The San Francisco Bay Area has been Mix’s home since the magazine was founded more than 40 years ago, and the tragic loss of so many young music creators and fans in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland weighs heavy on our hearts. As we compile our annual Bay Area issue, showcasing the vibrant music and audio production facilities in our backyard, we also grieve with our community.
The Digital Lab at SFJAZZ
In SFJAZZ’s Digital Lab, Jef Stott teaches music-production workshops and seminars.
The SFJAZZ organization is dogged in its mission to promote awareness and enjoyment of jazz music through performance in its performing arts center. Since the SFJAZZ Center celebrated its grand opening four years ago, San Francisco has enjoyed a nearly nonstop jazz festival; at the time of this writing, the venue was about to host multiple dates with the Robert Glasper Experiment, Maceo Parker, Aaron Neville and Terrace Martin, as well as plenty of festive holiday jazz programming.
SFJAZZ’s education efforts also extend to various forms of youth outreach: visiting local schools, teaching jazz repertoire to youngsters, and staging family matinees with artists. In addition, SFJAZZ operates a perhaps lesser known audio production program, holding master classes, intensive weeklong workshops and all-day seminars in its Digital Lab.
“The Lab is a small 10-by-20-foot classroom where we have a dozen or so computers that are outfitted with basic DAWs: Pro Tools, Logic and Ableton,” explains Jef Stot, Digital Lab manager and chief engineer. “We teach an intro to all of those programs, and we also teach things like film scoring, how to DJ live with Ableton, and how to remix jazz and hip hop.
“Some of our classes are boot-camp-type courses on a platform or topic, but we also offer boutique courses with pros. We had Michael Romanowski come in and teach a master class on mastering,” Stott continues, noting that artists, including Glasper, often agree to work with students as part of their SFJAZZ stay.
“We offer some of the same audio education that they have at the audio schools like SAE and Pyramind, but we also do jazz-thematic programming: how to record big band, how to work horns into your jazz arrangements, and how to mix hip hop and jazz, or remix jazz tunes. Plus, we do a lot of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian percussion workshops, and we partner with afterschool programs like Youth Art Exchange and the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco to teach kids about audio production and remixing.”
Stott—a musician, engineer and producer—balances his commitment to the Digital Lab with his personal projects, working out of a studio in the multi-use ActivSpace building in nearby Berkeley. “I mostly use my studio for writing,” he says, “but I do some mastering and mixing, too, and I’ve gotten into video editing and production. I’m producing a travel show about music called The World Is Sound.”
Stott also has a background studying anthropology, and The World Is Sound combines his fascination with the intersection of traditional music and culture with electronic music, and with music production.
“I was in Istanbul for a month in September; I’m going to New Orleans in January, and making plans to go to Cuba and Morocco. Everywhere I go, I interview people, jam with them, possibly collaborate, and then I come home and edit.”
Watch episodes of The World Is Sound: worldissound.tv.jefstott.com.
FANTASY STUDIOS, BERKELEY
The Discussions Orchestra sessions
Under the direction of Jeffrey Wood, Berkeley’s venerable Fantasy Studios keeps busy with national and local artists. The studio is hosting an ongoing live performance series for Dunlop, showcasing artists using Dunlop products; Beats Antique, Snarky Puppy, Big Wreck and others have participated, working with engineers Adam Muñoz and Jesse Nichols. Videos are available on Fantasy’s website.
This past November, the studio hosted artist and chair of the Mills College music department, Roscoe Mitchell, and a varied group of musicians, who spent three days tracking for three upcoming projects. Alberto Hernandez and Robert Kirby engineered the sessions, which included one-and-a-half days devoted to six compositions for 20-piece orchestra, for the upcoming album Discussions Orchestra, and two evenings spent recording for Throttle Elevator Music with Matt Montgomery, Mike Hughes, Gregory Howe, Mike Ramos and Erik Jekabson. Then, on November 10, Erik Jekabson’s Quintet tracked nine compositions.
SESSIONS: BAY AREA
PYRAMIND, SAN FRANCISCO
In Pyramind’s studio called The Vault, students learn music production and sound design.
Just a couple of weeks before we went to press, Pyramind, which offers a wide variety of audio and music production courses f, launched its Pyramind Mentorship Network: a worldwide group of mentors who can engage online with students, one-on-one.
“Our mentors will be providing customized training and guidance on a broad range of topics including music production, composing and arranging, DJing, music business, branding and music theory, as well as software-specific skills on platforms including Ableton, FL Studio, Logic Pro X, Native Instruments and more,” says Pyramind’s marketing director, Jeff Straw. Mentoring sessions are available to students for prices starting at $60 per hour.
25TH STREET RECORDING, OAKLAND
Jason Aldean recording for Pandora
David Lichtenstein’s 25th Street Recording, in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood, hosted Gabriel Shepard working on a new release with legendary drummer Zigaboo Modeliste from The Meters…Brazilian guitarist José Neto tracked a new release engineered by Peter Labberton…Donny McCaslin and the SJDC Big Band completed a new release engineered by the studio’s general manager, John Schimpf…And local bluegrass group Front Country finished tracking their new recording with Scott Bergstrom.
25th Street has also been capturing and streaming events live from the studio: Performances by Yonatan Gat, Donny McCaslin + Fast Future, Jamie Freeman and more are in production and will be available in January 2017. Pandora Radio has also produced several performance films in the facility, including footage of artists Jason Aldean, and Peter, Bjorn & John.
GUERRILLA RECORDING, OAKLAND
L- R: Paul Anastasio, Tony Marcus, Bobby Black
Engineer/producer Myles Boisen has owned and operated Guerrilla Recording for 23 years, offering recording, mixing and CD mastering. Recent projects include new releases from Fred Frith, John Butcher, Thollem McDonas, Nels Cline, Rova Saxophone Quartet/Orkestrova, Bathysphere Big Band, Allen Clapp, Kyle Bruckmann, Paul Anastasio, Tony Marcus, Bobby Black, Crying Time and more. Boisen has also resumed teaching beginning recording workshops and is co-teaching a series of soundtrack composition workshops in conjunction with Mills College professor Fred Frith.
DIFFERENT FUR, SAN FRANCISCO
In this longtime San Francisco studio, producer Starita was working on a collaborative “producer record,” which features Jarobi of A Tribe Called Quest, Mystikal, Trevor Hall, Los Amigos Invisibles, Madame Gandhi, and other musicians, engineers and producers. Starita says the album “blends many styles of dance, R&B and funk music, using electronic elements as well as acoustic instruments.”…San Francisco’s The She’s recorded and mixed their third full-length album. The band tracked to the studio’s Studer A827 analog machine and mixed on the SSL board.… Also recording and mixing in the studio was Sasha’s Black Caviar, who completed a hip-hop album in less than two weeks…Studio manager Jorge Hernandez produced and mixed an album for Vocab Slick; he says the music is a blend of sampling and live playing.
WOMEN’S AUDIO MISSION, SAN FRANCISCO
tUnE-yArDs, Kiran Ghandi and Terri Winston
WAM continues its mission to educate and train future female engineers and producers, hosting artists in the world’s only professional studio that’s run entirely by women. Under the guidance of founder/executive director Terri Winston, the studio has seen more recent sessions than we can list: Jessie Farrell, engineered by Veronica Simonetti; AIDS activist Cleve Jones for his audiobook of When We Rise with engineer Veronica Simonetti; Wu Man, produced by Winston and engineered by Laura Dean; Lia Rose with producer Winston and engineer Kelley Coyne.