Studio Build 1992 South Miami

  • I had been interning at a recording studio in North Miami called Airwammy just down the road from Criteria where Clapton recorded “Layla”.
  • Airwammy Recording Company – Old School Analog 24-trk Otari MTR-90. MCI I/O console 36 or 48 channel strips, I forget now. The people there were outstanding and my First Studio experience, probably my best.
  • Rod – Partner. A former Radio guy from Tulsa, OK. Rod was fond of laughing and being very clever; he also liked to play around with a 2 channel digital editing program, a curious oddity called Pro-Tools. It was August of 1990 and Rod knew what time it was.
  • Rich – Guitars and Vocals for “Planet Citizen” staff engineer at Airwammy. Rich taught me how to chain-smoke 100’s. We used to laugh a lot too, because between sessions we would sit in the lobby and man the phones, and 99 out of 100 calls to the studio would be some young fellow asking us if we made rap records. It was a thing.
  • Zed & The Mad Team – Partners. Airwammy at that time was kind of The Mad Teams home base recording studio; nearly all of their radio spots and audio for video was edited there. It was a busy Advertising production house and we got 10 scripts a day. That’s a lot. I became an expert at banging out screamer-car-ads. Direct the talent, record parallel tracks so the read is super fast with no time loss. Then slap some pensive music on it, make the dynamics of the track post with the script read and make the cross-fades musical. Mix it to 15 ips, Dolby SR, run off 7.5 ips dupes SR for the radio stations to make their carts from, Carts kinda resemble 8-trk cassettes, it’s a very durable bang it in, bang it out format that you could launch across the room and it would keep working fine. Perfect for DJ’s. And run a few cassettes for the clients.
  • Noise Reduction, we’ll have to do an episode on noise reduction as well, it was a fascinating way to deal with the mechanical way audio was processed in the analog world. And if you are going to do things analog, you need to understand noise reduction.
  • So I stalked this guy at Airwammy all spring and he told me to stop bothering him and don’t call back till the end of August. I called at the end of August to the day, hour and minute he told me to. That impressed him and he gave me a shot.
  • That guy is a really good producer named Terry, owner of Antery Loomis Productions and finally I was starting to meet people. Another great connection was Terry’s high School buddy Johnnes who made a blues record with Terry after we built Terry’s Studio in South Miami in 1992 and I was the assistant. It was great a 3 song EP from start to finish with band rehearsals and dinner/breakfast at Denny’s at 7am after mixing all night at Limelight studios. I was in heaven. Then Hurricane Andrew F’d up Miami pretty bad and after 4 months in the saddle with a chain saw, I moved to NY and moved in with Johnnes.
  • Above, Dolby SR in all her glory.
  • What d’ya mean you edit tape? and you stick it together with more tape? Really?
  • MCI 2-mix, all the stereo mixes ended up here.
  • So that’s how we get to South Miami. The Mad Team didn’t like that we were making competing LaFlaco Advertising ads in their facility. Oh well, as a result of the booking drama that ensued at Airwammy, LaFlaco Advertising cut us a blank check to go build a production studio. Shazam!! How amazing is that.
  • Cables, Cables, Cables, my guitar closet still looks like this in 2017. The wife loves it.
  • The standard for “Professional” audio resolution on magnetic tape was 1/8th of an inch per track, so 2 inch 16 tracks were the real deal. That’s why 8trk cassette tapes sounded so good, they had the track width. It was told to me that The band Heart used two 16 trk machines linked together to track their records, even going so far to preserve crystalline purity for the final mix they duplicated the reel with original drums on to a working copy which they would roll and rewind on for however long it took to capture the rest of the performances. Then when they were ready to do the final mix, the crispy new original drum recordings would come out to play.
  • Back to the story, We all busted a cartwheel and start shopping for gear. We head out to the warehouse district in west Miami, kinda near the airport and we meet Inner Halo, a Reggae Band that had a hit theme for a cop show. Something about males who weren’t good people. We bought the 2inch 16trk MCI machine that song was tracked on. Love it! Incidentally, the machine had been struck by lightning and knocked over by the force of the blast, we found a dude that was an engineer at MCI, he scoped it told us it was sound and we bought it anyway,
  • Powered monitors were mostly a live sound reinforcement thing in these days. We used Power amps and Passive speakers.
  • The view from behind the desk, Big speaks, and auretones, I know we had Yamaha NS-10’s as well, but they’re not in this picture. The auretone was a great flat reference that had almost zero color so you could hear what your mix was going to sound like out of a small set of speakers like built in stuff on old tv’s and all the cheap ass stereos I had in all my rides.
  • Here I am writing notes on a duplication box that’s going to some radio station, it probably says 15ips, Dolby SR, Tails. Those were notes for the engineer who was going to receive it it tells him the speed to run his machine, what noise reduction to use to decode the signal and reproduce it properly, Tails means it’s wound onto the reel with the end of the program first. so that engineer would have to spool it up on his 2-mix and rewind the entire reel to get to the beginning of the program. We did this in case of “tape bleed” the magnetic wave patterns would physically transfer on to adjacent pieces of tape it was lying on top of and you could hear it, so packing duplication reels tails out, insured that any echoes would be after the recordings and not precede them.
  • Back to the story.
  • MCI was a South Florida based company so remnents of their workforce were on tap. That was a Terry’s biggest reason to build an antiquated studio because he could buy old equipment very inexpensively and be able to maintain it on account of all the people that built our tape machines still lived in the hood. Leaving money for more toys, like 24 channels of Dolby SR at $1000/channel. Not to mention a crispy new digital console, all mogami cable everywhere even in the patch bays, an Impressive array of monitors. and a little Cha-Cha for the intern when his truck would break down. Hee, Hee.
  • 24 channels Dolby SR noise reduction above.
  • Above is the beloved Duplication machine for the 7.5ips copies.
  • This is the result and we upped our output from 7 spots a day to 10 on average, 12 was about the limit, humanly possible. This is a good shot of the head stack on the 2 inch 16 track machine, I drove the heads to AMP Magnetic Services myself to have the heads “Relapped” they were downtown on Olive Ave. in those days in West Palm Beach. For you digital kids there are three head stacks on analog multitrack tape machines.  From left to right there are: the Erase, the sync, and the reproduce (repro) head stacks. Same setup on the 2-mix, and we used to do fun things like cut 30 inches of tape, loop it with editing tape and feed it thru the capstan and pinch roller (tape delay) then extend the loop out and control it with a pencil held in your hand while you futzed with the varispeed control to change the delay time between the sync and repro heads. the 2-mix was reached thru the patch-bay via a physical TRS-cable (patch-cable) connecting the channel line out of the multitrack playback that you wanted to delay to the effects send patch then back to channel line inputs on unused channels above 16 to get post fader eq and other effects. and then record the result back to an empty track on the 16. We rarely used more than 12 tracks on a screamer car add. so we typically had 4 to spare for such nonsense.
  • Look at that shelf of tape and reels just waiting to fall on the 2 inch 16 trk.
  • Never happened on my watch.
  • Below you see two digital pieces invaluable to our production setup, The CD player with varispeed and pitch control, and a DAT recorder to archive all the work in case of catastrophic tape storage failures, these things happened sometimes and DAT was a very fast way to access recordings, no noise, OK it was glorified video tape but it’s still around today in studios for good reason.
  • Above is the remote for the 2 inch 16 trk. sitting in the desk drawer. behind it is a beautiful hand-wired all Mogami cable patch-bay. super quiet, very sexy. Signal path was physically manipulated via patch cables I called them TRS before and that means Tip, Ring, Sleeve, a balanced cable like your XLR microphone cable just on a smaller scale to allow quick and easy manipulation and routing of signals thru the patch-bay to get them to and from outboard gear, today referred to as “plug in’s” and catastrophic feedback possibilities were endless, so one needed to have some idea what they were doing. I couldn’t generate feedback in Logic if you put a gun to my head.

This was such a cool learning experience, real work, real clients, fast pace, high pressure, no room for mistakes, and the late night rock and roll sessions were the best. This studio was very well conceived by Terry, it got rode hard and put up wet every single day and I’m sure it’s still going strong. Thanks Terry, I appreciate all the amazing experiences. That certainly includes all the great folks at Airwammy, Zed and The Mad Team, and all the Voice over talent we had the privilege to work with like Tony Ovaltine, and the Shakespearean voice of doom, Andy Plannas.

Vintage Restoration 1986 Ibanez PL2550GP Repair and Rebuild

Yeah!!!

I’ve learned a ton just by doing this single video, yes there are a lot of bare bones production values going on in this first episode and after watching it for a few weeks and looking at lots of other similar content channels, I decided that it sucked really bad and needs to be completely redone and it will be.

I’ve decided that it was great fun to put up that first very rough video but I want to be able to live with myself and I simply must do a better job with episode one. It has been deleted and will be redone with all the things I’ve learned and hopefully I’ll do a good enough job that I’ll actually be able to leave it up on YouTube.

Fingers crossed.

 

Episode 1. Start.

This piece is going to project number one, I’ve been dragging this guitar around since the late 90’s and I had an artist friend paint it in 2004 and it looks cool to me and now it needs to sound cool and get it’s guts reinstalled.

I showed it to “The Viking” who is an amazing Guitar Tech, and a good friend who taught me how to properly wrench on guitars. He has dubbed the guitar “Charlie Brown” and the name has stuck.

She (that’s a girl Charlie) got a good cleaning tonight and I got video of that process, I’m going to get that edited and onto the you tube channel soon, Going to see the Guitar tech tomorrow who triages all my finds, more on that tomorrow.

OK, she went to the tech aka “The Viking” on Monday afternoon before the March 14, 2017 Nor’easter snow here in NYC, we’ve got to preserve the artwork first so we’re going to clear coat the art and since it’s acrylic we can use a poly-acrylic or off the shelf “clear gloss” rattle can and light spray it.

I have to think about going the route that would yield the best result for the finish,and that would be crazy but just for your edification here’s that option:

Set up the guitar in a situation where it can be laid on a stand clamp in a leveled and stationary position for probably the better part of  a month. One would fit in the low lying valleys in the artists work because you want to fill in the uneven surfaces of the artwork which was brush painted in layers with acrylic paint leaving hills and valleys on the top surface of the guitar. So you’re filling the valleys with the clear coat. once that’s done you still haven’t covered the highest parts of the art work, now that the surface is level you should keep going with more layers of clear coat and now they can be rubbed or buffed to a mirror shine with each additional layer, my dad once did the dashboard of his triumph TR-6 with 30 layers of hand rubbed lacquer. That to me was such a beautiful result but it took the better part of a month to execute, and today the car is a pile of rust somewhere but that dash is still perfect and stunning. Guitars are mostly wood and cars are mostly metal so the argument is spending a month rubbing lacquer on a guitar is worth it. But we’re not gonna do it, because life is short. And I’ve already put a ding in one of her cheeks. I’m bad. She lived outside of a case or bag for at least a decade after the painting was put on. No respect, I know. better late than never, Respect – Sean. (artist)

The cleaning went well. here’s some before and after. this is clearly before

and after.

mmmmmmmmm, delicious.

So let me try to re-establish my train of thought. quick and dirty rattle can clear-gloss. as many coats as 1 can and decent weather committing no more than one day can give me.

dig out the hum bucker for the bridge and the jap-strat single coils for the neck old 3 position switch from the old strat case. OK, – I found everything except the nut for the fulcrum between the the fretboard and the machines. I have located all three original pickups I hope they sound good and we use those. Otherwise, I have a DiMarzio hot hot hot hum bucker, or a 1999 Gibson USA Humbucker from my SG special that I switched out for P’s SG standard hum buckers he gave me after he upgraded to Iomi’s. And the strat single coils  are hanging around too, I found that theres enough wood to put an SG type stop tail and that the posts for the old edge tremolo could be the bridge, the position is correct. We’ll see what the Viking feels like doing.

dig out the locking nut from the parts box. – It wasn’t there, I think I dreamt having one because I tore the whole house apart looking for it, Nada, it’s like $15 anyway, We’ll just buy one

The neck is going to get a couple dowels thru the old neck bolts and I’m not sure how the locking nut without the locks is going to attach but I’m sure the Viking has a plan.

Look down along the edge of the neck. Remember how straight this is, when you shop for a guitar look at the neck from this angle and with some luck this is what you’ll see. At any rate it is certainly what you want to see. Now that’s a straight neck, so worth saving.

Big chunky frets, totally an 80’s metal beater. Funny that her first record will be “Do Right Woman”.

Ok, It’s now April 4th, 2017 and the shitty weather finally allowed me to clear coat lacquer the guitar last wednesday March 29th, 2017. I shot it and edited it and now I’m having technical issues with that video at present, note to self, never turn off Final Cut Pro 6 while compressor is rendering, it won’t reopen now and it’s very pissed off at me. oops. Video is done and up on YouTube now see the link at the top of this article.

So the great news is that she’s back at the Scam Cash workshop and The Viking is gonna wave his magic wand over it. He did, Charlie’s done.

 Here She Is!!

the final reveal photo of front and back because I’m so happy how she came together after 19 years. There’s certainly more cosmetic touches yet to execute.

However, This is as done as she’s getting for the moment, the pickups sound really good and are not showing any signs of corrosion under the covers they look quite new and very clean. “The Viking” Slapped a Floyd rose type tremolo on this guitar, we had discussed putting a stop tail and really going frankenstein’s monster with a Japanese Stratocaster single coil at the neck and a Gibson SG Standard Humbucker at the bridge leaving the center pickup cavity blank and running a three way switch. This is my wife’s first electric and I’m so jealous now, but I did get my Stratocaster back out of the deal.

Now she is fairly restored to original condition, original pickups, very similar tremolo and locking nut. Note the repair on the back of the neck headstock joint has been fully jammed with epoxy, wood glue and dowel rods. I’m not sure how the nut was attached. oh yeah, if you got the back covers please, email me, I’ll buy ’em.

 

Now if you zoom in on the underside you’ll see the “you can’t pull it sharp block” that was glued to the tremolo block to prevent my wife from having to deal with those fun Joe Satriani trill noises. That block essentially turns it into a stop tail that you can dive the whammy bar with but you can’t pull it sharp, a very interesting hybrid operation for a floyd-type. This total refit came in under $320. The guitar plays like a very well put together instrument and the tonal variety rivals the H-S-S Stratocasters. Total Win.

I can’t decide wether to remove the brown paint on the back of the guitar so the back is all gold again, or if that would really be a bad idea, cause you can’t unring that bell. And who sees the back anyway, maybe lacquer and buffing will shine it up a bit. Super happy with the outcome. Now I should get in touch with my video guru to help me tame the pissed off compressor app in my old final cut software.

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll have more soon enough.

End of Episode 1.