In the final installment of our profile of Harvey Mason, Jr., the Recording Academy CEO/president discusses finding gear for his new studio complexes, and then engineer Laurence Anslow expands on that. For more on Mason, Jr., don’t miss Parts 1, 2 and 3!
The Path to Evergreen and Duality
“I still do love some vintage stuff and we use a lot of vintage gear,” Harvey Mason, Jr., says, “but for me, the console of choice has been the SSL from the very beginning of my career.”
Well, almost; The Underdogs first set up in a house in Porter Ranch, Calif., with Pro Tools and a Yamaha desk in every room. After two years, the operation moved to Edmonds Tower, a Building that artist, producer and songwriter Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds owned in Hollywood. With acoustician George Augspurger and technical designer and integrator Paul Cox, The Underdogs outfitted an entire floor with writing rooms, plus a main studio with Mason’s first SSL, a C200.
Back in the day, Mason used to carry his song demo DAT tapes in an Anvil briefcase. “I had a little folder in the briefcase with two papers in there. I’d gone to the NAMM show and I got a brochure for SSL’s E Series console. That was my favorite desk, and I had dreams of one day working on one. I also used to work in London a fair amount. There was a guy I got to know who had built a studio called Hook End, about two hours outside of London. I got a brochure sent to me in the mail. I always said, ‘I’m going to do two things: I’m going to work at Hook End, and I’m going to work on SSL consoles my whole career.’”
In the mid-’90s, Mason got to work with the Spice Girls. “They said, ‘We want to work at Hook End Studios.’ I went to Hook End—and they had an E Series console. It was horseshoe-shaped, the first one I’d ever seen like that. I was like, ‘This is a dream come true!’”
When he met with SSL’s Phil Wagner to sign the C200 purchase documents, he says, “I showed him the brochure that I’d had in my briefcase for 10 years, and we took a picture, signing and holding my SSL brochure.”
Mason later moved to Traken Place in North Hollywood, where “we redid three of the rooms. Paul Cox came and fixed up our wiring and built all new credenzas, racks and tielines,” he says. The main room initially housed one of the last G+ consoles that SSL made before being replaced by Mason’s C200.
From there, he moved to engineer and producer Bill Schnee’s old room. “I was trying to buy it and I found out Larrabee Studios bought it,” he recalls. “I went to [owner] Manny [Marroquin] and said, ‘Can I rent it from you?’ I was in there for three or four years. That was where I first came across the SSL Duality console. We did a lot of records and a lot of film projects on that desk. When I moved out at the beginning of Covid and started to build my new facility, that was the desk that I wanted to use.”
Located in Burbank, Harvey Mason Media’s new dual-site complex—the former Evergreen Stage and Enterprise Studios—is another collaboration with Augspurger and Cox, and features the first two Duality Fuse desks off the SSL production line, incorporating SSL’s Fusion analog multi-processor plus other refinements.
An Engineer’s Perspective
“I got brought in because I worked with Harvey in London. We hit it off. I was looking for a change, so I got my visa and moved to the States,” says Laurence Anslow, who joined AIR Studios in 2011 after graduating from the University of Surrey’s Tonmeister course.
Mason, who typically works with longtime engineers Andrew Hey and Sam Ramirez on vocal productions, tasked Anslow with overseeing orchestral and ensemble projects. His first job was to draw up a list of must-have gear.
“I ordered 24 Neve Montserrat mic preamps,” Anslow reports. “We had a few microphones—an original 251, a couple of 47s—but they were in disrepair. I sent them to Greg Granieri at Audio Rehab, and he’s been working his way through them. Bruce Botnick was selling his collection, so we made him an offer and now have his collection of vintage microphones and preamps. We now have 157 microphones. [The mic list] is prize-winning.”
Anslow specified ATC SCM100ASL Pro monitors at LCR for the 5.1 system. “The 100s don’t sugarcoat anything,” he laughs. There are ATC 25s in the rear and a separate pair for the stereo setup.
The pandemic has delayed any ensemble bookings, Anslow says, but he has had a chance to use the SSL Duality Fuse desk. “I mixed Halle Berry’s new film, Bruised, on it. It integrates so well with Pro Tools, and the computer’s really good. It’s classic SSL.”