Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco has soul. I’ve heard that violins change as virtuosos play them, taking on the characteristics of their owners. The rooms at Hyde Street Studios resonate like a Stradivarius or perhaps a Gibson Les Paul. The studios have been burnished by the work of all the incredible musicians who have recorded in its spaces.
The list of artists who worked here is staggering. They recorded some of last century’s seminal albums in this studio. For me, that list includes Déjà Vu (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, 1970), created when the studio was known as Wally Heider Studios; Abraxas (Santana, 1970); Head Hunters (Herbie Hancock, 1973); Frankenchrist (Dead Kennedys, 1985); and Album – Generic Flipper (Flipper, 1982). Of course, there are so many others.
My son Jonah’s band, The Optimals, had the incredible opportunity to record a song here too. The Optimals are Jonah (vocals and guitar), Meghan (vocals and keyboard), Max (vocals and bass), Aljah (guitar), and A.J. (drums, producer, band leader/music instructor). A.J. prepared the group with phenomenal instruction and plenty of practice, so they nailed the recording session. Charlie Beutter was The Optimals super skilled engineer.
As a spectator, I was in awe. Watching Charlie work was a pleasure. The guy was so relaxed setting up the studio and during the recording process. Watching him edit in Pro Tools, I couldn’t believe how fast he was. I can’t fathom how he kept track of all of the things he needed to manage on that board. By the way, for the geeks and gear heads out there, here is some info on Studio A and the Neve 8038 console. I was also in awe of the band. They came in like a bunch of pros. It was crazy. It looked like they had done this dozens of times. No big deal. So cool. I’m a groupie, I guess.
As a photographer. I decided that I needed to be as un-distracting (is that a word?) as possible. That meant no flash, just existing tungsten light (halogen/mix?) with a high (auto) ISO usually opened up all the way. I shot with a Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 in the beginning and switched to the 85mm 1.8 prime. I got to sit in the room while the band recorded a couple of takes. Initially I thought I’d shoot, but I decided that it would distract them, and I was worried about my shutter getting picked up by the mics. But I did sneak in a couple of pics during one take, timing the shutter with snare hits.
To see more optimals photos, go here.