Over spring break, Berklee students attended industry trips to L.A., Nashville, New York City, and Atlanta. Here, a participant in the recording studio track of the L.A. trip, Paul Matelski, recounts the week’s experience.
By Paul Matelski
There it was. Propped underneath no less than $250,000 worth of vintage microphones suspended over the vast interior of EastWest Studio 1 was the original podium that Frank Sinatra stood on for all his major recording sessions done at this studio, including classics such as “That’s Life” and “New York, New York.” It was at that moment that all of us, Berklee students and staff included, collectively laughed out of pure excitement and disbelief. There was no escaping the profound feeling that we were standing in one of the most legendary music facilities on the planet; a living museum containing the history and relics of popular recorded music.
Throughout this L.A. spring break trip, the collective group of us 20 Berklee students, consisting of mostly MP&E, EPD, and CWP majors, experienced many eye-opening and life changing experiences such as this one. Like many of the students on this trip, it was my first time visiting the city of Los Angeles. Of course, I had seen and heard about the glamorized nature of places like Hollywood and Malibu on TV but to be able to see these places in real life was like a dream come true… and it was just as majestic as I had imagined it. In fact, on the very first day, after visiting two legendary studios, The Record Plant and Chalice Recording, we drove through the mountains that connect Studio City to Malibu. After driving on the incredibly windy road for what seemed like ages, we finally came to a point where the scenery broke and we were staring at the most incredible view of the Pacific Ocean. We then proceeded to drive to the legendary Neptune’s Seafood and Grill restaurant right on the Pacific Coast Highway and eat lunch on the beach. A truly amazing first day.
The remainder of the trip was perhaps even more exciting. Every day, we visited at least two major recording studios and met a plethora of music industry professionals. Over the course of the first couple days, we began to notice a trend; a trend that is very promising to a group of aspiring professionals attempting to enter the industry. Every studio that we went to exclaimed that they were through-the-roof BUSY! Busy to the point that they have had to turn away clients due to lack of space available in the rooms. One studio manager even exclaimed that 2017 was the busiest year for the studio on record, a true shock given that this facility has existed since the 1970’s.
“Clients are rediscovering that room sound is integral to the sound of their favorite records. They’re finding that you just can’t get the same sound making a record in your garage” exclaimed one studio manager. The phrase “We are getting a tremendous amount of last minute bookings and simply can’t keep up” was echoed many times by these studio managers as well. As individuals intending to enter the industry in the very near future, this is incredibly good news, as more business means more potential work opportunities for young, aspiring professionals. This news, combined with highlights such as standing in the legendary Moroccan Ballroom at the Village Studios, listening to Michael Jackson’s “Bad” in the same room that it was mixed in (Westlake Studio D), and touring the Capitol Records tower, eliminated any doubts that us students may have had when first arriving in L.A. There was no hiding it: the Los Angeles recording studio scene is alive and well in 2018.
Throughout the trip, we were also treated to many stories from Joe James and Stefanie Henning, two industry veterans and the primary Berklee coordinators spearheading the trip and accompanying our group. Joe, who serves as Berklee’s PWMTD associate director of scheduling and has had a very successful, 30-year long career as a producer, engineer, and A&R associate in Los Angeles had this to say: “I’ve been doing these trips for 8 years and I think this is the best one yet. The recording studios seem healthier than they have been in a long time.” He also shared with us stories during the car and bus rides along the way, with highlights including his pre-production work on U2’s Rattle and Hum album, working on the Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge record, and a particularly funny discussion with legendary producer Don Was.
One of the great things about Berklee, especially the MP&E major, is that we learn a plethora of skills that allow us to pursue a myriad of career opportunities, including post-production, the field of working on audio for video (film, TV, etc…). In addition to touring the city’s recording studios, we also had the great pleasure of visiting legendary facilities such as NBC/Universal and Fox Studios, for the purpose of exploring this possible career path. During our time here, we were fortunate enough to see how television spots are recorded, submitted, mixed, and sent out for broadcasting in as little as an hour’s time. We were also gifted with the chance to see and hear a bit of the remixing process of a classic film (which will remain unnamed) in one of the gigantic mixing rooms at NBC. This experience was particularly notable in that this mixing room was equipped with ATMOS, a new, emerging technology that places viewers/listeners in an incredibly immersive soundscape through the use of dozens of speakers placed around the “theater.” In short, it’s a more immersive version of surround sound and is set to become the new standard in cinemas in the near future.
On the final day of the trip, we began the day with a tour around the legendary United Recording Studios (formerly part of Ocean Way Studios) and were able to see the rooms in which artists such as Radiohead, Paul McCartney, and Beck have recorded some of their major works. Given that it was the last day, there was a bittersweet feeling amongst all of us. We had seen so much and were having such a good time but it was almost time to head back to Boston. Fortunately, we had one more sight to see and we soon pulled into the legendary Fox Studios campus where we were treated to numerous sights such as the famous “New York Avenue,” the Simpsons lot, and a meeting with the vice president of music, Ward Hake. “It’s just like I remembered it. It hasn’t changed a bit,” said Stefanie Henning, who worked at Fox Studios for many years. “I really enjoyed my time working here.”
Hopefully all of us in this group will one day get to say the same thing about the facilities we saw, fell in love with, and went on to work in.
Paul Matelski is a producer, engineer, songwriter, and drummer, hailing from Sparkill, New York. As a graduate from Berklee’s music production and engineering program, Paul is known for his professional work ethic and his client-focused approach to making records in all major music genres.