The allure of Allaire: By definition, “New YorkMetro” focuses on recording activities in and around the BigApple. Whether a residential studio nestled in a sylvan paradise wellbeyond the city's limits qualifies for inclusion is open to debate.What's certain is that Allaire Studios in Shokan, N.Y., caters to someof the industry's top talent and offers an alternative to urbanfacilities. It's hard to imagine a recording environment morephysically beautiful and more conducive to meditation and creativitythan Allaire. The place is the epitome of the residential studio, inthat it offers the best of all worlds technologically and acoustically(a huge Neve tracking/mixing room and an even bigger SSL studio),peerless technical support and luxurious — though not opulent— accommodations.
In these days of tight budgets and creative (i.e., homespun)recording solutions, Allaire seems almost anachronistic. The studio'sproximity to the storied hamlet of Woodstock, N.Y., brings to mind TheBand's basement sessions at Big Pink. Allaire also conjures up imagesof the now-defunct Manor residential complex in the Englishcountryside, where Mike Oldfield set the stage for the era ofindulgence by holing himself up for months to craft his masterpiece,Tubular Bells. It seems impossible that a new studio could beborn in the 21st century with a concept that thrived in a bygone era,and has since been all but discarded. Nevertheless, Allaire makes ithappen in the most convincing way.
Founded a mere two years ago by entrepreneurs Randall and JackieWallace, the studio has already amassed an awesome credit list: DavidBowie, Norah Jones, Tim McGraw, Joan Baez, the Gipsy Kings, Tim andNeil Finn, Cassandra Wilson, Sir James Galway, Guster and NatalieMerchant, to name a few. Many of these artists have sung the praises ofAllaire in interviews, and Bowie has gone as far as buying a largetract of land in the studio's vicinity, according to The New YorkObserver.
Artists flock to Allaire because of its secluded setting, itsbreathtaking views, its giant acoustic spaces, its state-of-the-artequipment and its staff. The two-room facility — which wasdesigned by John Storyk and George Augspurger — offers a widerange of options. The Neve studio, which houses an 8068 with Uptownauto-mation and Fred Hill mods, is a 37×30-foot area with theconsole set in a corner of the room facing inward diagonally. There isno control room; just open space with an adjoining foyer and lounge(plus a third room that can be used for isolation). For mixingsessions, gobos are arrayed behind the mixing position to tone down the“liveness” of the room.
Despite its impressive size and lavish equipment offerings,Allaire's Neve room is dwarfed by the Great Hall, the studio'scenterpiece. Measuring 35×50 feet with a cathedral ceiling thatrises to 45 feet, the Great Hall also features 20-foot-high windowsthat offer panoramic views of the Catskill Mountains. Unlike the Neveroom, the Great Hall does have a separate control room, and it is asimpressive as one might imagine: a 30×26-foot space with a SolidState Logic 9000 J, Pro Tools|HD system, and all of the analogrecording and processing gear a top engineer might specify.
The two recording studios and their nearby accommodations are housedin an estate built in the 1920s by Henry Pitcairn, a Pittsburgh-basedin-dustrialist who used the Shokan estate as his summer getaway, wherehe often entertained guests with musical ensembles.
The Wallaces bought the mansion in 2001 and promptly fulfilled theirdream of turning it into a recording complex. One of their first andbrightest moves was to hire Mark McKenna as studio manager. A veteranof the L.A. scene (most notably as a staff engineer at A&MStudios), McKenna found his groove in the early 1990s as manager ofBearsville, the archetypal Woodstock-area residential studio of itsday.
Asked how his years at Bearsville prepared him for his role atAllaire, McKenna says, “People want to be treated well andprofessionally, and it takes a tremendous amount of effort to do that.When people come to a residential studio, you really have adopted themfor the duration. You're dealing with every aspect of their existence:from their sleep to their diet to their laundry. Whether they get anysleep becomes your area of concern. Your areas of responsibility getspread out logarithmically.”
Of course, the payoff is that if you succeed in providing artistswith such a profound level of service, then they reward you with lavishappreciation and repeat business, according to McKenna. “In thismagical sort of environment, people can have an experience that's muchmore memorable than they'd have in a facility in an industrialpark,” he says. “Their heads are going to a differentspace. They're getting away from the city, the suburbs, transportation,noise, hassles, etc. They're being infused with the environment uphere.”
Besides McKenna, other key staffers at Allaire include chieftechnical engineer Ken McKim, staff engineer Brandon Mason, propertymanager Britt St. John and office manager Susan Perrin.
A fond farewell: Dear readers, the time has come for me tomove on. With a great mix of emotions (sorry, I couldn't resist), Ileave behind the post of New York editor — which Mixallowed me to fulfill on a part-time, freelance basis — to pursuea full-time position in the communications/marketing department at AvidTechnology.
However, I will stay involved in the music recording industrythrough my production company and studio, Vernacular Music, which willremain active. I also intend to continue freelancing for Mix,albeit with less frequency than in the past three years. Whether as anengineer or journalist, I plan to stay in touch with all of you, and Iencourage you to continue to keep me abreast of your activities. I canstill be reached at email@example.com.
I would like to personally thank a group of individuals who havegone beyond the scope of their jobs to educate, entertain and, in somecases, inspire me. I owe them all a huge debt of gratitude and lookforward to continuing my friendships with them.
In the New York PR sphere, I had the pleasure of working with DebraPagan, Howard Sherman, David Steinberg, Daniel O'Connell, Bob Griffinand Robin Hoffman.
Among New York studio owners and staff, I would like to acknowledgeTroy Germano, Kirk Imamura, Dave Amlen, Steve Rosenthal, Randy Ezratty,Simon Andrews, Murat Aktar, Doug Levine, Hugh Pool, William Garrett,Oliver Straus, Andy Taub, Mark McKenna, Dae Bennett, David Hewitt,Karen Brinton, Tommy Uzzo, Andy Chase, Adam Schlesinger and KaraBilof.
The region is populated with gifted producers, engineers, mixers,sound designers and other professionals. It was a great honor to workwith so many of them on Mix stories, including Tony Visconti, EddieKramer, Phil Ramone, Frank Filipetti, Rich Tozzoli, Kevin Killen,Elliot Scheiner, Peter Hylenski, Paul Soucek and Greg Calbi. Othersingularly talented folks who helped out include John Storyk, FrancisManzella and Benjy Bernhardt.
In the manufacturing community, Rick Plushner, David Kawakami, BillAllen and Eric Klein deserve special recognition for their selflesscontributions to my coverage.
Although the bulk of my work for Mix involved the New Yorkarea, the subject matter of my stories often transcended geography.Some of the non-New York people who had the greatest impact on my workat Mix are Chris Stone, Mr. Bonzai, Bob Ludwig, Gail Ludwig,Adam Ayan, Hank Neuberger, Lisa Roy, Bob Clearmountain, Betty Bennett,Nat Thomp-son, Lance Vardis, Joe Chiccarelli and the late DennyPurcell.
Finally, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to theMix folks who brought me into the fold, supported me,accommodated me and supplied me with a steady diet of fascinating work:Tom Kenny, Blair Jackson, George Petersen, Sarah Jones, Sarah Benzuly,Chris Michie and Barbara Schultz.
Thank you all.