Like any savvy entrepreneur who builds a state-of-the-art music recording studio, Dae Bennett rationalizes his decision by invoking the insanity defense: “Everybody's like, ‘You're building a large studio? You're out of your mind!’ But our family, we've always done that. When everybody's doing this, we're doing that.”
Bennett's family ties are important to the success of his operation. His father is none other than Tony Bennett, the legendary crooner who has enjoyed a career resurgence since the early '90s. Dae's older brother, Danny, is also in the family business, managing their father, among other artists. Danny was also the driving force behind the Arts & Entertainment network's popular Live By Request series.
But Bennett Studios has a lot more going for it than its bloodlines. The two-room facility — located in an old train station depot in suburban Englewood, N.J., minutes away from New York — is a musician's and engineer's dream.
It features a 50×30-foot live space with high ceilings, lots of ambient light and four isolation booths; a Bosendorfer grand piano that has been in the Bennett family for years, as well as a Yamaha grand; Neve VR and Solid State Logic G Plus consoles; a Pro Tools suite featuring a Pro Control surface; full-blown Pro Tools systems in the recording rooms; 48 tracks of Studer analog recorders; 32 tracks of 24-bit Tascam DA-98 per room; four Apogee AD-8000s; and a collection of microphones and outboard gear that you would expect in a studio of its caliber.
Furthermore, Bennett Studios is linked via fiber to the nearby John Harms Theater, a 1,400-seat venue with renowned acoustics and a history of hosting top acts. The connection allows the Bennett facility to record up to 64 channels of audio and four channels of video from the theater's stage, enabling the recording and broadcasting of concert events, and the use of the venue's acoustics in music post-production.
Another distinguishing feature of Dae Bennett's operation is the Tony Bennett Center for the Media Arts, an educational facility that will offer students from the nearby Dwight Morrow School programs in production technology.
The facility was designed by London-based studio architect Andy Munro, whose credits include NRG in Hollywood, AIR Studios in London, and the personal studios of Paul McCartney and David Gilmour. The town of Englewood has long and strong ties to the music industry: Besides the Bennett family, which lived in the town from the '50s through the early '70s, Englewood and its sister municipality, Englewood Cliffs, have been home to Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn, Wilson Pickett, Jerry Vale, George Benson, Joey Bishop, Eddie Murphy, John Faddis and iconic jazz producer Rudy Van Gelder.
Bennett Studios' look suggests home-like comfort, but its underlying design reflects the realities of a professional clientele that needs far more than just a vibey place in which to record. The facility is equipped with an Internet production suite that can accommodate virtually any Web-related pursuit, from site development to Webcasting to online commerce for independent artists. The Internet suite and the recording/mixing/post rooms are all linked via a central machine room that allows for a broad range of signal routing options, according to Bennett.
“We set this up so that anybody could use it however they wanted to use it,” says Bennett of the various rooms at his studio. “I was really into making it open-ended.”
The North Room, which is adjacent to the large tracking area, features a 60-input Neve VR with Flying Faders automation. The South Room houses an 80-input SSL G Plus and feeds a 12×15-foot live space with additional iso booths, which will make that studio predominantly a mixing/overdub room.
Although both of the “music” control rooms can be equipped with 5.1-channel monitoring capabilities, should the demand arise, in the immediate future all the surround work at Bennett will be done in the Pro Tools suite. That may include film or television posting, as well as mixing and/or authoring for DVD — ancillary areas that are intended to round out the studio's core offering, which is music production.
“The approach here was to be a studio that does all things — music recording, mixing, digital editing, posting, etc. — but it's really about our specialty, which is music,” says Bennett. “Not that you couldn't post a Discovery Channel show here; there's a facility here to do it. But our main thrust as engineers and producers is about music, and we wanted to make sure that we had a space that could accommodate that.”
The senior staff at Bennett reflects the facility's commitment to the music community. Engineer/Web master Dave Kowalski worked with Dae Bennett at his previous studio, Hillside Sound, which had a solid track record among pop, rock, jazz and R&B artists, including Gillespie, Queen Latifah and Naughty By Nature. Bennett shuttered Hillside when he decided to open Bennett Studios.
Another Bennett staffer is general manager Bill Foley, most recently operations manager at Clinton Recording, and previously a marketing manager for RCA Victor. Foley brings to the operation deep experience in studio management and a strong music orientation.
Even as the staff puts the finishing touches on the rooms, the studio is officially open. In its first few days of operation, it hosted post-production sessions for PBS live music programs featuring Petula Clark and the Newport Jazz Festival. Both of those projects were recorded on location by Bennett.
One of the best-kept secrets in New York engineering circles is Mario de Arce, a multifaceted studio pro who, in a short time, has amassed an impressive list of credits that includes Canibus, Pras, Whitney Houston, Brand Nubians, DMX, Erykah Badu, Jennifer Lopez, Lauryn Hill, Vitamin C, Faith Evans, Carlos Santana and Mary J. Blige. A graduate of Full Sail Academy and a veteran of Criteria Studios in Miami and Sony Music Studios in New York, de Arce is equally adept at cutting analog tracks as he is at performing the most sophisticated Pro Tools moves. In fact, his Pro Tools chops have earned him distinction not only as a top-level editor, but also as a technical guru who often has answers to questions that baffle other experts. (His Web address reveals his fascination with the popular digital audio format: www.protoolsworld.com.)
De Arce keeps one of his two Pro Tools rigs in his home-based studio on the Upper East Side; the other he rents to select clients, most recently to Foxy Brown, whose engineering team used it for several weeks while editing and mixing her new album.
Lately, de Arce has been expanding his horizons with a variety of engineering, editing, consulting and mixing projects, including sessions with up-and-coming rock/pop group 9 Days for the soundtrack to The New Guy. On that project, de Arce worked with engineer Eddie Miller and musical director Ralph Sall at Chung King Studios (see photo).
De Arce also is preparing to engineer tracks by pop singer Adrianne, who is working with composer/producer Joe Ross. In addition, de Arce has been advising songwriter/producer Phil Galdston (of “Save the Best For Last” fame) on a major studio upgrade.
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