Masterdisk is co-sponsoring an exciting music production event at the Sonic Arts Center at City College in New York next week! It’s called “Off the Record with Scott Hull:” an informal talk about music production focusing on best practices in making great recordings — the artistry involved rather than a focus on only technical matters.
Scott’s guests are John Davis and Aaron Nevezie. Aaron and John are producers and engineers and co-owners of The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn.
Every once in a while, we have the privilege of working with an artist that really makes us think, “wow, she can do anything!” Such was the case when we heard one of Randy Merrill’s recent mastering projects, the self-released “I Think of You” EP by Tajna Tanović.
Bosnia-born Tanović began her impressive career as a youth, on Sarajevo National Radio & Television’s “Kids Cabaret,” and continued on to Germany’s Theater TAS, where she played leading roles for over a decade. 2004 brought Tajna to New York City, where she has continued performing and composing for theater, collaborated on visual art installations, performed in film, and developed her singer-songwriter career. 2011 saw the production of Tajna’s debut recording with our friends John Davis and Aaron Nevezie, at The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn.
Tajna shines on this 5-song EP, her soaring voice tugging at our hearts with vivid words and melodies over tasteful accompaniment. Enhancing this pinnacle listening experience is the musicianship of Davis and Nevezie, who perform many of the instrumental parts in addition to their roles in production, and Dave Burnett, who teases out the nuances of Tanović’s music with skillfully constructed drum parts. Although Tajna has been performing since 1990, this EP is proof that she’s just getting started. We can’t wait to see what she’ll do next!
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.
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.
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.