Drummer Andy Scott has built a thriving studio business during the past 10 years in large part by capturing a wide variety of music from local indie artists and bands, many of whom are decidedly noncommercial. His Studio 401 (www.thestudio401.com) in San Francisco hosts an eclectic clientele that directly reflects the cultural diversity and adventurous creativity of the surrounding San Francisco Bay Area.
Studio 401 is rapidly expanding thanks to personal referrals from clients, a full range of services and a comfortable atmosphere.
Photo: Pauline Crowther-Scott
Scott records, mixes and masters live and studio projects that range from rock, blues, jazz and Latin jazz to avant-garde and improvisational music performed on homemade instruments. “I do everything, from classical to hip hop to spoken word,” he says. One of Scott's key clients is local indie label Edgetone Records, founded by experimental jazz saxophonist Rent Romus. “I think I've recorded 10 of his artists in the last year,” Scott remembers. “It's great for a studio to work with record companies. Everything is about the relationships you build with people and companies.”
Scott brought his family to San Francisco from England in late 1980, intending to stay for one year, but instead planted new roots. “I was involved with that whole world-beat boom in the '80s here in the Bay Area,” he says. “I played with a band called The Rhyth-o-Matics.” Scott originally purchased recording gear to evaluate his own drumming. “I had one of those [Tascam] Portastudios first, and then a DAT recorder and a Mackie 1604 mixer,” he says. He then began recording his bands, and before long other musicians approached him with projects. “Then I started recording gigs on a [Sony] MiniDisc,” he says. “Over time, the gear evolved with the need.”
Scott's studio expanded into his 12×11-foot garage and other rooms on his property. “We opened up as much space as we could grab downstairs,” he says. “It's not a completely floated type of studio, but we did a lot of work with insulating the walls and ceilings, and built in a floor.” Studio 401 includes an 11×10-foot control room with a wooden floor and a 15×9-foot carpeted tracking space that includes a vocal booth. “I have Auralex foam and diffusers, and some bass trapping in the control room.” Scott uses Auralex's mobile Max-Wall panels and gobos for isolation, and distributes headphone mixes with a Furman system. An upright acoustic piano resides in an 11×11-foot upstairs room. “We've recorded [the piano] by dropping a snake down and sending a headphone feed up there. I also have a video production area sectioned off the garage.
“The studio has lots of natural light,” he continues. “We have a window that looks out over the backyard — people can go out there and relax between takes. We have a nice lounge upstairs, too, with a big-screen TV.” For convenience, Scott keeps a number of instruments in-house, including Gretsch and Sonor drum sets, various percussion instruments, a Fender Precision Bass and an Alesis QS8 keyboard synth.
Studio 401 is based around a custom-built PC that houses two TC Electronic PowerCore cards and runs a Digidesign Pro Tools HD1 system fed by 96 I/O and 888/24 audio interfaces. Scott patches all audio through his Yamaha 02R96 digital mixer and uses it as a control surface for Pro Tools software. He monitors with Mackie HR824s and KRK V4s, and his ample microphone collection comprises models from Neumann, RØDE, AKG, Audio-Technica, Audix, Shure and Sennheiser. As for outboard gear, Scott often relies on his True Systems Precision 8 mic preamp, ART PRO VLA tube compressor and TC Electronic M3000 reverb unit, and regards the SPL Transient Designer as his secret weapon for sculpting drum sounds.
The mastering side of Scott's business has likewise grown organically. “I've had more people coming to me needing projects to be finished off,” he says. “When I'm mastering, I try to listen as a musician.” Scott masters in Steinberg's WaveLab and uses both hardware and software, including Waves Diamond Suite plug-ins, Sonnox Oxford plug-ins, Waves L2 Ultramaximizer and dbx Quantum digital mastering processor. “If I get what I need in the box, I'm fine; if not, I'll patch it out to the [Sonnox] Transient Modulator [plug-in] or the Transient Designer.”
Studio 401's operation has become more of a family affair in recent years. Scott's son, Jody, a trumpet player in Bay Area hip hop band Bayonics, is his assistant engineer, while daughter Chloe contributes as a flutist, composer and arranger. Above all, Scott felt that establishing a good working atmosphere was essential to his success. “The whole recording thing can be so stressful,” he says. “The most important thing for me is that you feel good about being here and get on with the music.”n
Matt Gallagher is an assistant editor at Mix.