• Home. Studio.
A recent comment from my friend Dave Tutin got me thinking, as his comments so often do.
He wrote about how today's technology makes recording at home a no-compromise solution, just so long as you're willing to go into a pro studio for mixing and mastering. I couldn't agree more.
But there's a deeper story here, at least for me. Ever since my parents bought me a Fostex four-track back in the late 1970s, I have dreamed of having a real home recording studio. But this was no easy dream. Until pretty darn recently, in fact, recording gear capable of producing pro sound quality was big, heavy, finicky and expensive. And anyone wanting a respectable home studio had to have a dedicated room, or better, a garage or, best of all, something detached.
I did my best. In college, I lugged my Tascam 8-track and accompanying mixer and limited outboard boxes half way across the country and set 'em all up in a closet. After college, the whole mess traveled with me to LA, and played a major decorative role in all four of my apartments during my time in the Paved Desert. Then it was back to SF, where some friends and I stole plywood at night to construct a "studio" in the garage of the house we shared. But when I decided to move to Europe, the recording gear had to stay behind.
For several years, I lived without it: no multitrack, no mixer, no mics, not a thing. When I moved back to the States, I was pent up with unrequirted recording lust, and I promptly purchased an ADAT and a Mackie board, hoping the recording process had finally been radically simplified. It had not. There were still wires everywhere, noise problems, tricky patching operations for routing signals through reverbs and the like. And amp emulation? Forget it. I used a SansAmp, which rocked, to be sure, but it was limited.
Around my ADAT period, I did some copywriting for a young company called Digidesign. They "paid" me with a Session 8 system, the first (I think) computer based recording system for amateurs. It was cool, but buggy and let's face it, computers were not ready for audio recording. So I bought a Roland VS something or other. It was cool... not. Too complex, tricky, frustrating. I gave up. Again. Got rid of everything, tried not to look back.
But I could not live without some multitrack gear. So, given the fact that my SF apartment was way too small for any sort of studio, I started dabbling in Digi stuff again. Despite major improvements, it still wasn't for me. I simply was not willing to invest in the kind of computer Digi required. Then I had my accident, Apple switched to Intel, my songwriting gene reawakened and the stars seemed to align.
Today, I sit before a simple monitor, connected to a laptop, connected to a Digi Mbox 2 Pro, connected to some drives, connected to some speakers. AND THAT'S IT. My entire studio weighs maybe 20 pounds. Incredible.
But here's the best part. After all these years I finally have a no-compromise home studio. Sure, I could get a vocal booth, weird, esoteric outboard gear, fancy cables, a console... but why? To get all that stuff, I just grab my little disk drive and head to the studio.
I feel like a writer with his cabin in Maine and writing room and wood desk, or a painter with his studio in Venice Beach or maybe Barcelona, or even, just ever so slightly, like a rock star who has finally constructed his dream studio outside London.
Or wait, here's what I really feel like: at home.