Located on a farm about 25 miles from downtown Nash-ville, in full view of grazing horses and cows, is WireWorld, the studio base of Michael Wagener, one of hard rock’s legendary producer/engineer/mixers. More than 42 million albums have been sold with Wagener’s stamp of sonic integrity on them, including projects for Ozzy Osbourne, Extreme, Metallica, Skid Row, X, Megadeth, Poison, Plasmatics, Black Sabbath, Saigon Kick, Alice Cooper, Queen, Motley Crue, White Lion and even Janet Jackson.
So how did he end up here, far away from his old Los Angeles stomping grounds? “There are no earthquakes. You know, you can run away from tornadoes, but you can’t run away from earthquakes,” Wagener laughs. “Actually, it was when I did the Accept Predator record over at 16th Avenue Sound for two months in 1995 that I absolutely fell in love with Nashville. I love the people, the environment and the seasons. Everybody here lives music, and there are a lot of rental companies, repair companies and manufacturers.”
WireWorld is near the home of Wolf Hoffman, the lead guitarist for Accept. “They have a nice piece of property out in the country,” Wagener explains, “and there was an extra building that we decided to make into a studio. We started building it on August 1 of 1996, and we had the first band in [a band from Japan called Outrage] in the last week of September. So we built the studio in about seven weeks! It was all very make-do at the time, but it went wonderfully.”
Wagener is a huge fan of the Yamaha 02R V.2.1 console; he has two at WireWorld, set up for 5.1 surround. “The 02R is absolutely affordable, and what it gives me is absolutely amazing,” Wagener says. “I hold it up to any other console in the world, from the sound, the features and everything else. It’s very small. I don’t have to move around a lot, and I can always sit in the sweet spot in front of the speakers; it’s just a great-sounding console.”
WireWorld offers six Tascam DA-88s as the primary multitrack format, as well as an Akai DD1000 optical disc recorder/editor, two Akai 650 optical disc drives, and a substantial battery of Apple computers, including a 256MB RAM 333MHz G3 with a 9-gigabyte internal hard drive and two 16-gig external drives. “The G3 has Sample Cell software and the AudioMedia card,” Wagener says, “plus every kind of sequencer in the world. With this setup, I have the ability for video editing, too.”
For monitoring, Wagener has Genelec 1031As, Tannoy Classic 15-inch monitors, Tannoy SRM 10Bs, Tannoy PBM 6.5s, Infinity 2001s and Infinity R-1s, powered by Bedini 813 Class A amplification. The facility features a load of outboard gear and various assorted studio toys, more than many world-class facilities. “I’ve always collected a lot of equipment,” Wagener explains, “and it’s still in the flight cases that I used to carry it all around in when I would do my productions. Lately, I’ve been upgrading my older stuff with newer stuff. Anything that doesn’t make money gets sold! I just sold a couple of 1176s and have replaced them with Distressors, which do a great job of emulating the 1176s. Another new piece of gear is the Antares ATR-1, which is an amazing pitch-correcting unit.”
Among Wagener’s array of mics are pieces by Schoeps, AKG, Audio-Technica, Oktava, Beyer, Groove Tube, Sennheiser and others; his favorite is his Neumann Binaural Head. “I actually use it quite a bit,” he says. “To me, it’s the most natural-sounding microphone, if you use it for percussion or acoustic guitars, or even vocals. The other main microphone that I’m using, which is a very good-sounding all-around mic, is the AKG Solid Tube.”
WireWorld’s primary tracking space is 11×22 feet, with slightly angled walls. Wagener is a big fan of his ASC tubes, which he uses to make the room seem smaller, in terms of reflections.
Besides having a huge collection of guitar amps and 47 guitars, WireWorld also is loaded with all kinds of keyboards, samplers, MIDI controllers and drum boxes. But Wagener is quick to point out that what makes WireWorld such a great working environment is its locale. “At first, I was really concerned that most rock bands would want the city life around them.,” he says. “Now when everyone comes out here, they’re totally happy and relaxed. It’s worked out really well. Most everyone has come back again, which is a good sign that they had a good experience here.”