Spring Arts

Spring Arts
Inside Rendez-vous studios with Pierre Grill and ToniDrake.
Image: Niko Rivas

Recording Studios

Spring Arts / Out of the Garage


Unless you’re Kanye West or Mariah Carey, you may be out of luck when it comes to recording your next multi-platinum album.

Sure, we are in the age of home recording and for many reasons, that’s a great thing. However, some of us miss the way records sounded pre-GarageBand, when bands were free to concentrate on the music and leave all of the sound engineering to those who knew what they were doing.

When a band decides to record in a professional studio, they are paying for the knowledge and years of experience that come with being a full-fledged producer or engineer. Since the fall of the “Major Label” a lot of studios have become more flexible and affordable.

The Weekly has sought out some of the island’s best recording studios, each catering to the specific needs of a wide variety of musicians.


Rendez-vous Recording

Here is a man who loves his bamboo–multiple Na Hoku Hanohano Awards winner Pierre Grill’s entire studio is draped with bamboo curtains, which act as acoustic diffusers. Armed with a few of his favorite Neumann condensers and Royer ribbon microphones and a modest selection of outboard gear, Pierre relies solely on his intuition, seasoned with thirty-years’ experience to find the right sound. Grill mixes completely in the box, using Pro Tools HD to consolidate space and time (meaning no mixing board to be found here). Grill also offers on-location live recording for a flat rate of $300. To make it more of a one-stop shop, Rendez-Vous provides in-house graphic design and duplication, courtesy of Grill’s wife Toni Drake.

Some of Grill’s clients include Willie K, Kapena, Danny Couch and Ohta San. One of Grill’s true passions is songwriting and arranging. If you sing him a melody, he’ll write a whole arrangement under it. “Songwriters have been my bread and butter for all these years, but I’d like to get more bands,” says Grill. “I can do bands here, I have a great Koa wood drum set.” Another unique instrument is Grill’s Baldwin grand piano, which turns 100 years old this year. Open since 1981, Rendez-Vous is Hawaii’s oldest recording studio.

3250 Beaumont Woods Pl., Honolulu, $65 per hour, [pierregrill.com], 988-4418

Lowbrow Studio

Demetri Marmash runs this recording studio from his home in Kailua. You may recognize Marmash as the bass player for Upstanding Youth, a local ska-punk band that has been a staple in Hawaii’s punk scene for over ten years. Marmash has self-produced four of their albums which have each received a Hawaii Music Award.

Lowbrow Studio has undergone a recent renovation in the control room, which includes a new SSL mixing console. “Mainly the recording is on to digital, but everything is run through analog equipment so I’m using the analog mixing console and outboard preamps which hook up to the microphones and compressors.” The studio features one isolation booth and a separate drum room.

A recent addition to Marmash’s repertoire includes a few collaborations with L.A. producer Manny Nieto (The Breeders, HEALTH). Nieto says, “I went all over the Island looking for a studio and everything that is in Demetri’s studio is the stuff I have [at my studio] so it’s like an extension of where I work.”

853 N. Kalaheo Ave., Kailua, ~$35 per hour, 358-0573

Soul Sound Hawaii: LCC

The studio might be new, but the people running it are by no means the new kids on the block. Between producer and chief engineer Shawn Livingston Mosely and his partner Kelli Heath, they’ve recorded over 180 records of all genres. Mosely grew up in Hawaii, but spent some time overseas in San Francisco working at The Plant Recording Studio. Some of the artists he’s worked with there include Dave Matthews, Elliott Smith and Metallica. Some of Mosely and Heath’s clientele here in Hawaii include, Amy Hanaialii, Cyril Pahunui, Jeff Peterson, and Mike Love.

Aside from the persons behind the mixing board, Soul Sound has a lot to boast of. The studio houses an 1800 sq. ft. live room and an oversized isolation booth. It has the best of Analog and Digital capabilities, with the latest versions of Pro Tools and Nuendo, a Sony 3036 16 channel mixing console, high-end microphones (from Telefunken, Earthworks, Josephson, AKG and more), and a slew of custom built tube preamps and D.I.s. And for more soul for your buck, you can mix down to an AMPEX ATR 100–¼” analog 2-track reel to reel tape deck.

46-178 Kahuhipa St. Unit R, Heeia Kaneohe, $35 per hour, [soulsoundhawaii.com], 783-8914

Seventh Wave Productions

If seven-time Na Hoku Hanohano award-winner Dave Tucciarone’s studio had a motto, it might read “If you ain’t ready, you’re going home.” Tucciarone explains, “There’s other studios who don’t care if they’re unprepared, they’re making money by the hour and they’re going to tell them ‘Oh man, that’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard!’” Tucciarone laughs, “I’ve never been able to do that and I never will.” A musician himself, Tucciarone has worked with Phil McDonald, who has helped engineer the Beatles. Tucciarone has even ridden in George Harrison’s red Porsche (AHHH!). Some of the artists he’s produced and engineered himself last year include Howard Ai, Kuana Torres Kahele and John Feary.

Tucciarone’s 300 square foot studio features a Digital Performer system. His outboard gear includes Universal Audio and Focusrite preamps. A few key Neumann, Shure, and Audio Technica microphones are also among his collection.

Seventh Wave Productions may not appeal to everyone. “I’m not doing much rock and I don’t really do hip-hop and R&B, I’m a little too old for that kind of stuff,” says Tucciarone. “Whatever genre you’re working in, it’s helpful to have someone that’s knowledgeable in that genre as far as a producer.”

[davetucciarone.com], [email: dt100] $4,000 an album, including 100 hours plus mastering, 372-7836

Studio One Recording Services

Run by producer and engineer Wendell Ching, Studio One Services has a long history of creating hits. Ching has worked with Hapa, The Green, J Boog, Natural Vibrations KeahiWai, and many more. Ching’s impressive track record has taken shape within the course of twenty years’ experience with studio recording and over thirty years’ experience as a studio musician.

“There’s a lot of little studios that claim they’re a recording studio because they have a computer,” Ching laughs. “But those guys don’t know how to get a sound so they waste a lot of time.” His studio features one isolation booth and a 300-square-foot tracking room. A drummer himself, Ching has a knack for coaxing a good drum sound out of any scenario. “I do live drums, which is something a lot of people don’t do.”

When asked if people still request analog, Ching says “A few people do because they know how good it sounds. The majority of my equipment is analog anyway–my outboard, my mixing board–the only thing I’m running in the computer is my program [Pro Tools or Digital Performer], digital just sucks.” Ching’s studio is equipped with an analog 24 track two-inch tape machine, and an analog ¼ inch two track reel to reel.

99-1285 Halawa Valley St., #A24, $55 per hour, 371-2706