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Project Studio: VAZ Music

Vinnie Zummo New York City recording studio profiled in Mix magazine

Vinnie Zummo

Vinnie Zummo might be best known as a guitarist in the Joe Jackson Band in the mid- to late ’80s — a stint that included seven albums and three world tours. But Zummo has long flourished in New York City as a versatile and eclectic performer, songwriter, arranger, musician, producer and sound designer. Plus, Zummo is a multi-instrumentalist. “I’ve never done anything else but music my whole life,” he says.

Besides working with artists/producers such as Shawn Colvin, Art Garfunkel, Mike Mainieri and Marti Jones, Zummo writes for commercial jingles, TV (Oprah, Guiding Light, MTV) and films (Must Love Dogs, The Weather Man). He’s produced hip-hop sample libraries for Zero G/EastWest. His most recent solo album is Swinging Guitar Sounds of Young America, a smorgasbord of musical styles featuring Joe Jackson, Graham Maby, Joy Askew, Marshall Crenshaw, Will Lee, Shawn Pelton, Terry Silverlight and more guests.

Zummo describes his space, VAZ Music, as “a small room that I rent. But you don’t really need the space unless you’re going to bring in a live band. Half the drums on my record were done in that space. I find that, once I start something, there’s always a way to get it done. I like to get a take down quickly. I take about five minutes to get a guitar sound. I figure if you have a good preamp and compressor going in, that’s all you basically need.”

To that end, Zummo works with a small but carefully chosen collection of gear. He works in Pro Tools, supplemented by outboard gear, including a vintage Neve mic pre, vintage UREI 1176, Empirical Labs Distressor, Demeter RV-1 Real Spring Reverb, Demeter Tube Optical Compressor, vintage Roland Dimension D, and hardware from Korg, Vox, Tech 21, Source Audio, Acoustic Image and Zoom. Also on hand are an older Casio keyboard and a Sequential Circuits Prophet. For mics, he says an AKG 414 is “pretty much my staple.” He also uses ADK and Shure models.

Zummo prides himself on his instinctive, creative approach. “People will send me their Pro Tools sessions,” he says. “Say they recorded this song and it’s not popping right. I’ll add little things — put little lo-fi drum loops in the back, a little lo-fi guitar — just painting around the edges. And you’d be amazed at what that does to a song.

“I don’t ever want to settle into a rut,” Zummo says. “Every album I’ve recorded under my own name has been a completely different style of music. It’s harder to sell, but I can never lock into a direction. If music isn’t fun, what’s the point?”