Indigo Ranch, nestled on 60-acres in the hills of Malibu, California, operated from 1974 until 2006, under the guidance and obsessions of Richard Kaplan. Clients took advantage of his meticulously built studio, 400 guitar amps, and rare Aengus console. Artists as diverse as Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Olivia Newton John, Jeff Lorber, Korn, Sepultura, and Limp Bizkit all made albums at Indigo Ranch. We tracked down a "retired" Richard in Venice Beach, for a long chat.
So what's the history of Indigo Ranch?
Mike Pinder and I built it. Mike was the original principal in Indigo Ranch. The Moody Blues did their last album, Octave, as a full group with Mike there, which I have a platinum album for engineering. But Mike and I basically built it for our own in-house projects. It was never intended to be a commercial studio. We ordered the absolute best equipment. We were originally going to get a Neve or an API console, but we ran into these guys from Aengus. This was the best console we'd ever heard. On the day of delivery of the console in 1974, we're waiting for the truck, and this guy comes strutting down the driveway. He says, "Hi, I'm here to supervise the installation of the console." We said, "No, that's okay. We flew David Hawkins in from England." He had done probably half of the big installations in Europe. Very, very sharp guy. We said, "Thank you anyway. What was your name?" He says, "Deane Jensen." [laughs]
Yeah, like, "Stick around."
We didn't even know who Deane Jensen was. We had just come back from Europe, and Deane didn't have the fame there that he had here. David Hawkins knew who he was, and said, "Don't send him away!" So they start putting the console in. About an hour later Mike and I were sitting out on the bench in front of the studio, looking at the ocean while having a cup of tea, and David comes out. We said, "What do you think of this Deane guy? Should we just send him home?" He said, "After an hour of working with this guy, I feel like he should be doing the console, and I should be soldering AC cords." Deane was just a wonderful guy. He was our in-house tech for the first couple of years. He hated to even have the world know that he could solder; he liked to be thought of as the design guy, and not the diagnostician, builder, or anything like that. But Deane did everything for Indigo for the first couple of years, including changing out all of what were really good electronics. The Aengus was probably the best-sounding console I'd ever heard, as delivered, and Deane said, "We're gonna make it better." He designed an op-amp for us, the JE-918, which we used for all the mic preamps. It was his best shot at the amp module for a mic pre.
How did you end up at Indigo Ranch, as well as living out there?
I was living in a basement in Woodland Hills, California, having just returned from the Midwest where a partner and I had run the Nova Lights show. Nova Lights was the first on-stage laser show in the world, written up in TIME magazine in the '60s. We were doing polarized lights and laser techniques. The first album I did with Mike Pinder, after we opened the studio for personal use, was called The Promise and the cover is a photograph of one of my polarized...