Meet Engineer-Producer Jamie Siegel of JRock Studios

In today’s music business, many of us take on multiple roles to stay afloat. Roles that, in the music business of old, were often quite separate. This is the age of the hyphen and the slash, the age of the musician-engineer-producer-composer-booking manager-promotions guy-blogger-etc-etc…

Some have entered the age of the hyphen grudgingly, some have adapted more-or-less-easily, and some blessed souls have dived in joyfully. Meet Jamie Siegel of JRock Studios, a self-professed “Swiss Army knife” of the recording studio.

Photo of Jamie Siegel

Q: So you’re basically a composer, musician, guitarist, producer, recording engineer, mix engineer, and studio owner, right? That’s a lot of stuff, and I’m probably leaving something out. How do you primarily think of what you do, and how does all that get organized in your life?

A: That’s a great question!! It’s not really a conscious choice on my part and finding balance outside of the studio has always been a tricky thing. I LOVE making records and working with artists, so finding the energy to work and be creative usually isn’t difficult. I think the most important factor is the emotional tie I have to music and the ability to communicate and understand the artists I work with. There is a ton of psychology involved in working with talented people (so maybe add psychologist to that list!). I consider myself an “all around” music guy. If the music is great, I’ll be happy to work on it with you and contribute in any way I can. Additionally, I’ve always had a good business sense and JRock Studios is the culmination of that.

When I started my career at Chung King studios, I really wanted to learn how to engineer and mix records properly. Composing/producing was always something I’d done growing up but I considered it to be more something I did for fun. I never tried to “push” those skills at the studio. Next thing you know, I’m being asked to play guitar on a Whitney Houston record or programming drums, etc for some other platinum-selling artists… I always asked myself “Why me?? Aren’t there much better musicians out there??!!” Apparently, I was capable and just needed some pushing.

It’s really dull for me to be tied down doing the same thing every day and I pride myself on having the ability to be a “Swiss Army knife” in the studio, so even though I didn’t set out to be all the things you mentioned, that’s how my career evolved. As far as how all that gets organized in my life. I have no idea. 🙂

Q: I like the metaphor of the Swiss Army knife. A lot of us in the music industry have jobs that require that kind of flexibility, and you clearly embrace it! When you’re producing do you bring in someone else to engineer or will you do both? Or does it depend on the circumstance?

A: I’d say that 99% of the time I’m engineering everything myself – unless of course I’m playing acoustic guitar — then I’ll have my assistant Tony engineer for me. Considering I’m mixing most of these projects, it’s a lot easier for me to get the sounds correct during tracking. It’s way more difficult trying to “fix” something after the fact — especially when recording digitally. Spend a few extra minutes listening and make sure the sound you’re capturing is going to work well in a mix context.

Q: Tell me a little about your studio. What is it about your space that makes it a good place to record and be creative?

A: JRock Studios is a warm, unintimidating space with some really great gear. I think of it mostly as an overdub/mix room but have actually cut tons of drums in the vocal booth! I spent lots of years freelancing in the big studios and I really enjoy having a smaller space to work in. I think the artists feel less pressure and it affords us more time to dig in.

Photo of the console during a Jamie Siegel recording session

Q: What do you look for in a mastering engineer and from the mastering process?

A: The main thing I look for in a mastering engineer is someone who isn’t going to be too heavy handed. I’ve spent a lot of time making sure the mix is as good as I can get it and I’d like the mastering engineer to enhance what I’ve done and not alter it too drastically. Scott Hull is my absolute favorite mastering engineer. He’s a true artist. Every time I get a master back from Scott, I am happy.

Q: Can you mention a couple things you’ve worked on recently or have coming up that you’re excited about?

A: I just had the pleasure of mixing Rob Mathes‘ solo album. That was an incredibly challenging and fulfilling experience. We’ve worked on a ton of projects including Sting’s birthday concert (which was released via iPad app), Jennifer Hudson, etc. I’ve also recently musical directed a variety/circus show called Absinthe which is running at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. This week I’m co-producing a song on the new Blondie album. In between all that, I’m always working with some great independent artists.


Contact Jamie Siegel at www.jrockstudios.com or at (646) 484-9240.

The Bunker Studio: Williamsburg’s Best-Kept Secret Won’t be Secret for Long

Photo of a tracking room at The Bunker.
The Bunker Studio 2.0
I stopped in at Aaron Nevezie’s and John Davis’s new-and-improved Bunker studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn earlier this month. Both Aaron and John have been sending projects to Scott Hull and Randy Merrill for mastering over the past couple years — projects which, we’ve noticed, consistently sound excellent. It was time to find out a little more about these guys — especially since they’ve just reopened their successful studio in a larger and beautifully designed space.

John and Aaron met while studying in the Jazz program at The New School in the late ’90s. Their primary instruments were bass and guitar (respectively), with engineering experience developing, as it does for so many of us, through recording themselves and their friends.

Before too long the space they were living in was accumulating gear to a degree that wasn’t conducive to normal human habitation, and eventually recording won out and the place became their first studio.

This converted basement spot in Williamsburg, where they worked for about eight years, saw The Bunker slowly aquiring experience, clientele and equipment. While at this location they recorded the track “Tighten Up” from the Grammy-winning Black Keys album Brothers. They also worked with Mike Stern, Charlie Hunter, Matisyahu, Chris Speed, James Iha, Moby, Ben Allison and many more. Label clients include Tzadik, Wind-Up and TVT.

Sometime in 2010 Aaron and John realized they might have outgrown the basement location. The way John tells it, they had some friends looking for studio space, and went along on their scouting trips to see what was out there. It was only after they saw the (now built) location on South 2nd Street that they realized that they did, in fact, need to upgrade.

Photo of the Studio A Control Room at the Bunker
The Studio A control room.
And what an upgrade it is; the new space is beautiful. I’ll let Aaron & John describe it — this is from their website.

The new space was opened in November 2011 and was designed by Rod Gervais. Studio A easily allows for live tracking of large ensembles with excellent sight lines and isolation. The huge live room with 25′ ceilings, string and rhythm rooms and iso booth each have their own unique character and provide inspiring acoustic environments in which to play.

Studio B is a great overdub and production studio with a large control room with natural light. The live room is 230sqft with 12 ft ceilings and is home to the Yamaha upright piano and is plenty big enough for tracking drums, a string quartet or anything else that doesn’t require multiple rooms.

Both studios, but especially Studio A, are aesthetically inspiring. You definitely feel like you’re in a special place — and that’s a tremendous plus when you need to focus and get creative.

Not mentioned in the description above is the control room, which also has a pleasant, inspiring atmosphere. The room features a Custom 26 channel Auditronics board (heavily modified by Joel Hamilton and Purple Audio). The sound is great — controlled, but alive.

It’s very impressive that in a time when studios are supposed to be struggling, Aaron and John have dug in to create a clearly expensive space like this. They kept the costs down by pretty much doing everything themselves. They know how many nails got hammered. And they pretty much do everything on a day-to-day basis too. From opening up in the morning, mopping the floors and paying the bills to booking the sessions, setting up the mics and pressing “record” It’s usually either John or Aaron doing it.

Photo of John Davis and Aaron Nevezie building the Bunker.
Ah, the glamour of the music biz. John Davis (left) and Aaron Nevezie in the thick of it.

Does it get to be a bit much? “Sometimes I’ll get home from a session at 10 p.m. and I’m looking forward to getting some rest when I realize that some emails have come in and I need to handle some booking. So at that moment, yeah, it can be a little tiring. But for the most part we split the work load really well between us. And at the end of the day, it’s worth it. That we have this place is amazing. And there really isn’t any other way we could pull it off.”

Aaron and John both stressed that they aim to keep the place affordable — and it is, very much so. Booking Studio A costs $750 a day, and Studio B is $450, both including engineer — really incredible, especially when you consider the kind of sound you can get, and the atmosphere you get to create in. Artists and labels clearly know what a good deal it is, because both rooms are well-booked through April.

So, don’t sleep on the new Bunker studio — we can’t recommend them enough here at Masterdisk.

MORE INFO
The Bunker Studio website: http://www.thebunkerstudio.com/
Gear list: http://www.thebunkerstudio.com/gear/
Bunker profiled at Sonic Scoop: http://www.sonicscoop.com/2012/01/25/brooklyn-2-0-the-new-bunker-studios-offers-next-level-recording-experience/