In-between San Jose and San Francisco, next to the freeway for which it was named, musical journeys have taken place at Oakland's Studio 880 (www.studio880.net) since 1998. Owned and operated by East Bay native John Lucasey, the studio caters to regional artists and was Lucasey's first step toward his overall goal: creating a comprehensive production group, 880 Entertainment.
A longtime musician himself, Lucasey has produced bands since high school and worked as a stunt man for film and television in Hollywood. Creating Studio 880 was a natural extension of his love for music, entertainment and risk-taking.
Tiki Bob welcomes you to Studio 880.
All photos: Mike Cruz
Lucasey has had the privilege of tending to a very busy studio, thanks to the diverse range of production services he offers — including audio, video and feature film work — and his strong ties with the Bay Area music community. It helps, too, that he's created a studio vibe that balances comfort and creativity with the raucous and bohemian: For example, Lucasey's been known to roll go-carts out of storage for clients to ride in his parking lot, and at night, the red walls in Studio A's hip bar glow under hand-painted phosphorescent stars, a tempting place to linger after late-night sessions.
After successfully selling her debut CD, Closer, out of the trunk of her car, singer Goapele and her family started their label, Skyblaze Recordings.
Studio 880's setup also encourages tenants like R&B singer/songwriter Goapele. Goapele, who hails from Oakland and recently signed with Sony (representing her own label, Skyblaze Recordings; www.goapele.com), is currently working on her third CD, due out in early 2005. Goapele's suite features its own iso booth for tracking vocals and is a comfortable space for her to work in privacy. Says Goapele, “For [sophomore record] Even Closer, each song was recorded somewhere different. We're starting to move into a second stage where we can combine more live music [into the recording]. It's been good for just me tracking my vocals, not having a huge space, but a space that's just mine. We have access to a lot more vintage sounds, and if there's something that we're really looking for, we can seek it out. We can actually use a B3 on a recording.” Her room features a Command 8 controller and Pro Tools|HD with Dynaudio monitors, a Summit Audio DCL-200 dual compressor limiter and Wunder Audio's PEQ1R pre and CM7 mic that engineer Jason Moss calls “top-notch.”
Studios A, B and C have been rented out for long blocks of time by the likes of Green Day, who were in tracking, mixing and rehearsing for their past three albums (including the recently released punk opera, American Idiot); bluesman Robert Cray; Iggy Pop; Smashmouth; and Bay Area acts such as Chris Isaak and Kronos Quartet.
The SSL 4056 in Studio A
According to Lucasey, Studio A, with its floated floor, comprises “a big live room and an iso room [and a control room] with an SSL [4056 G+] with Ultimation. It's a darker, more mysterious room and it has a gym upstairs, a bar and a game room that we just added in.” Also in the control room are two Otari MTR 90 II 24-track machines, ATR102, Pro Tools 24 Mix|Plus (HD coming soon) and a vintage Neve BCM10 sidecar with Neve 1073s. At 45×35×17 feet, Studio A also includes a drum room. A Yamaha C7 piano with Disklavier Pro sits in one corner, while the mic closet houses Neumann, AKG and many other models.
Studio B is leased to Chris Dugan and Willie Samuels' operation, Nu-Tone Studios (www.nu-tone-studios.com), which is dedicated to local artists, including Sabrina Stewart, Divit and Green Day. Gear includes an Amek console; Genelec 1038-A, Dynaudio BM15A, Yamaha NS-10 and JBL 4311 monitors; Focusrite and Manley mic pre's; Neumann and Coles mics; and instruments ranging from a Hammond B3 to a vintage Les Paul.
The 880 lineup: Nu-Tone Studios’ Willie Samuels and Chris Dugan, owner John Lucasey, manager Brad Kobylczak and support crew Reto Peter and Peter DeLeon
Studio C is centered on a Pro Tools|HD system with Control24 and has been locked out for a year by Quannum Projects, a record company developing projects by DJ Chief Xcel and Blackalicious. Light wood and natural light complement the bright-sounding live room and two iso booths.
So far, Lucasey's creativity and business acumen have allowed the studio to survive downturns in the local market. He and his staff take pride in turning out a raw, “East Bay” sound using vintage instruments. As he says, “In [the Bay Area], we have a chance to shine. [As an engineer and producer], you've got to make it sound really f***ing good, you've got to make it sound different, you've got to make sure it sounds like you. Really, I just want to work with musicians who have been through it all — I love to see the ones who have been to heaven and hell and back. They're like a piece of old vintage gear — all f***ed up, but they sound so good.”
Check out more pics of Studio 880, and Goapele, part of the Studio 880 family, who is hard at work on her follow up to her indie success, Closer. Click here
Click below to hear clips from Goapele’s album, Closer.