|Crystal Studios – My Story|
|including the Recording Engineer/Producer April 1978 article reprint|
|Note: my comments are in this purple font. The article, reprinted below, is in black.
The next May, I went to the Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention in LA. The running joke was all my buddies chipped in and bought me a one way ticket to LA… but it was much more serious than just that fun. I found an LA yellow pages and began visiting studios in alphabetical order. Joe Chiccarelli had previously visited LA and came back with the famous line: “In Boston, we have five studios… in LA they have five studios ON EVERY BLOCK!” So I was determined, after reading about all these studios in the trade journals to see for myself. I was able to visit over 40 studios and I gave my resume to everyone I could. Subsequently I got 35 job offers! So I moved to LA, started at Cherokee Studios, and then managed to get a few evening and weekend gigs in other studios doing maintenance, wiring, fixing equipment…
…and I got a few gigs doing recording, and nearly every time I’d go into a studio to record there would be a noisy fader, a crackling switch, a bent pin on a VU meter (!!!) something with a tape machine that needed aligning or fixing… so seemingly every three hour recording session turned into a six hour marathon of fixing things first, (it was called maintenance in those days…) then recording after everything was tweaked. So I made a business card which said “Mixing and Fixing”, and it served well.
A few weeks went by and I got a call from Crystal Studios (almost next alphabetically from Cherokee, you might notice; Conway was actually next in line) and I went to meet Andrew Berliner. He interviewed me for eight hours. First he questioned me, thinking I was a spy for some other studio. Then he grilled me about all sorts of electronic trivia. Then he more or less took me into his confidence and told me the overall story of the studio and the history of the equipment. He had various partners and associates and staff and friends, all of whom contributed their part to the overall effort.
His effort may have started as a hippie studio fantasy but soon turned into an electronic design laboratory right on the cutting edge of what anyone in the industry was doing. From Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne in 1972 to an enormous string of hit albums by Stevie Wonder, Crystal was on the map as one of the hot LA studios. A further appeal was that is was a one-stop shop: you could record, and mix and master your album all in one building, and the main recording room was also big enough to hold an orchestra.
In the mid 70’s Andrew’s ideas and eventual implementation actually far surpassed the cutting edge; for their day, all three consoles he built had many industry firsts and absolutely unique circuitry. He and various engineers and techs at the studio also highly modified the industry standard Studer tape recorders and the Neumann disc cutting lathe, and the clean, tight punchy sound you could get from this studio was fast becoming an industry legend.
I went to dinner after the interview. Then Andrew called me up and asked if I would come over again. Sure! So after a full day’s interview he started in again and then he showed me what he called “the holy file cabinet” in what was to become my office and engineering lab.
There was an engineer who, sadly, I never met, who had recently passed away. He worked at Crystal for a number of years, and as the campfire story goes, was one of those white-pocket-protector-nerd-pak engineer types. If you are an electronics engineer or tech this is a very high compliment. So this fellow, Dean, had apparently kept a written technical diary on yellow pads of everything he did or thought about. It was written in a multiple person view, sometimes in the first person, sometimes not; and all the math was longhand, out to an unnecessarily large number of decimal places(!) All the yellow pads were stored chronologically in one of those massive fireproof file cabinets usually reserved for sci-fi movies of secret government installations. The diary rambled on like this: