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.