L.A. Grapevine

For some time, I've been suggesting (yet an other!) designated Grammy Award category: Best Cartage of the Year. With the proliferation of home studios and the decimation of recording budgets, the challenges of the business have grown exponentially.

For some time, I've been suggesting (yet an other!) designatedGrammy Award category: Best Cartage of the Year. With the proliferationof home studios and the decimation of recording budgets, the challengesof the business have grown exponentially. Just ask Jimmy Giglio ofMates, the North Hollywood cartage, rental, storage and rehearsalstudio company founded by his partner, Bob Brunner.

“It's true,” Giglio says with a rueful laugh.“With budgets down, people are cutting back. What they don'trealize is that in this business, a lot of times it's the little guysthat make things happen. Rehearsal and cartage are bottom-linenecessities, but, especially with cartage, most people just don'trealize what goes into it. Sometimes, what we do is actually physicallydangerous. There'll be 400 to 500-pound equipment racks, 2-inch tapemachines and a driveway that a truck can't fit up. It takes four guysand three hours, sometimes on short notice, and safety alwayshas to come first.”

There's probably nobody in town with more insider knowledge of theLos Angeles music scene than Brunner and Giglio. Although they won'ttalk, they're privy to the who, what, when, where and why of just abouteverything that goes on. Says Giglio, “It's easier to list whohasn't worked at Mates than who has. But when you come to Mates, it'syour business and nobody else's.”

It all began back in the early '80s. That's when Brunner, who'dgrown up in New York “around the music business” (hisfather was a press agent for such jazz notables as Louis Armstrong),opened his first rehearsal studio. “I fell into this,” headmits, “and I learned from the school of hard knocks. In thebeginning, I made so little money I actually lived here for four years.I never had any investors, but when Guns N' Roses blocked out a lot oftime for Use Your Illusion 1 and 2, there was an influxof money that I poured back into the business. That's when I startedthe cartage division.”

Giglio, a Massachusetts native, elaborates on the details of hisintroduction to Brunner: “I came out with a band in 1982. Inbetween gigs, I had nowhere to live, so I was sleeping on the couch atMates. I wasn't the only one! A lot of people got their start here.Finally, in 1997, I came back off the road from Brazil, realized it wastime for a change and went to work with Bob.”

Today, Mates has three rehearsal rooms, 60 or so storage lockers, 12employees, five trucks and somewhere around 150 cartage accounts. Thelargest rehearsal stage has a sophisticated acoustic environment withan Electrotec (now PRG) P.A. and monitors — powered by Crown amps— and a Soundcraft SM12 monitor desk. The two smaller rooms, alsoequipped with monitor systems, are likewise set up for privacy withseparate bathrooms.

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Brunner relies on his large network of friends to stay on top of newgear. “I have a lot of help around town, great contacts withtheir ears to the ground and great suggestions: People like sound techTony Byrd and Ted Leamy, who's with JBL now but was with Electrotec fora long time.”

Business continues to grow. A new addition to the complex is a ProTools production and recording suite, a joint venture in artistdevelopment with producers Mike Clink and Noel Golden. On the cartageside, there's more than pick up and drop off. Some sessions require aMates tech to set up equipment or to work the entire session. There arebackline rentals, and Mates now handles worldwide freight forwardingfor many of its touring clients. “We work a lot with SoundMoves,” says Giglio. “For the techs, artist managers andtour managers, it just became simpler to have us help in that area.They can take care of things with one phone call. There's so much goingon with a rock tour, when people need something done, they want it offtheir plate without having to worry about it. They can just talk to usonce and it's done.”

The friendly mom-and-pop (actually, pop-and-pop) vibe of Matesremains constant, but these days, Brunner tries to quit by five to gohome to his family. “It's hard to make myself leave,” headmits. “I like what I do: being around artists and creativepeople, and especially the production managers and technicians —the unsung heroes. It never fails to blow my mind what it takes to makea show or an album happen. At Mates, we try to make things a littleeasier for our clients to do their jobs and to make them comfortablewhile they're doing them.”

Hollywood Sound Recorders has completed a major renovation and iscelebrating both its reopening and the debut of its hybrid 64-channelNeve 8068/API console. Founded in 1965 by songwriter Jesse Hodges,the venerable Hollywood Sound complex has, during the years, hosted along list of classic recordings by such artists as Earth Wind &Fire, Prince, George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, as well ascurrent hits by Slayer, System of a Down and the Black Crowes. Mostrecently, along with much of the rest of Hollywood, HSR had beenstruggling. Now owned by Hodges' son Jon, an entrepreneur in his ownright, HSR is re-emerging as a comfortable, hip and live music —friendly environment for budget-conscious bands.

Situated in the heart of what has been a slowly but surelygentrifying area, HSR seems poised to take advantage of both itshistory and the energy of the neighborhood. There's also new energy inthe building. In addition to the main first-floor studio, two newlyconstructed studios, occupied by producers Dave Cobb and Brad Todd, arenow on the second floor, as is L.A. Entertainment, a recordlabel/promotion company joint venture between Hodges andproducer/composer Jim Ervin.

Hollywood Sound's original studios were known for being solidlybuilt and much of the infrastructure has been left intact. The bigchange is that the facility's two smaller studios have been combinedinto one that boasts a large tracking area with five iso rooms, newbathrooms and a spacious lounge.

“Basically, I've redone, at least cosmetically, every squareinch of the building,” explains Hodges, who's carved a successfulnonmusic business career out of two golf-related companies. “Mydad started with a little studio, and over the years bought out theentire building. It was a great place in its day, but it hadn't beenmaking money for a long time. I grew up around the studios, but I'm nota musician; I'm more of a businessman. When I took over the building, Iwasn't sure what to do with it. Finally, I decided that I wanted tokeep it as a studio. There were a lot of great records made here, and Iwant to bring that history back. A lot of people helped us with the newstudio design, like George Augspurger, Chris McClure, Steven Klein andChris Pelonis. It was a big decision for me and it's been a lot ofwork, but everybody seems to love the result.”

Except for cosmetics, the original control room of Studio A was leftmostly intact. “In the control room, all we really did was takeout the raised floor, which used to be a foot or so higher than it isnow,” Hodges comments. “That makes the room feel much moreopen and spacious.”

The upgrades have resulted in a warm, earth-toned design withnatural bark wall treatments that somehow manages to feel both modernand vintage with a comfy living room vibe. The “best of bothworlds” theme continues with the console: a combination Neve 8068and custom API with 550A EQ modules. Tied together through the Nevecenter section, the console features 16 bus outs, eight aux sends and48 channels of Flying Faders. (An additional 16 faders are slated forFlying Faders, for a total of 64 automated inputs.) Work on the consolewas done all in-house, under the auspices of chief tech“Chuckie,” with the help of an international consortium:engineers Aleks Tamulis, Bryan Davis, Selim Achour and GarenAvetisyan.

Other equipment in the main studio includes Pro Tools, a StuderA827, an Ampex ½-inch ATR 100 and a good complement of outboardgear: UREI, dbx, Summit, Avalon, Universal Audio, Altec, Lexicon,Eventide, Yamaha and TC Electronic signal processing. There are alsotwo EMT plates: a 240 and a 140. Main monitors are George Augspurgerwith JBL and TAD components; near-fields include Tannoy Super Gold withMastering Lab crossovers, Noberg BCS 16Bs, Yamaha NS-10s andAuratones.

The second floor has its own separate entrance, a reception area, alounge and bathrooms. The studios, which were built as “roomswithin rooms” to provide sonic isolation, feature picture windowsthat look out over Hollywood. Cobb's studio is fitted with an SSL 4000E/G Plus, and Todd's is a Pro Tools suite with an abundance of outboardgear and microphones.

“The renovation is really in memory of my father,” saysHodges. “It has been a labor of love that I couldn't have donewithout the support of both my wife, Amy, and my mother, Betty. My hopeis that the studio will be able to thrive for another 40 years andcontinue to make music that lasts forever.” Visit www.HollywoodSound.net for more info.

Got L.A. news? E-mailMaureenDroney@aol.com.