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VALLEY BUSINESS | THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Rock 'n' Rap Mecca

Ventura Boulevard Studio a Second Home for Several Top Artists

September 05, 2000|ZANTO PEABODY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SHERMAN OAKS — As a kid growing up in Brentwood, Alan Sides was obsessed with music. To get the perfect sound, he started building his own loudspeakers. To showcase the sound of his speakers, he started making his own recordings.

The quest for perfection eventually led Sides to start his own recording studio. He began with jazz and rhythm and blues artists, but today his client roster is firmly rooted in pop music. Madonna, Shania Twain, the Goo Goo Dolls, Brandy, Aerosmith, Ice Cube, Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, Snoop Dogg, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Eminem and others have all recorded or mixed tracks at his Record One studio on Ventura Boulevard.

"It's a hobby that's turned into something way more than a hobby," said Sides, 48.

The Record One studio, built by a shopping center developer in 1976 and purchased by Sides in 1983, sits on a stretch of Ventura that appears more like a block of Sunset Boulevard transplanted over the hill. Niche boutiques, trendy restaurants and even music industry shops such as the Guitar Center flank the studio.

But it's inside, in a den of anonymity, where magic is made.

Beyond the automated gates and surveillance cameras (prompted by concerns about violent confrontations elsewhere between rap artists), the two studios in the windowless ecru-colored building have earned a reputation in the industry for producing warm, flawless sound.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 7, 2000 Valley Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Recording studio--In a Valley Business story Tuesday, The Times incorrectly reported the rental rate for the Record One recording studio in Sherman Oaks. The studio charges $2,500 a day.

"Sometimes an artist can just walk in, do a song so right, and it just gives you chills," Sides said. "Then, it's just a matter of capturing that perfect moment on tape."

In 1992, that moment lasted four minutes and 31 seconds, the duration of Whitney Houston's cover of "I Will Always Love You" from "The Bodyguard" soundtrack. Songs are usually mixed and remixed to remove flaws and produce a clearer blend of sounds. Sides said the record-setting song released to the public was the "rough mix"--an unrefined version the public almost never hears--recorded at Record One.

Michael Jackson once booked the studio for almost a solid year, and Dr. Dre set up camp in the studio for two years when he launched his Aftermath label and began recording artists such as Eminem.

In fact, Dre and Jackson met at Record One, and sealed a deal for Dre to buy a Chatsworth ranch house Jackson had in escrow before the Northridge earthquake.

So why haven't you seen stretch Benzes pulling into the studio on the boulevard, or a crowd of paparazzi out front?

Part of the location's stock in trade is its anonymity and its distance from well-known Hollywood and West Side studios that have become hangouts for artists and gawkers, according to guitarist and songwriter Randy Jacobs.

"You can walk around and get out of the city," Jacobs said while in the studio last month mixing the follow-up to Virgin Records' compilation, "I-10 Chronicles." "For me the area is a good place, too, because I can step out and go to Stanley's [restaurant] and because a lot of studio musicians live in the area."

The studio in turn draws music industry types who live in the south Valley. For example, premier mixer Mike Shipley, who often sits at the control board, is reportly shopping for a home near Ventura Boulevard, where he does most of his work.

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Musicians don't have to leave the studio for a great meal, though. One of the advantages of working in the high-end studio is the fully-stocked gourmet kitchen. For down time, there is a lounge with sofas and a fireplace. It's the big hip hop entourages who soak in the comfortable digs the most, Sides said.

And for those who can afford to blow off more time at $2,500 an hour, there are "the city's best pinball machine," a pingpong table and a weight room.

"Dollar for dollar, the pingpong table has to be giving me the best return investment," Sides said. "I've had bands blow $100,000 playing pingpong tournaments."

Artists tend to make the place more like home as they spend more time there. Dre took out the exercise gear to make room for more studio equipment. Shipley's son's Batmobile model sits on the mixing board. Who knows who put the Nerf basketball goal on the wall.

Among the $2 million worth of things way too technical to mention in both Record One studios is the collection of 1950s-era vintage microphones that Sides swears sound better than anything made today. The $30,000 mikes are a choice with artists such as Clapton and BBMak, who were at Record One working on their latest projects recently.

Amid the luxury and high-tech surface of the rooms, some people are putting in long hours. Sides describes Dre, Jackson and young production phenom Rodney Jerkins as workaholics.

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Greg Burns, a second engineer whose twin brother works there as well, said he is in the studio every chance he gets because it means another opportunity to learn from the industry's best.

Burns, who has assisted in recording artists from Dru Hill to Dave Koz, began four years ago as a runner getting food for rappers' homies, the same gig Record One owner Sides once had.

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