In an anonymous garage on a residential street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn sits Excello Recording. It's been there for 13 years, long before the parade of hipsters crossed the BQE. It's an enigmatic space off a side street and recently, I got the chance to chill out and chat with Hugh Pool, one of Excello's owners/partners and it's chief engineer.
Tell me a little bit about the history of Excello Recording.
Excello was founded in 1992 by Dann Baker and Bruce Hathaway [Love Camp 7], Chad Swanberg [Halcion], Gil Shuster [Kenny Young and the Eggplants] and an architect named Tony Daniels [who incidentally just won an award for his eco-friendly design of the new Brooklyn Rail yard out at Coney Island]. Excello was founded on the idea that it would always be a studio for the creative projects of the partnership, and would kind of earn its day-to-day expenses by being rented out by engineers and producers and bands to record their own projects.
Does that still hold true these days, 13 years later?
It is still kind of true, but a lot of water and people have passed beneath Excello's bridge. We have continually maintained and upgraded the studio and have never advertised anywhere. We did get a website up.
Was the Calrec console here from the very beginning?
When the studio started we had a 24x16 Trident 65. It was great and a lot of records were mixed on it. We got rid of it when we really needed more inputs and when the thing was passing too much DC onto the fader rails. When ADATs and DA88s were everywhere and Pro Tools just busted out with Digi001, we bought two Lynx modules and installed them so we could lock our Studer A800 to whichever format we wanted. That sure made that 24x16 Trident feel small in a big hurry. We were looking around for a Neve or an API a few years ago and that was pretty discouraging because they were so expensive. You just never seem to find that amazing deal on gear when you are out there looking for it. But, we kept plugging away and putting out the word to different equipment brokers. We explained who we were and what we did here and some of the records that were made here, and just kinda said, "These are the parameters of what we are looking for, so if anything comes along that seems like a good value and feels like it might fit with our room, please give us a shout." About eight months later we got a call from a guy in Montreal named Milko. He said he had just purchased three Calrec consoles from the BBC and was going over to decommission them. He'd give us a call when they were shipped to his place in Canada. We said great. Another month went by and we get another call and sent our then and since departed partner Bryan Martin up to check things out. He came back with pictures and specs. It looked awesome with real beefy, all-modular construction and the specs were just ridiculous... P&G faders, Lundahl transformers, five power supplies, everything transformer balanced. It was commissioned by the BBC and built to BBC specs by AMS-owned Calrec. It has a lot of Neve feeling genealogy. It has 40 channels, eight stereo buses, six auxes, four compressors and four gates built in, plus another 18 channels in an aux mixer that go straight to the stereo bus. We love it. It has tons of headroom and EQs that are real quiet yet don't crap out when you use them aggressively.
So you were able to get a board from the BBC?
Yeah. I have heard that they regularly cycle their gear, like every ten years for something like this. I guess they can afford not to be "sentimental" about a big, lovely piece of transformer-balanced audio processing device. We, on the other hand, take great care to see that it is happy. This is for two reasons. One is that it's the responsible thing to do and the other more compelling reason is that we are still paying for it. And if it ain't happy, reliable and free of gremlins, the studio is gonna end up eating time and that will help us not in our endeavor to make the old lease payment at the first of the month.
And the visiting engineers love it too...
You bet. I have to be honest. When Bryan came back and said he had...