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Dave Fortman & Gene Joanen Call On WSDG For Katrina Rebound

NEW ORLEANS Multi-Platinum producer/engineer/mixer Dave Fortman and partner/artist development exec. Gene Joanen have opened a new Balance Recording Studio, in the bucolic Big Easy suburb of Mandeville. A 30-minute drive from their original (and still operating) studio, the new complex was created by Walters-Storyk Design Group, ,architect/acoustician John Storyk.

A former guitarist with heavy metal cult group Ugly Kid Joe, Dave Fortman’s producer/engineer talents proved a magnet to such group as Evanescence, Simple Plan and Slipknot. The first Balance Studio, co-designed by Fortman and Joanen thrived for 8 years until Katrina devastated the city. “We were extremely fortunate to have been just a block away from the most horrific storm damage, but the city was crippled,� says Joanen, a successful environmental engineer and co-founder of the Voodoo Music Experience. “We managed to get back in working order within a month after the disaster, but our labor pool and client base was decimated.

“We outgrew our first studio long before Katrina hit, and had already found a 4,000 sq. ft. warehouse in Mandeville that more than doubled our size,� Fortman adds. “When the waters rolled back and things dried out we decided to move ahead.� Absolutely committed to New Orleans, and confident of their ability to continue drawing out–of-state as well as local business, Fortman and Joanen contracted WSDG to create their new studio.

“Dave and Gene had discovered a terrific building for their new home,� John Storyk says. “The loft-like open space provided expansive flexibility for our design program. We developed a spacious 500 sq. ft. control room positioned in the complex to provide maximum visibility into the 900 sq. ft. live room. The existing warehouse allowed us to create a recording room of nearly 15,000 cu. ft., providing a very flexible recording environment for Dave’s music. Two oversized sound locks afford symmetrical access between the live and control rooms as well as iso booth capability. Each of the two spacious rear machine rooms features 4 rack capacity to accommodate Balance’s formidable technological arsenal. Warm, homey interiors heighten and support the creative environment. The acoustics were fine-tuned to enhance the full range of indigenous music production, from rock through blues, jazz and zydeco.�

The control room is centered on a Solid State Logic SSL4000 G+ loaded with 32E and 32G modules, and Digidesign Pro Tools HD with 24 ins and 64 outs provided by Boston-based Professional Audio Design Company principal Dave Malekpour reports the vintage SSL desk was originally owned by hit producer/composer Robert (Everybody Dance Now) Clivillés of C+C Music Factory fame.

PAD also designed the Dynaudio Acoustics custom main speaker system. “Dave Fortman has done a lot of work at L.A.’s NRG Studios,� Malekpour says. “He loved their Munro C4 / M4 system and wanted to duplicate that sound. The WSDG Studio design called for a soffit system in a vertical box, so we developed a custom rectangular orientation for a perfect match to the room’s large control room window. Powered by Dynaudio T2000 amplifiers and XTA speaker management systems, the mains deliver a true kick ass sound.� PAD sr. service engineer Eric Cline did the wiring design, build and implementation.

The live room provides an intimate setting, ideal for tracking and overdubbing drums, horn sections, strings ensembles or vocalists. Balance’s outboard rack features: six Empirical Labs Distressor’s; two UREI Blue Stripe 1176’s; a Summit Stereo Tube Compressor; two Neve 2264’s; ten Neve 31102 Pre Amps and a multitude of other gear. The studio also boasts a custom 8 channel sidecar fashioned from a Harrison recording console that previously resided at the famed Studio In The Country in Bogalusa, LA. And, although there are some outstanding local restaurants, the studio also features an expansive kitchen and dining area to insure the creative juices are properly stoked with genuine home made gastronomy.

“It’s interesting to note that our original studio will now assume a satellite role,� Joanen says. “It’s got a great sound, and has turned out some terrific music, but our new studio provides us with the room to offer video and web production in addition to music recording and mixing. We’re a full service production company, and my background in artist development will support that game plan. “Because Katrina destroyed a number of local studios, the state government has been incredibly supportive,� Joanen continues. “They’re making a huge effort to help rebuild the business, and have developed a solid package of music production tax credits. This makes it very cost-effective for out-of-state artists, labels and producers to work here. They get the benefit of top draw talent like Dave Fortman, our in-house creative coterie, world class session players, extremely competitive rates AND, a 25% tax incentive.�

“I’ve worked in many wonderful studios, and they’ve all got their unique souls,� Dave Fortman concludes. “John Storyk brought an extremely comfortable and great-sounding vibe to our new studio. He’s built a genuine all star team: project coordinator Joshua Morris, systems integrator Judy Elliot Brown, PAD’s Dave Malekpour… they’re all experts in their respective fields. They kept this job on track and rolling, and the results are worth the wait. Our studio looks, sounds and feels as good as the best rooms I’ve worked in, and I’ve seen a few.�

(2) l-t r Gene Joanen, John Storyk & Dave Fortman


The Walters-Storyk Design Group has designed over 3000 media production facilities in the U.S., Europe, the Far East and Latin America. WSDG credits range from the original Jimi Hendrix Electric Lady Studio in Greenwich Village to NYC’s Jazz At Lincoln Center performance complex, broadcast facilities for The Food Network, Interlochen Public Radio, CBS and WNET, and corporate clients such as Hoffman La Roche. Recent credits include private studios for Timbaland’s Tim Mosley, Tracy Chapman, film composer Carter Burwell, Aerosmith; Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls and Alicia Keys. WSDG principals John Storyk, Beth Walters, Renato Ciprianoand Dirk Noy lecture frequently at universities and industry events, and contribute regularly to industry publications. WSDG is a six-time winner of the prestigious TEC Award for outstanding achievement in Acoustics/Facility Design, The firm maintains offices in NY, SF, Argentina, Brazil, Beijing, Mexico City and Switzerland.