The Kitchen Mastering is thriving in one of the country's most eclectic music centers. Located near Chapel Hill, N.C., which gave the music world some of its earliest alternative artists, writers and producers, including Mitch Easter, Don Dixon and, more recently, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Ben Folds Five, The Kitchen maintains the family values implied in its name. The facility is owned by couple Brent and Kirsten Lambert, who divide engineering and management duties. Brent attended the University of Miami's pioneering music production and engineering program in the early 1980s and moved to Chapel Hill shortly thereafter. During stints as a session musician and assistant engineer, Lambert was exposed to mastering as an art, a science and a business when he followed some of the records he played on or engineered through that process in L.A. and New York. He realized that mastering was a missing link in Chapel Hill's own development as a recording center.
The Lamberts began The Kitchen in 1991 at home, literally in the kitchen. But the business has grown rapidly and the facility is now located in a 2,000-square-foot building in the suburb of Carrboro. Designed by John Arthur Design Group, the studio features bass trapping and optimized speaker placement, as well as a mixture of RPG treatments: Abffusors in the front wall, ceiling and side walls to eliminate early reflections; diffractals along the rear wall; and Flutterfree on the rear side walls to provide even energy distribution around the main listening and client reference position. The combination of the custom trapping and diffusion provides the room with complete sonic accuracy.
The interior design also reflects an eye for detail-described as "comfortable yet modern, like a cool living room." The studio has touches like Tibetan rugs and original artwork and photography on its walls. Brent Lambert's mastering suite is warm and intimate, with red floors setting off the custom-made cabinetry.
"The location is fantastic in terms of its comfort and climate, and its proximity to one of the world's most interesting musical communities," says Kirsten Lambert. "But mastering isn't as location-intensive as recording, and we've been getting mastering projects in from all over." Those projects include mastering for a wide range of current hit artists and up-and-comers, including Squirrel Nut Zippers, Juliana Hatfield, Southern Culture on the Skids, Athenaeum, Cravin' Melon and Whiskeytown.
The Kitchen holds its own in the upper tier of the mastering market, but it also represents the shifting geographic and cultural emphasis that's been taking place in the music industry over the last decade. "We have a real affinity for all kinds of music and musicians," says Brent Lambert. "And this area truly fosters an ability to bring the best out in all of us."