This is a story about how I got to live my fantasy of walking through the door of the building at 3 Abbey Road and saying, "We're working in studio two." It's second only to the one where I walk through the door and the receptionist says "Good morning Mr. Martin." This was made possible by my generous friend Elliott Smith, whom I believe had a similar fantasy. We were joined by our buddies Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock, who took care of the recording duties, and Sam Coomes from Quasi, the best rock band in the world.
Elliott, Sam and I arrive at studio two around noon. We walk into the control room and meet friendly house engineers Paul Hicks and Chris Bolster. Rob and Tom have taken a wrong turn and are now heading farther and farther away from the studio. Let's have a look around, shall we? The mixing board is a Neve VRP Legend with flying faders, not a little EMI board with a grinning St. George and Geoff Emerick permanently attached to it like my fantasies have led me to believe. Oh no! One of those screens with the EQ display. I'll get sucked in I know, just like those dryers at the laundromat. A Studer A820 24 track analogue tape machine. There's a machine bay, so you can wheel in whatever you want, digital or analogue. They have a lot to choose from. Assorted outboard gear that Rob and Tom decide not to use. A comfy couch and chairs. Coffee! OK, now for the studio downstairs. It's huge. The ceilings are 24 feet high and the floor is 38 feet x 60 feet On the studio statistics sheet they list the reverberation time at 1.2 seconds. Mounted on hinges and wheels against the main walls are four acoustic screens that are nearly as tall as the room, and about 1/3 the width, so you can break it up. There are lots of smaller screens you can use for isolation. We've got a Steinway grand piano, a Steinway tack piano (actually there are no tacks, just very stiff, ridged hammers), a Hammond C3 organ with two Leslies to choose from, and an electric harmonium. Let's see, microphones. Hmm, Neumann, Neumann, Neumann... you name it, they got it. I go over to check out the rented Ludwig vintage drum kit. Cute. Those cymbals look like trouble though. There are a pair of very weathered looking Cole 4038's perched nearby. "Hey Paul, how old are these?" "Pretty old." "Like Beatles old?" "Yeah." I press my cheek against one of them.
(Insert Beatles fantasy here.) I open my eyes. Rob and Tom have arrived and are inspecting the drum set. All the cymbals but the hi-hat have been nixed. The heads have to go too. They want Remo Ambassador coated top and clear bottom. "Excuse me Tom, there's a Joey Waronker on the phone for you." Everyone, "Tell him to come over!" Joey played drums on a couple songs from Elliott's album, XO, and happened to be in town with R.E.M. He has just arrived at the studio and is now on the phone with another music store. It seems to be a bit more complicated to rent gear in London than LA. He is being very patient and speaking very calmly. He sounds like my chiropractor right before the big adjustment. "Now what I would like to do, is have you bring me some of these cymbals, and some of these, and two of these, and I'll try them out and send back the ones I don't want to use. Do you think we can do that?" After 15 minutes of hypnosis, they agree. Elliott is downstairs working on a new song, the rest of us discuss very important things while we wait for the gear to arrive. "Excuse me Tom, who's the Nuge?" asks Paul. Okay we're recording now. Sam is attempting play without using headphones. This turns out to be impossible as the delay from one side of the room to the other is too long for him to keep time with the drums. After a good take we listen back. We all marvel at the sound of the room. It really has a sound. "Now if we just had an old board instead of this damn thing." says Rob.
and take a little stroll through the halls if you want to. We decide to order out for Indian food tonight. After dinner, the band heads downstairs to work on another song, I have a stomachache, and fall asleep on the couch imagining what the Odessey and Oracle sessions were like. (Insert Zombies dream here). The band returns to the control room just as Rod Argent delivers a kick to my stom- ach...