An official passing of the torch took place at May's SPARS (Society for Professional Recording Services) luncheon in Hollywood: Paramount/Ameraycan/Third Stone Studios has become Paramount/Ameraycan/Third Stone/Encore. With 12 studios in four different locations, it's now the largest studio operation in Los Angeles (not counting, of course, the major movie studios). Handing off the flambeau was Larrabee Studios owner (and SPARS director) Kevin Mills. At its largest, Larrabee encompassed three facilities and eight rooms. In the past two years, however, Mills divested himself of the original Larrabee West Studios in West Hollywood (it's no longer a studio) and Larrabee East, which, as we reported here in May, has been purchased by mixer Dave Way and wife Jamie, and rechristened The Pass. Mills now concentrates on the three-room Larrabee North and Gearworks, his equipment rental company.
Why buy a traditional studio now, you may ask? Well, partners Adam Beilenson and Michael Kerns, who purchased Paramount in 1987, have always charted their own path, and through the years have built a solid, no-nonsense business. Originally offering no frills and cheap rates to up-and-comers at Paramount, they've gradually accumulated clients, equipment and good vibes. Now the fact that they offer good value for reasonable rates has put them right in step with what the music industry needs.
The odd couple of the L.A. studio business, Beilenson and Kerns became partners a couple of years before they acquired Paramount. “I was a student at Musician's Institute,” recalls Beilenson. “Mike and his then-partners contacted student placement for someone to help with management at the studios they were operating. I had an ‘in’ with the placement officer who'd been in a band with me back in Washington, D.C., so she passed the contact on to me.
“It was pretty loose back then,” he says with a laugh, “three Hollywood locations with 16- and 24-track rooms and no mortgages. Michael and I became friends. In 1987, we were looking to move everything under one roof and Paramount became available. That's when we got serious and I became involved financially.”
“We were so seat-of-the-pants,” adds Kerns. “The first year Adam worked for us, we couldn't afford to actually pay him. When, after about a year, he presented us with a time card, we had to make him a partner!”
A lease option at Paramount became a purchase in '89, and Kerns and Beilenson found themselves partners in three rooms with Amek, Harrison and MCI consoles. They now not only had a mortgage, they owed payments on everything.
Almost 20 years later, the duo owns four properties (including Third Stone in North Hollywood, which is leased to Three Kings Records) comprising 12 full studios, a mastering room and peripheral private workspaces.
Back to the question: Why more?
“The simple answer,” offers Beilenson, “is that Encore is a good opportunity. It had been on the market for a while and the price had come down. The studio business is not, by any means, gangbusters, but it has recovered a bit. Due to studios closing and going private, there's also been a significant contraction in the L.A. market. So we felt it wasn't terribly risky. We liked both the reputation and the location of the studio, and the fact that it's a turnkey operation; we knew we'd be able to step right in. As a matter of fact, both rooms at Encore were booked the first day we took over.”
The two-room Encore, on Glenwood Place in Burbank, was originally part of the legendary Kendun Studio complex. Its new owners are excited about its history; they're also excited about the 104-input SSL 9000 J Series console they've installed in Studio A, which, for most of the '90s, was home to top mixer Tom Lord-Alge.
“Encore is such a great facility,” enthuses Kerns. “The studios were actually the showrooms for [acoustician/studio designer] Tom Hidley. If you wanted to hire him to build you a beautiful studio, he'd say, ‘Come over here and take a look — B is your tracking room and A is your mix room.’”
A thumbnail Encore history, from Beilenson: “In Studio B, [engineer] Barney Perkins was in with his huge legacy of R&B and soul music. More recently, Dr. Dre. has a super-hip setup: a kitchen and the ‘Ultralounge,’ with pinball, a Jacuzzi and a spiral staircase to the roof. Three of last year's biggest records were done in B: Eminem's Encore, 50 Cent's The Massacre and The Game's The Documentary. Studio A is where TLA [that's Tom Lord-Alge] mixed an incredible list of projects, from the Rolling Stones and U2 to Sugar Ray and Blink-182. A was also a big favorite of mixer Dave Pensado.”
“There's also the fact that Encore really helped us get our start,” points out Kerns. “In 1989, we bought our first SSL — our first major console — from them, which really helped us when A&R people called and asked what kind of console we had! It gave us our first real credibility. Darryl Casseine, who ran Encore, helped us out and made sure the deal went through. He also helped us load it in the truck!” (Casseine, who managed Encore for almost 20 years, can be reached at 818/421-4711.)
Other new gear has been added to Encore: two Pro Tools|HD Accel systems, 10 channels of Neve 1073 modules and eight channels of API 550A. Both A and B are now stocked with doubles of such standards as LA-2As, Pultecs, Avalons, Distressors and 1176s.
It's onward and upward for the odd couple: “We've worked hard to gain the trust and friendship of a lot of music producers and labels, both mainstream and indie,” says Beilenson. “We've got good relationships, and now we've got different options and locations to offer our clients.”
E-mail your L.A. stories toMaureenDroney@aol.com.