Me in Studio B

Me in Studio B
If you were googling Undertone Audio and found my blog here, well...welcome! You should visit the official website,, but here you can follow my adventures as the crew and I build these mixing consoles, EQs and other oddities. Some, most or all of my work wouldn't be very interesting to a lot of people, but for recording junkies who get excited about vintage German tube mics, cool, eccentric compressors, studio history and some of the fun ins and outs of studio life, this could be for you. Hey, make it your home page and impress chicks! I can be reached at

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Late Night Blues

I'm lucky that I get to make my own schedule and as a night person, I can start working later, but that does have it's down side... there are less restaurants open late at night and it can get a little lonely. I like working late at Capitol though, because it is quieter after the construction crew has left, I can focus more on what I'm doing and if the rest of the Studio B gang is in (Jon, Greg, Bret and French Eric), they work late too and they are fun to be around. At times I've been working all night and trying to get some sleep during the mornings. I love that, but it's nice to be awake during the day in life-giving sunshine. None of these studios have windows to the outside and they are built like bomb shelters -it was raining last night and I didn't even know until I was leaving.

I've spent most of the past two weeks in the machine room. The patchbays are in and the Neve is up and running. Robin Porter, the console's designer, has been training the Capitol crew on the new console and there is already talk about the first session booked.

I've finished everything relating to Greg Wells' console that is time sensitive for awhile, meaning that much of it is in the hands of vendors right now. I just have to pester them to make sure things are here on time. The bulk of the frame parts came in yesterday and I took that stuff to the anodizers right away. Dre has been working hard on power supplies and is somewhat ahead of schedule, that frees him up a little bit and he will be joining us on the Capitol install on Monday. Parts are arriving more or less everyday and at this point I don't know where to put it all.

In between the install up the street and UTA stuff, I've been taking care of chores at Barefoot Recording -mods to Ampex cards and instrument and speaker tie lines between Studio A's control room and the live room for guitar overdubs. I've also been handling some little jobs for Jon Brion and Greg Koller. Jon's live rig is set back up again at Capitol and Bret and I recently put together his new rackmount pedal system.

It's a pretty peaceful evening at Barefoot-Roger is at the NAMM show, Dre is out somewhere else, Eric and Cian are overdubbing percussion with Brent Fitz in Studio A and Matt is working away in Studio B. I'm just doing some of the smaller paperwork and preliminary testing of PC boards. I'm going out tonight, which is a nice change and I may even get to bed before 4:00am.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Powered by Coffee

I'm drinking a lot of coffee these days. I should try to eat healthy, but there are jars of candy and crappy food is just so easy to get. A salad just doesn't seem so appealing when I'm going to be working late. Food is one of the problems, getting sleep is another, but I think the most difficult thing is getting other things done when I'm working so much... laundry, finding time to do invoicing and cleaning my place. I'm a bachelor who can't cook and I have a huge pile of clothes to clean, which inspired a great idea -a laundry service for studio people. I wish someone would do that. There are services that pick up your dirty clothes and deliver them clean the next day, but it would be nice if there was a service specifically for people at places like Capitol and the big film studios. They would make a killing! Many of the big studios have amenities such as full kitchens and showers, but I've never known one to have washing machines and dryers. Finding time for relationships... that's a whole other can of worms.

I put in plenty of time last weekend at Barefoot, going over lists of components and sorting out quantities of PC boards to order. We have been making a lot of changes for the Greg Wells console, so all of that affects how much to order of what and it has required major custom designs. It's great though, because we keep getting better at this. We have learned what to do, where to go, who to talk to and when. Each time we build a console, we are up against new obstacles and the whole operation is getting tighter and stronger. We are more organized than ever, due in large part to Daniel Balbas doing the inventory and organizing the shop. The amount of parts coming in is a bit much and it's hard to keep up. By the way, we updated the crew page on the UTA website

The next issue is space... where are we going to build this console? The band has finished tracking, so that opens up more possibilities. There have been a lot of road cases in the building, that stuff is clearing up, so we might do it in the front hallway (that's where we built the 24 channel one) and there has even been talk of using the echo chamber. The first two big consoles where built in their respective rooms, sort of like building ships in bottles.

The 88R at Capitol is going in the same way, it's going to be put together in the control room. It's a good way of doing it, the alternatives are not much fun... carrying a console through doorways is tough and about fifteen years ago at a studio in New York, we had to remove the control room glass to take a Trident out and put an SSL in. Oh boy.

Things at Capitol are in full force. We have a bigger crew now, all the parts and supplies we need and we are cranking it out furiously. I've been on patchbay wiring, other guys are prepping and crimping Elco pins and the crates were finally opened. The console may go in this week and the new walls have been going up. I'm taking Monday and Tuesday away from the install to focus on Undertone, so I had to finish all of my patchbay work on Sunday night in order for them to install the bays in the control room.

I've wired more patchbays than I could count, but my work last night was just particularly difficult - I couldn't put them on a bench, I had to work on them in the racks (crate/shipping racks) while standing on a ladder. One of the bays could only pull out a few inches, so soldering to the points became quite a stunt. I finally finished early in the morning, but being the only person left in the building except for the security guards was great... I blasted loud Van Halen and AC/DC with the studio doors wide open, that's something you can't get away with during the day.
16 channels of headphones with normals
88R almost ready to settle in
Just leave it this way, it's... rustic
Slash and the band have finished tracking something along the lines of fifteen to twenty songs, next are vocal overdubs for a few weeks and then mixing. I'm going to miss those guys, they are a very fun bunch and we've had some good times. Somehow, Matt has been able to continue his sessions in Studio B, even tracking vocals. He's just had to work around the Studio A schedule, which has mainly been afternoons and evenings.

All that exists of Greg Wells' console right now are parts and some PC boards, so there isn't anything even in the shape of a console to take pictures of yet... we're getting there. We won't be at NAMM and we've scratched the idea of going to Nashville -we're too busy right now. I want to get out there one of these days, but it's not worth doing a trade show until the rackmount EQs and compressors are ready.

I've got to try to get to sleep soon, I'm exhausted.