Annette Cisneros is a highly experienced engineer and studio manager. Her credits are long and her knowledge is deep. For several years she was Dave Jerden's [Tape Op #86] assistant engineer. When Jerden asked Bryan Carlstrom [Tape Op #28] to join their team, the three of them had a very successful run, cutting records with bands like The Offspring, Social Distortion, and Alice in Chains, to name a few. Eventually Cisneros moved into the role of studio manager when she opened Tranzformer Studios with Jerden and Carlstrom. After Carlstrom's untimely passing in 2014, Tranzformer Studios closed its doors. Annette is currently an engineer and assistant to the studio manager at DiaDan Studios in Burbank, CA.
Where did you get your start?
I thought it would be cool to work in a recording studio. I'd always loved music, so after high school I said, "I'd like to work in a studio!" I went to an engineering school in North Hollywood called Sound Master. It doesn't exist there anymore. I think it's in Alhambra, [CA], now [currently known as Pinnacle College].
Were your parents supportive?
Yes, they were very supportive. I was born and raised here in Montebello, [CA]. The school was in North Hollywood, so it wasn't very far. We learned how to align tape machines there. Pro Tools wasn't even invented yet when I was in school. We learned all about tape machines; 24-track and 2-track machines.
So when you got out of there, were you ready to work in a studio?
Yep. Working with bands you get to learn [how to work with artists].
Yeah, they don't teach you about human dynamics.
Yep. Or when the artist you're working with, or even the engineer too, are doing cocaine throughout the night. How do you deal with that?
How do you deal with that?
Carefully. Everybody's like, "Come on, come on. Let's go!" When I finished the school I didn't get a job in a studio right away, so I worked at a record store for a while. Then I got a job at Rusk Sound [Studios]. It's a studio in Hollywood on La Brea Avenue, between Hollywood and Sunset. I think the sign is still out there on La Brea.
How did you get that job?
I heard they needed an assistant, so I just went in there. Of course you work for free for a while, so that they can see what you've got. Then I started getting paid. The assistant engineer there told me that Eldorado Recording [Studios] was looking for a woman assistant, because a woman assistant had just left and they wanted another woman to be an assistant.
Really! That's unusual, right?
Yeah, it was. But at the time I didn't think anything of it.
I wasn't even going to ask any gender related questions. To me, you're an engineer. Period.
That's my thinking as well. I didn't know how rare woman engineers were until I was in the business for a while. It is rare. Gary Gunton owned Eldorado, and he also managed Dave Jerden. Dave just finished working with the Rolling Stones as an engineer. He wanted to be a producer, not just an engineer, and to produce local bands. I just happened to get a job at Eldorado, and since Gary managed Dave that's how I started working with Dave.
So you started working with Dave before Bryan Carlstrom started working with him.
Oh, yeah. We worked together for almost two years before we met Bryan. Eldorado used to be on Sunset, right across from Capitol Records. I think the first project I did with Dave was a band called 54-40 from Canada. There are quite a few artists we worked with at Eldorado. Then we had to move because the old building wasn't up to earthquake code. We moved to Track Record [Studios], and that's where we met Bryan.
That's in North Hollywood.
In North Hollywood on Vineland Avenue. Tom Murphy, who owned Track Record, had just built out a second control room in a warehouse. Billy Idol was working there at the time, and Bryan was working with Billy. That's how we met Bryan. We had all the equipment from Eldorado, but no place to go. Tom had a studio with no equipment, so that worked out.
Once you met Bryan, were you and Dave working with him right away?
No, there were two separate rooms there; a North room and a South room at Track Record. We mainly worked in the South room. Bryan was an assistant engineer at Track Record, like myself, so that's how we got to know each other, while working on different projects. When we moved to Track Record, it was only temporary. Gary [Gunton] was still looking for another place. Almost two years later, we moved Eldorado, and our studio, to Hollywood on Sunset [Boulevard]. The place that we...