Archive for September, 2011

Baron Raymonde

Stars. Sure, we need ‘em! But our industry is founded upon great players. Their contribution to performances- live and in the studio- fuels the business and inspires the front man (or lady).

Baron Raymonde is one of those musicians. He grew up in Scarsdale, NY, headed south on Route 62 and obtained both Bachelor and Masters Degrees in jazz performance from the University of North Texas before migrating back to Manhattan in the late 1980’s. I first met Baron in the mid 90’s when I had a music production company and was struggling to make a living in the jingle business. Eventually, we made a five song demo, “Before The Memory Fades,” that we released online. Before sinking it received over 100,000 hits.

Baron currently lives in Nutley, New Jersey. I caught up with him last week.

Gary Eskow: “Baron, what have you been up to lately?”

Baron Raymonde: “I’ve been subbing recently in Levon Helms’ band up at his place in Woodstock. Most people know that he built a studio on his property, the Midnight Ramble. It’s a great space that also serves as a concert facility, seating several hundred people.”

GE: “How did you get that gig?”

BR: “Erik Lawrence, one of the band members recommended me. There are some great players in the group; Dave Bromberg (guitar), Brian Mitchell (keyboards), and Howard Johnson (baritone sax/tuba) among them. Larry Campbell is the Music Director.”

GE: “How deep is Levon’s groove?”

BF: “He has an unbelievable pocket, and he glows when he plays. He’s also a real gentleman, a very gracious person. The group performs some of The Band’s material, plus Levon’s own stuff. He won an American Grammy in 2009, I believe, plus another one, on his own.”

GE: “When did your first big opportunity in the industry come?”

BF: “I moved back north to Manhattan in 1984 and started playing with J.T. Bowen, Clarence Clemons’ lead singer. We got a gig at the Sands in Atlantic City, but Matt “Guitar” Murphy called me and I went on tour with him instead. That was a defining moment for me.”

GE: “What are some of the highlights of your career?”

BF: “Well, first of all I’d say that just being able to spend 25 years living the life of a touring musician has been amazing. Nothing beats doing what you love to do, even with all of the ups and downs of the business.

“In 2001 I was with Rod Stewart on his “Human” tour. We performed in 42 cities in North America and Canada, and I played six instruments- all reeds, plus flute and clarinet.

“I didn’t think I was going to get that gig because I’d heard that Rod was looking for a female player. But he heard me play at a benefit and told me that he wanted me to join him for that tour. I didn’t believe him- but the next day I was on the Rosie O’Donnell show playing a solo on “Tonight’s The Night.”

“We performed in a huge arena in Tampa, and that night I played a long solo on “Downtown Train.” When I finished Rod acknowledged me and the crowd started chanting my name… that was thrilling!

“Just recently I played a show at Lincoln Center with Ronnie Spector and Leslie Gore. It was great to hang out with them. Ronnie was very nice and approachable. Gene Cornish, the original guitar player with the Young Rascals, was on that date.

“As far as recordings, I’d have to say that the work I did on India Arie’s 2002 album, “Voyage To India,” which won the R&B album of the year award in 2003, remains a highlight for me. We recorded at Electric Lady, and I played saxes and flute. The album was released on Motown Records, which was also exciting.”

GE: “You went back and got a teaching degree several years ago, didn’t you?”

BR: “Yes. Work was slow, though I had some interesting gigs at the time; I was subbing on the show “Love, Janis,” and playing with GE Smith. GE’ band played the televised Mark Twain award event which honored Whoopi Goldgerg.

“But as I said, work was slow, so I started subbing in the public school system. In 1994 I got my teaching certificate at William Paterson University. These days I teach fourth to sixth graders, five days a week. I really enjoy it! It’s a way for me to give something back, and the job doesn’t interfere with my performance schedule, although things can get a bit hectic at times!”

GE: “Anything interesting coming up?”

BR: “On November 26th I’ll be playing with Alan Chez’ band- he’s the trumpet player in David Letterman’s band- at Dominion, in New York City. The group is called The Brothers of Funk Big Band.”

Baron urges everyone who wants to keep up with his schedule to visit his website, www.saxbaron.com.

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Pro Tools 10?

I know Avid just released Pro Tools 9 this year but new features sneak-peeked in this video from IBC last week warrant a major number upgrade. (I wonder if they’ll close the door on Snow Leopard with PT10?). Also see the video at the bottom of the page demoing Light Peak (now known as Thunderbolt) from IDF 2010. It shows that Thunderbolt is built in to all devices including Avid’s HD IO. I’m betting this bows at AES in October as well as PT10

New Pro Tools features include:

Playing a Pro Tools session from shared storage. This means you’re playing from a disk cache and not from your local drive and is big news for users working across a network.

Embedded real time fades (no more fade files!). Ever notice how long it takes to open a session with a lot of fades? This new feature means Pro Tools will operate like Nuendo and pretty much the rest of the world – it’s a real improvement.

The ability to adjust the gain of individual clips/regions (+/- 36dB above zero) and add dynamic automation to the timeline. Once again, the competition has been doing this for a while but is a very useful feature.

New overlap crossfades view. This works with the new clip gain feature allowing you to visually adjust the levels of crossfades. Even cooler, AudioSuite processes don’t overwrite these types of edits.

Storage and recall of automation snapshots. Great for post and other applications where you may want to overlay automation onto new audio.

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Hal Winer

When I heard the requiem sounding for Bennett Studios I thought of Hal Winer- particularly since my friend Ron Levy was suddenly in the market for a recording space that had a beautiful piano and wonderful acoustics. I gave Hal a call to see how things have been going in the year or so since I last worked at Bicoastal Music, the studio he built in his hometown of Ossining, New York.

Winer graduated from the University of Hartford with a liberal arts degree in 1982 and headed out to LA to try and bust into the record business as an engineer. Rather than go through the typical apprentice route, however, Winer veered off into another aspect of show business, building sets for film and television productions. This work helped him later on. “The skills I learned on the set helped me build this studio,” says Winer.

In 1992 Winer moved back home and went into the family business. “I sold buttons to garment manufacturers and started my home studio at the same time.” Early equipment included a Foxtex eight track recorder (supplanted in a few years by several Tascam DA-88 recorders), and a Mackie 3208 console. “Actually, I had a SEC 1882 before the Mackie. I got into the Spectral Synthesis work station and purchased a Mackie Digital 8 Buss console, which I used in my home studio until 2002.”

He was doing pretty well at that time, so Winer reached out to a number of the premier studio designers in the country via e-mail. “I picked up all the magazines- Mix was at the top of the pile, of course!- and wrote to the top guys saying that I needed help putting my room together. They all ignored me- except for Russ Berger. Russ hooked me up. I leveraged my house, got a bit of financial backing, and cashed in my IRA. I bought an SSL C200, and suddenly I had a studio.”

The C200 was new at the time, so SSL opened up the company black book and introduced Hal to a number of free-lance engineers, many of whom formed the core of his client base. “I also developed my own independent client list, and over the next couple of years my clients kept growing with me.”

Winer can’t remember if he cried, or the exact day the record industry died, but things changed. “Right now 90% of my business is my own production work. I met Cliff Carter when I opened the studio in 2002 and hired him as as a session player for singer songwriters. Several years ago we started producing together. Cliff functions as music director, arranger, and co-producer. I engineer and co-produce. We take singer songwriters with no band and put them in a place they couldn’t be otherwise.”

How do these clients measure success, if a gold record is no longer a reasonable goal? “Success has nothing to do with the sale of their record; we don’t believe that’s what makes a career. We give them a calling card that they can use to market themselves. They walk out of here with a professional recording that has world class musicians playing on it and they know they’re getting a product that they would have had to use a label for in the past. It’s all about the song, the sonics, and the musicianship. We make it as affordable as we can, but the cost is obviously higher than what someone would pay if they followed the old Elvis model and walked into a studio off the street and booked a few hours to cut their tracks live.”

If he had to round it off, what percentage of Bicoastal Music clients end up happy with the experience they’ve had at the studio? “All of them-one hundred per cent- are happy. They all give us a variation on the same theme- ‘I never thought I could have record like this.’ They know that a professional career is hard to develop and sustain, and that using social media to develop a fan base is critical. We give them the product; it’s up to them to market it.

“I also open up the studio to some high level engineers who use the room to record chamber music. That gives me a chance to take a break, and I get to listen to music that’s new and different and watch talented engineers work.”

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Blade Studios Update

It’s been an exciting couple of months at Blade Studios. We opened our doors in February of this year and are going strong. Tonight we are in the middle of a record with the band “The Hardships” all the way from Sweden in Studio A, as well as a celebration party for our new tenant in Studio B. CBS Sports and Tim Brando have rented our Studio B room for the next couple of years. Check Tim Brando out on the CBS Sports Network in the mornings form 9 a.m.-12 p.m. We might have to build a Studio C in the near future to keep up with the demand.
If you haven’t checked out the August issue of Mix Magazine yet it’s worth a look. We were very honored to have the cover for the month of August. Be sure to check out our Facebook page as well as www.bladestudios.com for all our current news.
The tax incentives offered in the State of Louisiana for recording have been a great benefit to our clients. If you’re thinking about to an upcoming record or you are a producer with a smaller budget and could use the tax benefits please check out the Louisiana Entertainment web site for details.

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Another one down…

Ron Levy, pianist with the Palisades Virtuosi and a long time friend, e-mailed me over the weekend saying that Bennett Studios shut down operations abruptly earlier this month. What a drag for artists like Ron, who has called the studio home for years (for me, too, since Ron and Richard Hobson, a baritone at the Metropolitan Opera were getting ready to track “Dispatch From The Killing Floor,” my settings of four poems from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves Of Grass” at Bennett Studios).

How have we gotten to this point? Have convolution reverbs, multi velocity level sampled pianos, and cheap microphones from Asia really turned wonderful acoustic environments like Dae Bennett’s place into anachronisms that serve no vital function in today’s world?

Progress, I guess.

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Soundiron

I’ve been a big fan of Tonehammer for some time. The company’s founders, Mike Peaslee and Troels Folmann recently parted ways. Two new sample library companies, 8dio (www.8dio.com), and SOUNDIRON (www.soundiron.com) have come out of this seperation. I spoke to Mike Peaslee the other day about his new venture, SOUNDIRON.

Gary Eskow: “Why the split with Troels at this time?”

Mike Peaslee: “We just had different creative ideas, different areas that we want to pursue. The split was perfectly amicable.”

GE: “What is the philosophical underpinning of SOUNDIRON?”

MP: “It’s really important to me that we have a community connected direction. We’re going to balance affordability and accessibility with innovative content, even within the realm of the more mainstream instruments we cover like choirs. We respond to users and interact with them directly. For example, we like for users to submit demos, and we ask other users to comment on them.

“We might release a product like our new Russian male choir, MARS, thinking that it will apply to the film scoring community most directly. But users might incorporate MARS into a rock or techno track, and put an entirely different spin on it. We also have gone as far as creating individual presets for users who have requested them.”

GE: “Can you give me an example of how you’ve adapted a piece of software based on user input?”

MP: “Sure. We just released an update to Requiem Light, one of our choirs. Some users had told us that they wished the marcato samples could be looped- they wanted to be able to weave those articulations into sustains. We dug into those sample and used the best of our tricks to to what had been a one shot thing into an infinitely sustaining set of seamless loops.

“SOUNDIRON is three people: Greg Stephens, Christopher Marshall, and me. If a customer sends an e-mail to the company they’ll be hearing from one of us. Whether they’re an institution, a professional, or a beginner, it’s important that they feel attached to the instruments. We need to let people know what inspired them, how they were created, and the best possible way to use our products.

GE: “What will SOUNDIRON be focusing on in the near future?”

MP: “We’re going to be releasing one or two products a month. There will be a lot of tuned percussion, and textures and ambiences. One of our long term goals is to get into the area of traditional classical orchestral instruments, but we’ll sample these instruments in a way that is unique. If we can’t deliver on something that’s powerfully compelling and well done, we put that project on the slow track.”

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Vienna Instruments Pro

Computers keep getting faster and hard drives cost next to nothing. Sample developers glom onto these advances and pour out gargantuan libraries. Memory management- the ability to select only the articulations needed for a specific project- is often the sad sister in the equation. Over the years the Vienna Symphonic Library has modified its user interface in an effort to make it easier for the user to cull from the many articulations that each instrument ships with and conserve RAM. Vienna Instruments PRO nails it.

Check out the video on the company’s site (http://www.vsl.co) if you want to learn the specifics of this interface. I’m here to report on one aspect only- the ease with which the user can build presets.

Mea culpa, mea culpa- in the past I simply loaded up VSL presets. I did take advantage of the dump memory function that forces the interface to get rid of all unused articulations, but I knew that I wasn’t plumbing the depths of the library. Many samples aren’t loaded into these presets, and I simply ignored them- I bet a lot of you have, as well.

Over a six-month period I wrote an orchestral piece, “4,3,2,1.” I slaved over every note and articulation prior to firing up my computer to perform the score into my DAW. VSL instruments form the core of this piece. I began performing parts from the bottom (double bass) up, and developed a work method that I used consistently throughout the process.

“4” is just shy of four minutes in length. To create presets I loaded up two articulations only, a staccato patch and a legato patch. These patches allowed me to perform phrases with the proper timing and feel. On play back I expanded the grid that comprises each preset, adding other patches as necessary. This method let me explore the library in detail- auditioning both a 2 second and 5 crescendo, for example, to determine which was perfect for a given moment in the score.

This process allows me to create patches that contain all the articulations I need without burdening my computer with unnecessary data. As a result, I’m able to load six VSL instruments, a Kontakt 4 rack, and place an Altiverb reverb across the main output buss of my mixer without using more than 50% of the 8 gigs of memory I have or more than 50% of my CPU cycles.

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