Jef Stott and Kush Arora — both independent producer/artist/DJs in the San Francisco Bay Area — share Embarka Studios, which is situated in a mixed-use building in San Francisco's trendy Hayes Valley neighborhood. Stott describes Embarka as a “small boutique studio for voice-over, singer/songwriter, world music, electronica, hip-hop, Foley and sound design. It's a little spot, but it's kind of mighty.”
Both Stott and Arora are rooted in electronic and world-music genres. Stott specializes in Middle Eastern styles; he founded Embarka Records in 2005 and is also signed to Six Degrees Records. Arora oversees Kush Arora Productions. “Most of the music I record here is dance hall, dub step, Bhangra and electronic-dub styles,” Arora explains. Arora also does voice-over and post-production work for Web and video. Embarka's clients include Electronic Arts, Showtime, New Line Cinema and Caravan Records.
Stott and Arora had outgrown their first shared studio in an artistic collective called Cell Space. In mid-2006, Stott discovered their current room, whose previous tenant had left behind a control room with a built-in window and some acoustic treatment. “It just needed a little refinement on its surfaces,” Arora notes.
“We have four spaces,” Stott says. “There's a 3×4-foot window that looks into our [WhisperRoom] isolation booth, and next to [that is] a 12×20-foot performance area. The foyer is probably 6×10, and the control room is 8×12.”
The studio partners maintain opposite work schedules and use separate DAW systems. Stott's Power Mac G5 runs MOTU Digital Performer Version 5 and Ableton Live V. 6, as well as virtual instruments from Native Instruments, Spectrasonics, Propellerhead and LinPlug, and Waves' Platinum Native Bundle plug-ins. Arora primarily works on a Dell Inspiron E1505 laptop PC and has a custom tower PC containing Universal Audio UAD-1 and UAD-2 cards. He uses Nuendo, Ableton Live, Adobe Audition, and various soft synths and plug-ins. Both partners monitor on Dynaudio BM 5As and share a collection of outboard processing and microphones.
This month, Arora is releasing The Dread Bass Chronicles and Boiling Over on his label. Stott recently produced Eastern Wind, and will soon begin production on his next solo release. Looking to the future, Stott says, “I think I'm going to make Embarka a multimedia, interactive design studio, expanding the palette and the client list.”