording/mixing suite and is able to accommodate a variety ofmusical stylings. We’re doing a string quartet, we see alternativerock bands, so much of everything, Abrash lists. A lot of jazz, alot of recording. The music studio is on the second floor, and onthe third floor, we have the Axiom and Studio B, which is apost-production room. You never know who you’re going to bump into.We have David Byrne coming in at the same time we have LaurenHutton doing some kind of commercial.

Despite his digital leanings, Abrash is quick to point out thatclients often like the hybrid, making use of the 56-in SSL G Seriesfor tracking and the Axiom for mixdown. We certainly cater to bothsides of the spectrum, he says. We have a nice-sized tracking room,with classic Neve mic pre’s, a Steinway piano and analog outboardgear.

Musicians who come through our studios always have differentthings to say regarding what they like about Kampo, Abrash adds.But they all seem to be of one opinion about the relaxed, creativevibe of the place. Some things are just intangible, and I thinkthat it is not something you can buy or sell. It’s here, it’sspecial and it’s not something that we designed in. It’s just partof what this has turned out to be.

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