When avant-hip music club the Knitting Factory moved to spacious new digs in the TriBeCa area of Manhattan in mid-1995, owner Michael Dorf took the opportunity to install a Mackie and DA-88-based studio in the basement, with tielines to the stages. Over the next couple of years, the studio was used to record a wide variety of the stunning, often challenging shows that the venue is known for and was put to work on releases for the club's affiliated Knitting Factory Records. Then, in late 1997, Dorf bought noted indie record label Shimmy-Disc from its financially beleaguered owner, New York-based artist/recordist Kramer. The deal included a passel of gear from Kramer's now-defunct Noise New Jersey studio. The equipment was installed in the Knitting Factory's studio, after some extensive renovations.
The control room in the Knitting Factory basement had to be rebuilt to accommodate Kramer's Trident Series 80B, Sony JH-24 2-inch 24-track and MCI JH-110 11/42-inch 2-track. "We moved the door and knocked a wall down so we could have a separate room for the tape machines and an amp rack," says engineer and studio manager Sascha von Oertzen, who has been at the Knitting Factory since mid-'97. "It was heavy construction work because these were sand-filled concrete walls in a small space." The studio shut down for a month-and-a-half while construction was under way, reopening in April '98 under the new name of Knit Noise.
In its new incarnation, the studio has continued to do double-duty, recording a variety of projects during days and tracking shows at the club nights. (The night before Mix spoke to von Oertzen, she had helped track a Lou Reed show.) Next to the control room is a small iso booth, and the club's 250-capacity main performance space-which has 18-foot ceilings-serves as a large tracking room for the studio, as does the smaller AlterKnit stage. Both rooms are tielined and offer a high degree of isolation. Two other smaller spaces are wired for recording as well, and all the spaces have video feeds to the control room.
Though the two DA-88s continue to be the recording format of choice for live shows, von Oertzen is enthusiastic about the improved quality she's getting with the Trident and other pieces from Kramer's collection (including an array of Neumann and AKG mics, UREI and Yamaha processors, an EMT plate and an assortment of tube compressors). She says that in general the new gear has made the studio better-suited for different kinds of recording, including Kramer's work.
As part of the deal he made with the Knitting Factory, Kramer often records at Knit Noise and does A&R for the revived Shimmy-Disc. (In the '80s Shimmy was renowned for releases by Ween, The Boredoms and Kramer's own projects, including Bongwater.) He is more than happy to be free of the hassles of studio and label ownership, and he's making the most of his new role. "Almost everything I'm recording and producing right now is collaborative," Kramer says. "There are bands and artists on Shimmy-Disc who I do work with in the studio [including the Blue Whale, King Missile and Drazy Hoops], but really I'm much less interested in producing now and much more interested in being an artist." (He's also exploring completely new horizons, including becoming a member of the prestigious Actor's Studio and studying under noted director Arthur Penn.)
Kramer used Knit Noise (and much of his old gear) to record basic tracks and live shows for a forthcoming collaboration with Daevid Allen, Hugh Hopper and Pip Pyle, dubbed Brainville and due out this spring on Shimmy-Disc. "The best drum sounds I have ever gotten were in the last few months in the main room at the Knitting Factory," says Kramer. "I've never had a smoother time getting an excellent drum sound than in that room." Kramer also works a lot at his own ADAT-equipped project studio nearby (where he and Jad Fair recorded a new release for Shimmy-Disc) because he likes the privacy and because the Knitting Factory, being a working club, gets pretty busy. Still, he says, "This entire, beautiful live room isn't used for soundcheck until 5, so it's wide open for recording during the day."
Von Oertzen says that about two-thirds of the Knitting Factory Records releases to date have been recorded at Knit Noise, including a wonderful album she engineered for "out" sax player Briggan Krauss, as well as new or upcoming proj- ects from Steve Dalachinsky, William Hooker, Joe Morris, Uri Caine and Matt Dariau's Paradox Trio. The studio is also hosting an increasing number of projects for out-of-house clients. And then there's that unending stream of amazing live shows. "It is just a nice facility now," von Oertzen says, "especially for mixing and for live recordings. It's a really nice venue where, if you want to, you have the possibility of making a high-quality live recording that you can release."