July 23, 2012

California Sound Studios Music Recording Band Live Mixing MasteringThis past weekend I had the chance to sit down for a couple of hours with the head engineer of California Sound Studios, Fabian Quiroz.  (Be sure to also read about our sit down with Dustin Lees, who has engineered Snoop Dogg and Outkast.)  He took me on a comprehensive tour of the studio, explained the equipment they are working with, and gave me some background on their production philosophy.  The overall impression I took away was very positive, and the studio itself is nothing less than exceptional.  By the way, it's located in the Lake Forest area of Orange County and is equally easy to get to from San Diego or Los Angeles.

What makes this place so unique is that it's modeled after Studio C at Warner Brothers Studios in Los Angeles, California.  In fact, it's almost a perfect replica, with the drum room, live room, vocal booth and mixing/control room being built to the exact same dimmensions and specifications. Cool!  The staff also exhibited a very friendly and inviting attitude towards me, despite the obvious professional atmosphere of a busy pro studio.  More on this in a minute.

California Sound Studios Music Recording Band Live Mixing MasteringWhat about gear?  Of course, everything is top of the line.  On top of all the regular suspects, we are talking Neumann U87 mics, Universal Audio UA 6176 and Avalon 737 channel strips, Avalon U5 and AD2022 preamps, Mackie HR824 monitors, and a Pro Tools HD rig with a Digidesign Control 24 to top it all off.  This is just the beginning, by the way -- there was just too much analog gear (not to mention digital plugins) for me to jot down on my notes sheet while I was there.  That said, as a guitarist I was also impressed with the Mesa Stiletto guitar amp head and Marshall 1960B Vintage cabinet.  The live room has a very short, almost unnoticeable reverb that I imagine would really let the tone of that combination shine.

Mesa Guitar Amp Head California Sound Studios Music Recording Band Live Mixing Mastering

Fabian Quiroz Q California Sound Studios Music Recording Band Live Mixing MasteringWhat's more is that California Sound Studios is a one stop shop.  According to Fabian, "In addition to standard recording, production, mixing and mastering services, we are also a record label and can handle distribution, promotion, licensing and video production."  For bands somewhat new to the scene, they can even assist with booking and press matters.  For bands that are more established, their contacts in the industry will prove invaluable since networking is everything.

Their combined staff of producers and engineers have an impressive list of prior experience: in addition to working with labels like ABC Records, A&M Records, and Death Row Records, they have worked with such artists as Warren G, Sonny & Cher, Chicago, AC/DC, 98 Degrees, Mariah Carey, The Offspring, NOFX, Frankie Doll and more.  In fact, Warren G is actually one of the studio's producers, as well as Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees and Ronnie King of Rancid.  I am looking forward to my next visit where I might meet these guys along with the rest of the staff.

California Sound Studios Music Recording Band Live Mixing Mastering Digidesign Control 24 Pro Tools HDWhile meeting at CA Sound Studios was on a Saturday, I did have the chance to meet Dustin Lee (another lead engineer) and Nathan Wright (the CEO).  Everyone was very welcoming and had thorough answers to all my questions, especially Fabian - special thanks again to him for providing all the information for this article.  This helpful and friendly attitude is something really cool, because at least for me, speaking as a musician, I always want positive and supportive people around me when I'm in the studio; being in the right mindframe is vital to a good performance.  Fabian in particular obviously has a way with people and I know anyone would feel comfortable working with him.

The way Fabian puts it, "I like to keep things friendly and open to encourage the creative process, and I want people to feel at home when they're here."  I like it.

California Sound Studios Music Recording Band Live Mixing Mastering Pro Tools HDBy the way, for all of you aspiring sound engineers out there, whether your interest is in tracking, production, mixing, or mastering, CA Sound Studios has some really great training programs.  One is essentially a comprehensive A-Z course, with a focus on Pro Tools, that includes 24 hours of training over the course of 4 weeks.  Individual lessons and consultations (if you get stuck trying to figure out a specific part of a mix you're working on, for example) are also cost-effective and valuable ways to increase one's knowledge.  I would highly recommend anyone interested in getting involved in this industry to give them a call, schedule a tour and learn more about what they have to offer.  The fact they are so open to sharing their knowledge and spreading the wealth really impressed me.

As for pricing, I respect their request to maintain confidence regarding their fee structure.  And really, like Fabian mentioned, price entirely depends on the type of project you are looking to do, how much work is involved, what your expectations are, etc. anyways.  If you want a quote, you can simply pick up the phone and give them a call, or shoot a quick e-mail and they'll get back to you personally.

Let me know if you have any questions, guys, and I'd be happy to see if I can find an answer for you.  You can also check out their version of the tour from YouTube below.

*UPDATE* 1/23/13

A week or two ago, I was invited by Nathan Wright to revisit CA Sound Studios in Orange County, California for a second round of audio mayhem.  After making the trek up there this past Saturday, I was pleased to meet the rest of the crew from Wright Records and participate in some meaningful industry discussion.  By the way, Nathan is the studio’s CEO and owner of Wright Records.  Several notable artists are signed to Wright Records, including Curtis Young – Dr. Dre’s son.

Nathan Wright, Nathan Wright CEO, Steven Fies, Christian Juarez, Raymond Gomez, Wright Records, CA Sound Studios, California Sound Studios
Christian Juarez, Steven Fies, Nathan Wright, and Raymond Gomez
@CASoundStudios on January 12, 2013

When I first arrived at his office, I could hear Nathan chatting with an artist and two staff members about a new track that was coming out.  It was a punchy rap song with a modern hook but definitive old-school vibe and lyrics.  I remember thinking that it was arranged well and compressed well (from an audio mixing standpoint).  Cool stuff – I’ll have to figure out who that was and let you know for next time.

Minutes later, the artist made his way out and I was invited to join the guys from the label in Nathan’s office.  We immediately began a discussion about the future of Wright Records, CA Sound Studios, and some of the various programs and services they offer both musicians and aspiring industry professionals.  The program that sparked my interest the most was their comprehensive internship program.

For anyone in the Orange County or Long Beach area, this is an outstanding way to get into the industry and gain significant experience in all aspects of the music business.  Let me break it down for you in detail:

First, CA Sound Studios hand picks qualified individuals that have a passion for music and a desire to succeed in the industry.  In order to be qualified, you must have a good ear for up and coming music along with the ambition it takes to learn quickly and effectively.  Interns are exposed to a large amount of information in a relatively short amount of time, including structured training in all of the following areas:

1) Production (Writing/Editing/Mixing Music)
2) Distribution (Different Stores/Formats for Radio, Online, etc.)
3) Publishing (Copyrights, ASCAP & BMI)
4) Management (Content, Booking, Packaging)
5) Promotions (Pictures, Bios, Videos, Online Content, Presentation, Approaching Labels)

Along the way, interns can expect to learn about studio logistics, scouting for new artists, how to properly review press kits, and how to approach bands and other industry professionals.  Most importantly, you’ll score free tickets to concerts and local shows on behalf of CA Sound Studios.

In the future, I plan to collaborate with Nathan, Wright Records, and CA Sound Studios to cover the aforementioned areas in much greater detail.  For now, it shall suffice to say that I’m greatly looking forward to my third trip up to OC and the creation of yet another great installment in the CA Sound Studios saga.  Stay tuned.


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