In one of the most anticipated field trips of GRAMMY Camp®, Campers had the opportunity to visit one of three recording studios in the Los Angeles Area. I was fortunate enough to be able go to The Village Recorder in Santa Monica. A world renowned studio, The Village has hosted such rock greats as Smashing Pumpkins, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, John Mayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and many others. Needless to say, I was very excited about what I would see while I was there.
From the outside, you couldn’t guess that you were looking at a recording studio. The Village was built in 1922 from the remains of an old Masonic temple. However, once inside, the scene changes completely. Gold and platinum records line the walls of the lobby, and the low ceiling, coupled with the atmospheric lighting, gives the place an ethereal feeling. The building still retains much of its Masonic architecture, but many of the most important areas are very modern.
We were then taken on a comprehensive tour of the building. As we visited the various studios, many Campers were amazed at the sheer size of some of the rooms. “This isolation booth is bigger than my bedroom!” exclaimed Electronic Music Producer Naomi Lee. Indeed, some spaces seemed as though they could fit three bands at once. One of the studios even featured moving ceiling slats to change the reflection of sound. I really got the impression that the facility was a top-notch place.
Speaking of impressions, several Campers explained how it felt to be in the presence of some of rock’s greatest recorded moments. “It’s surreal to be standing in the very room where so much musical magic happens,” said Sarah Lindstedt, a Singer/Songwriter and self-proclaimed John Mayer fan. When asked about being in Mayer’s personal studio, Lindstedt immediately responded with a flurry of answers. “I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. [I’m] looking at his chair, and thinking: this guy sat here, this guy wrote hits in this very seat. It had this mystical, eerie sense of magic about it.”
Audio Engineer Mitch Knabe had some insightful comments about his experience. “I’m loving the history here. It’s infectious. There’s just a feeling you get while you’re here. I’m jealous that I’m not working here.” He was very impressed with The Village’s use of analog recording equipment. “I came in here expecting everything to be new and high-tech, but there’s something nostalgic about them using analog. I saw everything they mixed on in the rooms; how they have certain vents in the ceiling that open up, echo chambers…all this stuff that’s not digital.”
All in all, our visit to The Village Recorder satisfied on many levels. Besides being in a studio that has seen more than its fair share of A-list artists, Campers were able to learn about what went into the making of their favorite records. Between writing a song and its final release on an album, the production team at the studio faces many unique challenges in creating a great recording. By visiting this amazing place, Campers gained a better understanding of the recording process.