Magic Shop Studio Tour

Steve: Hi everyone. I’m Steve Roesnthal, and this is the now not-so-secret entrance to the Magic Shop. I want to welcome Justin and all your Sonic Scoopers to a little walkthrough of the studio.

The way we get in is to use this tiny little button which works sometimes, and sometimes doesn’t work. Let’s see if it works this time. There we go, we get in. You go in first. This is Yakupov who is our intern and works the front of desk here.

Yakupov, how long have you been here now?

Yakupov: I’ve been in here for about four months. I love it. Lots of good stuff, good people, good things to do.

Steve: Alright, so let me start the tour here. So this is the wall. There are lots of records that get swiped off the wall. I think that’s my sixth copy of Sonic Youth’s Dirty.

Here we have this incredible Sony 3348 digital tape machine, which I believe, new, was $260,000. I actually bought this one for $300. Yeah, I mean, I’m not sure what that tells you about digital tape now, but all of you kids who are investing in digital tape now, I’ll let you think about that.

Here’s an analog tape machine. If you can believe it, that’s a real Mellotron. A very rare, black, vintage Mellotron. So let’s see.

So we’ll go — yeah, go ahead — if you go in and see some people working in the Magic Shop right now. This is a pump organ from the 1940s.

So Justin, this is Doug Marr, and I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.

Ryan: Hey, I’m Ryan, tracking some drums.

Doug: I’m Doug Marr. We are recording Doug Marr.

Kate: I’m Kate Copeland, and I’m acting as the sort of producer/collaborator/arranger on this project with Doug here.

Doug: We are in our third day here at the Magic Shop, and it’s going swimmingly. We can’t wait to piece it all together and intend to come back in August to do another bunch of days.

Steve: That’s good. See, I’m the studio owner, that kind of stuff makes me happy. [laughs]

Kate: We’ve been focusing on getting our rhythm tracks the last few days just dialing in the bass and the drums over banjo scratch takes, and then yeah, in August, we’ll be adding some other juicy things, some woodwinds, some strings, and some harmonies, all sorts of fun things, so.

Working with Kabir who’s been engineering for us has been a huge treat. He is so on it. He’s just really so fast and so good. I mean, this board is hugely awesome and the room sounds wonderful!

I mean, it’s been a really beautiful acoustic space to be in.

Steve: Oh, I should introduce you to the legendary Kabir Hermon, he tends to be kind of shy. He kind of runs the Magic Shop. People think I run it, but actually Kabir really runs the Magic Shop. Seven and a half years. Started as an intern, and now runs the place.

Amazing engineer and all around really great person.

So this is the vintage Neve console that has 56 inputs. It was originally in the BBC. These are two Neve consoles that Rupert Neve helped us put together, because they’re actually Neve number 289 and Neve number 290. All hand built in 1970, many, many moons ago.

None of you were born 1970, right? All of you were born later. How about 1980?

Wow. So yeah, many moons ago, this console was built, has lots of unique features, we take really good care of it, it’s sort of like owning and old Thunderbird, like a 57 Thunderbird. You know, you have to take really good care of it. As long as you repair it, it can really give you a nice, sweet ride.

That’s what this console is like. It also has the Flying Faders install, so if you want to do automated mixing, you can do automated mixing, which lots of people like to do.

The Magic Shop has both people doing tracking and also doing mixing. Really can’t say that there’s been more of one or more of another really.

There’s a Slow Tools rig over there, as we like to call it around here. Kabir, what number of Pro Tools — Slow Tools are we on?

Kabir: We’re on 10.

Steve: That cost a couple digits.

Over here, there’s lots of vintage tube gear that I’ve collected over the years. This is actually a new channel, or sort of version of an old piece of gear, but anyways, there’s LA-2As, there’s a nice Focusrite rack over there, an original Focusrite.

Next to Dave is the Studer tape machine, a multi-track, which we actually use a lot here. Lots of people will come in, turn on the tape machine, and track to the Studer, and then go move it into Pro Tools, or sometimes they go back and forth.

There’s an HR-102 there in the back that people come in and mix to. The speakers are mostly ATCs. I’m a big ATC fan. Have been for many years now. We also have a pair of NS10s because you kind of have to. [laughs]

Well, it’s kinda comfy, it’s kind of oversized, right? So it’s kind of comfy.

Kate: I feel like I’m in a spaceship, which I enjoy immensely.

Steve: 1970s spaceship. Like the original Star Trek.

So if it’s okay with you, I’m just going to walk him through for a second, show him some stuff, as I said, there’s stuff everywhere. There’s that, which we have the discs for. Cool.

[upright bass]

Hi! Cool. Max is going to be doing — you’re doing an overdub on the record?

Max: Yeah, I’m playing on the album, as they say.

Steve: So we’re just going to spend a couple minutes in here babbling a little bit, and then we’ll get out of your hair, okay? Max is hooked up to a vintage B15, yes? Which they have. Hammond C3 with a Leslie. Behind this are these amp closets that I built for The Ramones. Actually, I built them with Matt Wells. Guitar god.

These are amp closets where you can put bottoms in and the tops go on the top, and then you — you seal them, and you can sort of play really loud and it doesn’t leak all over the place. That’s a real good secret of the Magic Shop right there that I just let out.

There’s a Baldwin piano from 1965. Here are some tuned wine glasses.

Kate: These are wine glasses that I actually tuned specifically for one of Doug’s songs that we were tracking today, so I was trying to figure out — we had six glasses to work with, which scale degrees were going to be the most strategically important to have, and I had to decide how micro-tonal I would allow them to be.

[wine glasses]

Steve: Nicely tuned.

Kate: I was very careful.

Steve: Maybe you want to put your banjo on and play a little bit while I’m babbling more about goofy gear, you’re certainly welcome to get your banjo and come in and play a little bit.

So the studio has a good collection of mics, which I’ve collected over the years. These are Coles ribbon mics. Tube mics, 47s, 67s, this is a moveable wall, which pulls out — I can’t really lift it anymore, it’s too heavy for me, but this can move out and then it isolates the back third of the studio from the front two thirds of the studio, and people use the studio in different ways.

Some people like to isolate back here, some people like to put the drums up there, some people will put the drums in the iso booth, so it just gives you a certain amount of flexibility for what you’re doing.

So here the drum setup I guess for Kabir is — the record that he’s working on right now. Nice setup. Love the drums.

There’s vintage Vox gear, obviously all over the place. Here are the two iso booths. More vintage Vox gear, an AC30 top boost. This is really a nice, dead room. I remember when they recorded — I remember when they were doing Suzanne Vega and Ron Sexsmith and Mitchell Froom and Chad Blake were here, they were incredibly brilliant.

They had Pete Thomas in here from the Attractions. He was six foot six — he is six foot six, and the poor guy was in here for like, ten days. I just felt so bad for him in this little tiny room with the drums, but the drums sounded amazing. Really dead and really fat.

So people have been in here. This is the cue system we use. Private cue system. Another vintage amplifier. See over here, this is a Ray Charles tube Wurlitzer. It’s different than your typical sort of black Wurley. This is a tack piano, which has been on lots of records.

You can see the silver thumb tacks on them. Gives you a really bright sort of Honky Tonk sound. Maybe Doug and Max will play a little bit and I can stop babbling.

[banjo and upright bass]

Nice guys! Thanks! That was fantastic, thank you.

Justin: Thanks so much guys for letting us in! Good luck with the rest of the session!

Steve: Yeah, thanks for letting us come in!

Kate: Thanks for having this bass for us to use!

Steve: So okay, now we’re going to kind of head downstairs. This Coldplay record, Viva la Vida was done here, lots of it. The Bowie record. So anyway, there are kind of two things that go on in the Magic Shop.

Upstairs here is where we do more new records, where people like to have more — come and mix new records, and then downstairs, we do all the audio restoration work and the preservation work that we really care about and the archiving work we really care about.

So come on downstairs and I’ll give you a little tour of that.

Justin: Thanks, this has been Justin with Sonic Scoop here with Steve Roesnthal at the Magic Shop Studios, and Steve, thanks for having us here at the Magic Shop.

Steve: My pleasure doing it. This was fun, I like nothing more than babbling about studio world, and you gave me an opportunity to do that, and I hope people enjoy their tour of the studio and get to see what we’ve been quietly doing here for the last thirty years!

Justin: You do it so well. Thanks again, Magic Shop Studios, and remember to subscribe here on YouTube, Sonic Scoop, go to SonicScoop.com, you can get the newsletter there and hear more about Magic Shop and studios like them.

Steve: I agree. Do that. Do what he says.

Justin: Alright, thanks Steve.

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