L.A. Grapevine

More changes among L.A.'s major studios: Larrabee owner Kevin Mills has sold his two-room Neve facility, Larrabee East, to a group of investors that include

Jamie (right) and Dave Way at the Neve 8078 in The Pass’ Studio T

photo: Maureen Droney

More changes among L.A.'s major studios: Larrabee owner Kevin Mills has sold his two-room Neve facility, Larrabee East, to a group of investors that include his former studio manager, Jamie Way, and her husband, mixer Dave Way, who have renamed it The Pass.

At The Pass (as in the Cahuenga Pass, the divide between Hollywood and the Valley where the complex is located), both studios will be open to the public. That's contrary to rumors that Way, best known for his work with artists Sheryl Crow, Macy Gray, Christina Aguliera, TLC and Pink, among many others, would be taking over one of the rooms.

“I've had Waystation, my own private SSL studio, for almost two years,” explains Way. “That's where I do 99 percent of my work [including Crow's “The First Cut is the Deepest,” albums for Ringo Starr and Robert Downey Jr., and songs for Shakira and Lisa Marie Presley]. Of course, if I'm tracking or I want to mix on a Neve, The Pass will be my first choice.”

Originally the site of Tom Jones' Brittania Studios, the facility was rebuilt as Andora in the late '80s by engineer/producer Doug Perry (currently owner of Rack Attack Rentals). Known for solid construction and quality acoustics — as well as its two 40-input Neve 8078 consoles — the facility has quietly built a stellar reputation among Golden Ears live recording types.

When Andora joined the Larrabee family in 2000, it was partly at the urging of the Ways, who had, incidentally, met at Larrabee North when Jamie Way (then Jamie Romero) was managing the various Larrabee facilities and Way was a client.

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The Recorded Media Supply team, from L to R: manager Leandro Menjivar, co-owner W. Scott Mullen and manager Tim Davis

photo: Maureen Droney

“Kevin was in Australia when the opportunity to buy Andora came up,” Jamie Way recalls. “Neither of us had been there, so he asked me to check it out for him. I took a look and told him that Andora's Neve consoles and tracking capability were what he needed to complement his SSL mix rooms. We all agreed it would make Larrabee truly full-service. On our recommendation, Kevin bought the studios — sight unseen.”

After that purchase, Jamie Way spent two more years running a total of seven rooms in three locations for Larrabee, and then left to start a family. This year, when an offer for the Cahuenga complex fell through, she convinced her husband that they should consider purchasing it themselves (along with investor/partners attorneys Tony and Diana Richardson and actor Brent Spiner).

“At first,” Dave Way says with a laugh, “I said, ‘Are you crazy?’ But after looking into it, it made sense. In recent years, people didn't think they needed a big live room or a lot of expensive microphones. Now, there are very few [of those studios] left and, due to the cost, it's unlikely that more will be built. Andora was constructed with an incredible attention to detail, and the Neve consoles are in fantastic shape. The big tracking room, Studio T, is a beauty, with high ceilings, iso rooms, a baby grand piano and a large lounge that looks down over the live room. It's very comfortable for the long haul, and everyone loves the way it sounds. We don't plan on making any changes to it.”

However, cosmetic changes are planned for The Pass, and studio designer Vincent Van Haaff is consulting on adding a booth for Studio X, the mix room, to serve last-minute overdubs and as a machine room. The studios remained busy through the transition; recently, producer/engineer Bill Bottrell produced Rosanne Cash, Annie Stella and Sierra Swan, while Dave Sardy brought in Jet, The Thrills, Oasis and Supergrass. Also in recently were Rick Rubin, Jerry Finn, Rob Schnapf and Dr. Dre.

The facility's equipment is included in the deal Larrabee-style, which means a huge amount of outboard, including two EMT 140 plates. And while Jamie Way will take on overall management duties, the studio's popular location manager, Anne Kadrovich-Johnson, remains in her position.

The sale, along with last year's sale (and closure) of the original Larrabee in West Hollywood, still leaves Mills with three SSL mix suites at Larrabee in North Hollywood. Those rooms have just been completely redone and a second SSL K Series desk has been added. Besides serving as home base for star mixers Manny Marroquin (Kanye West, Twista) and Dave Pensado (Christina Aguilera, Destiny's Child), Larrabee has recently hosted such producer/engineers as Brian Springer, Dave Reitzas working with India.Irie and Dave Russell mixing Toni Braxton.

“Dave and Jamie are friends, and Dave was one of my best clients,” comments Mills. “I can't think of anyone else I would rather have take over. Gearworks Rentals, the remaining studios and my real estate interests keep me very busy. While East was a great investment for me, it's an exciting opportunity for Dave and Jamie, who are already bringing in some great new energy.”

Like everybody else, Recorded Media Supply (www.blankmedia.com) has been scrambling to acquire analog tape stock. Unlike many, when they have it, they're selling it for the same prices they were charging before Quantegy went into reorganization. Now, with a back order of several thousand reels in place, RMS is expected to be among the first to receive product when Quantegy starts filling orders.

“That's not the way we do business,” says RMS co-owner W. Scott Mullen on the rampant price gouging of recent months. “Many of our customers have been with us a long time; we feel it's important to be steady and offer items at fair prices. Also, we don't want to push people out of the analog format. We don't want to make a difficult situation worse; we want to help analog stay alive!”

In addition to analog tape, CD-Rs, DVDs and just about any kind of backup format, RMS now offers a wide variety of portable hard drives by Glyph, Avastor, Rocstor, LaCie and EZQuest. “We used to keep just the high-end products,” explains manager Tim Davis. “But as people have gotten more familiar with the format, they've developed preferences. Now it seems like drives get matched to the project.

“For example, we sell a lot of Avastar drives to bands who are traveling to Europe or the UK because they like the sturdy carrying case. Other people like the pocket size of the Rocstors, and there are some people who will only use Glyph because, if there's ever a failure, they'll overnight you a replacement.”

Http://Data.mediastore.com is RMS' online sister division, offering all of the usual supplies and more. Those ordering online get breaks: free UPS ground shipping and “more aggressive pricing.”

“On datamediastore.com, we sell a broad mix,” explains Davis. “One of the benefits is, if you can wait until tomorrow for your order, you can get a substantial savings. Of course, we still deliver the same day when you need that, but now there's a choice.”

The online division is adding customers from outside as well as inside the music business. RMS is now one of the largest West Coast distributors of MAM-A Mitsui CD-Rs and DVD-Rs, about which Davis says, “The MAM-As have worked out very well for a lot of our customers like labels that buy discs in bulk.”

Also available from datamediastore.com are Digidesign items such as Digi 002 and Mbox. “because, while we want to maintain our presence as a pre-eminent analog tape distributor,” Davis says, “we also have a strong commitment to the digital format.

“We have faith in analog as a dependable format,” Davis concludes, “and we'll continue to support that with high-end customer service, while also bringing our strengths to the Pro Tools market.”

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