Camus Celli in his new control room at Vel Records
The newly formed Vel Records (www.myspace.com/velrecords) and its Brooklyn, N.Y.-based studio began as the private studio of EMI songwriter/producer Camus Celli. Having come up under producer Nile Rodgers, Celli has produced such artists as Tina Turner, David Byrne and Arto Lindsay. As Celli has become a sought-after songwriting partner for major label artists-in-development, his project studio — which is built-out in a loft space situated on the edge of the East River — has become a creative commune. A recent studio expansion and the label's first in-house production — a record by rock/rap phenom Krista that's scheduled for release in the fall in partnership with J Records — illustrate the vitality of the label's adaptive, pop-savvy team.
Vel Studios now incorporates Celli's initial room, which is equipped with a full-tilt Pro Tools HD3 rig and his eclectic collection of vintage analog gear and keyboard; also included are a large live room with staggering city views, a writing suite and a brand-new recording/mixing studio. Celli's partner in the facility is also his frequent songwriting and production collaborator, Paul Conte, with whom he established Vel Records.
“Vel Records is a new-model music company,” says Celli. “Basically, it's a collection of music industry veterans. We're all into great music and figuring out how to make our projects work financially in a new, nontraditional system. It's all about being fluid and nimble and providing whatever the project needs: production, marketing, management, promotions — identifying what it will take to get the artist to the next level and then providing that.”
In addition to signing, developing and producing new artists, Vel Records is also taking in songwriters to its publishing division, Vel Songs. The newly expanded studio supports the increased in-house production and now accommodates visiting mix engineers. “Vel, the studio, will be operating like a kind of writer's camp at times,” says Celli, “and so we needed a larger environment — a multiroom facility that could handle a few projects at once. Additionally, I wanted the new room to be an option for some of my professional mixer friends, so I incorporated some of their gear requests.”
The new recording/mixing room is in an oblong space with the control room (and more city views) at the far wall, with a sizeable lounge/recording area laid out before it and a fully floated vocal booth tucked into the corner. From the control room area up on a floated deck, engineers have access to a second Pro Tools HD3 system, which mirrors the first in its fanatical plug-in selection. Vel Studios' rackmount gear includes a Chandler Limited Mini Rack mixer and the company's EMI/Abbey Road Series outboard units, including TG Channels and TG Limiters; API 550, 560 and 512Cs; dbx 160XTs and 162s; Neve 3314s; UREI 1176s; and Celli's choice Altec 458A and 1567A tube mic pre's. Near-field monitors include Tannoy System 1000, ProAc Studio 100 and Yamaha NS-10s.
“It was important that the studio be modular because a lot of people are mixing in the box and don't need a console, but will roll in with their rack and want to plug in and go,” Celli notes. “We have a Sterling Mastering desk in there, which comes apart to fit the different control surfaces an engineer might bring in.” Celli and engineer Josh Grant spent months perfecting the room's acoustic design, relying on RealTraps panels and trusted ears to achieve what he feels are reliable, transferable results.
“I wanted to define two distinct environments without putting walls up,” Celli explains. “The control area, which is floated with a drop ceiling, is a lot drier. And as you back away from that platform into the recording area, it gets slightly brighter. I let some of the concrete ceiling show through so you have a [livelier], airier sound for recording, but then I deadened the long wall so there's no slap-back into the control room. I had mastering engineers come in, and we did a lot of trial and error with speaker positioning before installing any of the gear.”
Celli and Conte recently co-wrote and produced 14 tracks for Brenda Radney, who is newly signed to Justin Timberlake's Tennman Records, an Interscope imprint. Celli cut nearly all of Radney's vocals in the new room, right out in the open. “I'm a big fan of doing vocals in the control room, so this new room is perfect because there's enough space that we can set up a vocalist in front of or behind the producer/engineer, depending on whether they want that eye contact,” he notes. “The fully floated anechoic chamber is there too, though — another touch to make the room totally client-friendly.”