My 'hood in the San Fernando Valley has been known as Studio City since the early days of the movie business, long before recording studios existed. As it turns out, the closest facility to my house, less than a mile to the north in fact, is Bay 7 (www.bay7studios.com), situated not in Studio City but in a gentrified section of North Hollywood that adopted the more appealing name Valley Village 15 years ago.
Justin Schier at work in Sonikwire Studio A
The two-room facility is on the eastern end of Magnolia Boulevard's studio row, but you'd be hard-pressed to find it if you didn't know it was there, and the two guys who own the place, veteran engineers Dave Rouze and Jeff Sheehan, prefer it that way.
One of the reasons Sheehan is press-shy is that he has all the business he can handle, thanks in large measure to the near-continuous presence in Studio A of Howard Benson, who is to Bay 7 as Don Gilmore is to NRG or as Jack Joseph Puig is to Ocean Way. Among the albums Benson has made in the room are Hoobastank's breakthrough, The Reason, and their recently released follow-up; My Chemical Romance's Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge; the All American Rejects' Move Along; and Flyleaf's self-titled debut.
Another frequent client is Joe Barresi, who mixes in Studio B. Tool's 10,000 Days (see “Recording Notes,” page 116) and Queens of the Stone Age's Lullabies to Paralyze were also done here. Considering this list, you'd think Bay 7 was wired directly into KROQ, three miles to the east.
Sheehan and Rouze got to know each other in the mid-'90s while the former was engineering independent projects at Drive-By, Rouze's North Hollywood home studio. They soon discovered that they shared what Sheehan calls “this affliction of buying gear. The place was packed out — it was overboard with outboard gear,” Sheehan says of Drive-By. “Dave had a Neve frame sitting in storage, and we had enough modules for it so we decided to get a studio to put all this stuff to use.”
In June 1998, the partners took over the second-tier, two-room facility Lighthouse, its lone distinction being that John Fogerty had spent five years in the room working at his typically glacial place on the 1998 Blue Moon Swamp.
They gave it the odd moniker Bay 7 after an obscure Keith Richards pun meaning “Bass Heaven” — “as opposed to Freebase Heaven,” Sheehan quips — and the mysterious name suited the underground character of the place.
With Rouze frequently called away by the Rolling Stones (he's worked as a live guitar tech for the Stones and for U2's Bono for a number of years), Sheehan has handled the day-to-day operations. When asked how Bay 7 became a go-to place, Sheehan deflects the question: “I don't know — is it? We're still booked and we're still here, so I guess there's a lot to say for that.”
Somewhat less-conveniently located — for me, I mean (especially in these days of $65 fill-ups) — is Sonikwire, a snazzy studio tucked into a modern industrial park in Irvine, practically next door to Orange County's John Wayne Airport and a 15-minute straight shot from Newport Beach on the 55 freeway.
When Josh Gordon and Justin Schier opened Sonikwire in August of 2001, they already ran the successful Web-design outfit Sonik Newmedia, with clients ranging from large corporations to local musicians. But the partners were, and are, music junkies — Gordon plays bass while Schier is a keyboardist — and so is their equity partner, a successful businessman. Moreover, as locals, they discerned what appeared to be a significant void in the bustling Orange County music scene. “When we started,” says Gordon, “there weren't really any serious studios in our area, so we saw this as an opportunity, and we've enjoyed steady business with relatively little marketing.” Sonikwire has hosted acts ranging from The Surfaris to Whitney Houston, as well as producers Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Jimbo Barton, Ken Marshall, Steve Evetts, Fulton Dingley and Chris Colbert.
And no wonder, considering the lack (until recently) of local competition, the lure of the O.C. beaches and the facility's striking design — all blond woods and white-painted surfaces, featuring a spacious 900-square-foot tracking room with an 18-foot ceiling inset with six skylights that bathe the room in natural light. Facing the control room on the back wall of Studio A is a glassed-in second-floor lounge, where musicians on downtime can watch their bandmates work.
“We love design and architecture, so we wanted to bring those elements into our studio,” says Gordon. “Also, the shape and size of our facility caused us to make some unorthodox choices about how the rooms should function.” As for the gear, “We wanted to have as much of the warm vintage equipment as possible, so we went with Neve — lots of Neve,” Schier explains, referring primarily to the 60-channel custom 8028 board. “We also went after as many vintage mics as we could get our hands on.” They balanced out the tube gear with a Pro Tools HD3 Accel setup with Apogee Rosetta 800 and Digidesign 192 interfaces.
“Our involvement in the studio business ranges from administration to production to engineering to being session players,” says Schier. “We're constantly thinking of ways to find a relevant niche for the studio that can play on our strengths, our various in-house skill sets and our location near the beach.” Ah, yes, the beach.
Presently under construction is a mix room. “We've been pleased with the mixes we've heard from our various clients in Studio A,” says Gordon. “But we wanted to go for a killer mix facility with a 100-input 9000J SSL console and 5.1 wall-mounted speakers in a traditionally designed control room, along with a wood-floor tracking room. We've been working with George Newburn and the geniuses at Studio 440 on the design. There's also a dedicated post-production studio in the plans for next door.”
For more information on Sonikwire, contact Jane Scobie at 877/766-4555 or visit www.sonikwire.com.
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