Engineer Stephen Hart (left) with Michael LeValley in Studio 2
Bay Area engineer Stephen Hart (www.hartmixer.com) has found a new home for his gear and projects: Bay Area Sound Studios (www.bayareasound
studios.com), a new rehearsal/studio facility in San Rafael, Calif. The 11,000-square-foot business was conceived by Michael LeValley’s Live Oak Design Group.
“When we were designing the building, the intent was rehearsal space only,” LeValley says. The space was divided into 15 rooms of varying sizes, from the 100-square-foot practice rooms geared toward individual musicians all the way up to the 2,000-square-foot Studio 1, which is large enough for professional bands to rehearse on an arena-sized stage. To ensure the best-sounding environments, LeValley hired Sam Berkow to tune the room acoustics.
“It then became apparent that the rooms could serve other functions,” LeValley says. “Right before we opened, I was approached by Stephen.”
Hart, who serves as regional president and co-chair of the Recording Academy’s P&E Wing, had left Fantasy Studios (Berkeley, Calif.) after seven years as chief engineer. At BASS, he found spaces that he says are “even and punchy. The larger rooms aren’t cavernous sounding, but they have effective bass trapping and quiet air. Walls, floors and ceilings were already nonparallel. Room tuning is a lengthy and costly procedure, and it was a massive benefit to me to have the bulk of it done.”
Hart installed his full-blown Pro Tools HD3 system with C|24 control surface and an arsenal of plug-ins (he acknowledges endorsement deals with a few companies) in the studio now called TheMixRoom, and had it wired to BASS’ 1,300-square-foot Studio 2. Two-way audio and video were added for talkback. The studio went online in April, and Hart has already completed recording, mixing and/or mastering projects for blues artist Lady Bianca, jazz star Terrence Brewer, indie rock band Built for the Sea and country guitarist Jackie King, among others. He also continues to balance his work at BASS with a freelance career. When projects take him to other studios, BASS’ audio projects are handled by in-house engineer Brad Dollar.
Meanwhile, LeValley says booking in the rehearsal rooms has been healthy since day one; those clients include high-profile artists such as Tommy Castro, Carlene Carter, Primus and Van Morrison, as well as working bands and music students.
“I believe in this as a contemporary media facility,” Hart says. “It’s got recording, rehearsal, events — we hosted a surround-sound event for the P&E Wing and JBL last month. There’s a lot of versatile space. I’m fortunate to be in at the inception of BASS where unexpectedly, with a modest investment in infrastructure, I have access to a large, beautifully tuned room.”