TheBlade Runnerscenario for downtown L.A. hasn't materialized — at least not yet. But some of that gritty, multicultural vibe is in evidence, especially in the blocks surrounding the historic Bradbury building, where keyBlade Runnerscenes were filmed. It's on one of those blocks that Waxploitation and its sister companies, SÄVREN and Kabuki Digital, are headquartered.
There's definitely a graphic element to what's going on in Waxploitation's upper-story offices, where floor-to-ceiling windows look out over Broadway — L.A.-style. Campy foreign movie posters — think Japanese Raging Bull and French 2001: A Space Odyssey — and stacks of cool-looking promotional CDs are piled everywhere. “We're really just into logos,” deadpans Jeff Antebi, a principal in the artist/producer management firm. “We take any opportunity we can to create a new company so we can design a new logo.”
Guessing that Antebi's joking, I move on to the next question: Why locate in downtown L.A., an area mysterious to much of the city's population? “We just kept moving east,” he explains. “We started out in Beverly Hills, but it wasn't very stimulating. We moved to Hollywood, but that got boring, too. The culture downtown is very extreme, especially at night when the whole texture changes to something pretty apocalyptic. Do you know that at dawn, there are huge swarms of bats here?”
Extreme culture also describes the Waxploitation family. Its roster of artist/producers includes, among others, Nine Inch Nails veteran Chris Vrenna, known for his production and remixes with Weezer, P.O.D., U2 and his own Tweaker project; E-Swift of Tha Alkaholiks, who has produced Xzibit and Snoop Dogg; hip hop producer KutMasta Kurt (Linkin Park, Blackalicious); and hip hop/soul producer King Britt (Macy Gray, Femi Kuti, Tori Amos).
Meanwhile, the SÄVREN (note: dictionary listed pronunciation of “Sovereign”) arm of the company manages extreme sports athletes — BMX, freestyle motorcross, skateboard, etc. — and does sports and lifestyle marketing consulting for companies such as Capitol, Virgin and Lava/Atlantic Records. Kabuki Digital, the newest branch of the budding empire, is a video-game soundtrack label that provides music supervision, as well as marketing and promotion liaison, between video-game companies and record labels.
The energetic Antebi, who started out planning to be a film and TV agent, put in a stint at United Talent Agency, then segued and landed a job at Lippman Entertainment, the high-powered music producer management company. Eight years ago, he took the leap and formed his own company; it started with one producer client and grew rapidly. The direction expanded when he hooked up with Vivendi alumnus David Leslie and athlete manager/action sports marketing guru Carter Gibbs, known for his work with athletes Tommy “Tomcat” Clowers and Caleb Wyatt and artists Sublime and Kottonmouth Kings, as well as for co-founding SRH Productions, one of the first crossover music/action sports clothing companies.
“After a certain point,” Antebi remarks, “our niche became managing producers who are also artists. Paul Leary is in the Butthole Surfers and has also produced and mixed for Sublime, including their hit single, ‘What I Got.’ Chris Vrenna was in Nine Inch Nails, Josh Wink is one of the most popular artist/DJs in the house world, King Britt was in Digable Planets and KutMasta Kurt is a hip hop artist and producer. What we've tried to do — successfully, I think — is to get the word out about our clients, so that, in addition to us pitching them to A&R people, our clients are asked to produce an artist because the artist has heard about them and their work.
“Also, because of all of our other interests, we create value-added visibility. We're a very aggressive marketing company. We have relationships with video-game and clothing companies and all of the sports publications. When one of our clients works with an artist, it's in our best interest to help raise the visibility of that artist. We distribute 75,000 to 100,000 enhanced CD-music samplers a year at events like the X Games. We also music supervise about 10 video games a year, including the WWF franchise, and another 10 action sports films a year. Having our marketing company work the artist helps our producers, especially on the developing band side.
“You really have to look at this from the fans' perspective. Kids don't differentiate the way companies do. A day in the life of a fan involves going outside and skateboarding, then going inside and playing video games with the volume turned down on their TV set, listening to whatever music they want to hear. Then they'll fire up their G4 and make beats. Entertainment and lifestyle are totally integrated, and respecting that is the key.”
Upcoming Waxploitation/SÄVREN/Ka-buki Digital projects include the February CD release of Waxploitation Presents Being Black, featuring Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples and Mystic; the SÄVREN Winter X Sampler with Snoop Dogg, NERD and DJ Shadow; and the release of King Britt's Beat Generation on the BBE/Rapster imprint.
Audio companies of every stripe are looking for new ways to generate income. At Burbank's World Link Digital, owner Dave Rosen realized some time ago that rental-equipment inventory could be maximized by putting it to use in onsite post-production suites. Rosen is mindful that the resulting division of his company, Absolute Post, doesn't compete with World Link's rental clients. Instead, it offers an alternative to them in the form of editing suites and an adaptable, surround sound dubbing stage. Taking advantage of the services offered by Absolute have been projects for 20th Century Fox Music, NBC, Warner Bros. Music, Disney Feature Animation and Dreamworks Records, as well as television's popular Dinner and a Movie.
Rosen gave me a tour of the World Link facility, which encompasses the rental warehouse, offices, dubbing stage and editing rooms. One of the editing rooms, which has served as both an Avid and Pro Tools suite, is made available to either temporary or long-term tenants. Another room, equipped with Pro Tools and a DigiBeta deck, hosts, among other projects, Dinner and a Movie, providing sound effects, dialog cleanup and mixing. “We also do a lot of ‘to and from’ work with DigiBetas,” Rosen notes. “People can rent them, but it's cheaper to bring the project here. They can just drop off their drives and not have to deal with transport and setup time.”
Rosen is an alumnus of Ocean Way Recording, and Absolute's dubbing stage was inspired by what was one of that studio's original rooms: the “Blue Room.” “It was [Ocean Way owner] Allen Sides' personal listening room,” explains Rosen. “It sounded great, and it had blue theater curtains. I always loved the look of it, so our stage is designed along those lines.”
The all-Pro Tools|HD stage can handle up to 128 voices. Fitted with a 40-fader Pro Control with EditPack, it's generally set up as a one-person mix room, although it's easily reconfigured. “Being that we're a rental facility,” Rosen says, “if someone comes in and needs a two-person mix, we just swap out the sections. We can add wings and bring in another HD system. We can also convert back to a [Pro Tools] MIXPlus system in about 20 minutes if anyone needs to, which people sometimes do because they require certain plug-ins.”
The heart of the dub stage system is a 256-pair Z Systems digital router, which Rosen calls a “very cool box.” “Currently, we're only using 50 percent of the inputs it offers,” he comments. “It makes everything easy. You can do all of your own patching from the desk.”
The surround speaker system is M&K, recommended by Lucasfilm's Jerry Steckling, who advised on the room's design. “We originally built the room for Paul Thomas Anderson at his facility when he was working on Punch Drunk Love, and then we moved it here, ” says Rosen. “He needed a stage near his Avid editing, where he could walk next door and listen to a quick temp mix. They also needed to be able to translate the mixes to the stages up north at [Skywalker]. Jerry spec'd the M&Ks, and also the BSS Soundweb box, which uses a PC front end to do all of the X curves and EQ settings for the system. The Soundweb is great because it has an infinite number of presets and we can easily set up for different clients' needs. We also put in a Stewart MicroPerf screen, and the speakers sit behind it in a proper theatrical mode. But for our cartoon mixing clients, we also still have a TV monitor.”
It doesn't look it, but the whole dubbing room can be made portable. There is also a duplicate setup that's part of World Link's rental stock. On the week I visited, the rental business was brisk, with Pro Tools|HD, Pro Controls and TC Electronic System 6000s among the most requested items. “Whatever you want, we can put it together,” says Rosen. “You can use it here or take it on the road. Our new policy is never to say ‘no’ to any rental request. If we don't have it, we'll find it or refer you to someone who does have it. We also do cartage and setup for other people's systems — whatever we are asked to do.”
Got L.A. news? E-mailMsMDK@aol.com.