Established audio engineers, Jono Manson and Tim Schmoyer have pooled their talents and resources and opened Kitchen Sink Recording Studio in a brand new location: downtown Santa Fe.
Opened at the end of last year, the ‘new’ place is actually an old studio, where they were lucky enough to keep and renovate some of the equipment left behind by previous owners. Putting all that together with Jono’s 20 years of accumulated gear and adding 36 channels of Audient ASP8024 mixing console with Dual Layer Control, the chances are that this studio really has everything – including the kitchen sink.
Audient kicked off by asking Jono Manson, owner of the original Kitchen Sink Recording Studio, how it all came about, originally.
The Kitchen Sink first came into being about 10 years ago, when I set up shop in a rambling old adobe house north of the city of Santa Fe, where I have lived on and off since 1992. I bought the property for the purpose of building a recording studio, but also kept some of the aspects of the house intact, so that visiting dignitaries could come to New Mexico, camp out and make records, uninterrupted by distractions from the outside world.
The studio was always a work in progress and, of course, I was anxious to begin work as quickly as possible. Part of what became the main tracking room had once been the kitchen of the original home. I managed to migrate all of the furniture and appliances from the kitchen into another part of the structure – the ‘new’ kitchen – but the sink posed the most challenges, having all of those pipes coming in and out! So, for the first eight months or so of running the studio there was a sink in the middle of the main tracking room. Hence the name.
At this point, countless records have been recorded at the facility bearing this brand, awards have been won, etc, so it’s way too late to change now.
Was running a studio a long-held dream come true?
A long-held dream? Well, yes and no.
I say yes, because this is certainly something I’ve always wanted to do ever since I saw the photos of the Beatles singing into microphones on the back of the ‘Second Album’ (US release, of course). I say no because I have, indeed, already been ‘living the dream’ for decades.
I landed my first job as an assistant engineer in a large commercial studio in my native New York City in 1979, when I was 19. I set up the first studio of my very own (all analog) in the mid-1980s. This studio was, much to the chagrin of my downstairs neighbors, located in an apartment that I was renting in Brooklyn at the time.
This is also when I began my career as a producer. I started out making records for bands from the scene of which I was a part back in those days, and everything progressed from there.
«With the exception of a couple questions regarding the functions of the DLC, I have not had to crack the manual once since the desk has been up and running.»
My new business partner Tim Schmoyer is an accomplished audio engineer in his own right, with a strong background in live sound and location recording. For many years, Tim has been working out of his own home-grown studio in Boston MA and doing location work, but he has not had a great tracking room of his own until now. So, for him, dreams are coming true to be sure!
He and his family (wife and pets), will be relocating to Santa Fe in April, when he will become more actively involved with the operation of the studio.
Now to this new place. You’ve described it as being in a ‘classic studio building’. Can you tell us some more about that?
Yes, with the exception of a few ‘dark’ periods, the new facility has been a functioning studio for the better part of 30 years. It was constructed the right way, from the ground up around 1989. All of the rooms were built to exacting specifications and this is arguably the best sounding tracking room for hundreds of miles in any direction. (Of course, we have a lot of empty space here in the American Southwest!) I myself worked on quite a number of projects in this facility, both as a producer and session musician, in its former incarnation back in the mid-1990’s.
In any case, after laying dormant for some time, the property recently became available for purchase. Tim and I could not resist this opportunity. To make a long story short, he and I joined forces and took over the property in October of 2015. By early November we were already cranking away.
The studio is now as busy as could possibly be imagined. There’s a great deal of excitement in the local and regional music community that this historic studio has been resurrected.
This move has meant you’re in downtown Santa Fe now too, what difference has that had on you personally, and the business generally so far?
For me personally, my life has changed exponentially! I live with my small family in the heart of Santa Fe – about four minutes’ drive from the studio. Before, my commute back-and-forth to work was over an hour each day so it made it difficult to pop home for a meal or to give my 5 1/2-year-old daughter a kiss before she goes to bed. Now, all that has changed. A much more civilized existence indeed – a few rungs up the evolutionary ladder for this studio troll!
«It looks, feels and sounds great!»
A certain sector of my pre-existing clientele was apprehensive to see the old studio disappear, but all that has begun to fade as each of them has had the opportunity to work in the new place, which is truly spectacular. Even though the new facility is very impressive (imposing, even) on a lot of levels, we’ve been mindful to maintain a down-home, inviting, and disarming atmosphere so that people feel comfortable working there, and not like they’re being examined in some kind of laboratory.
The new location is within minutes of downtown restaurants, bars, museums and numerous other attractions so clients who come here from out of state, or out of the country for that matter, have easy access to all the city has to offer. [Audient particuarly loves the RecoTourism section of the Kitchen Sink website for further info on that]
Tim has already been networking with the Santa Fe music scene. And, we’re excited about having some of his loyal clients from past work follow him out to here from Boston to make records – and take a nice road trip!
The best thing about my work is that as an engineer and/or producer, I have the opportunity to participate in a very intimate manner in the creation so much music across a great many genres. First and foremost, I consider myself a musician. Very thankfully, the vast majority of projects that I work on give me inspiration and energy for my own craft as an artist. (As opposed to sucking it out of me!) This is the best part of my job. That, and all the multi-colored flashing lights.
Tim also enjoys helping artists’ musical visions become a reality. There are not many jobs that give that kind of fulfilment. He also loves his standard-issue studio lava lamps.
So…this new Audient 36-channel ASP8024 console with DLC. Was it an obvious choice? What do you love about it?
We did a great deal of shopping around when considering the desk for the new studio. Because of our fairly remote location, we decided early on that a brand-new console would be the way to go. Unlike cities like New York or Los Angeles, Santa Fe is rather bereft of technical assistance for servicing vintage gear at short notice!
A dear friend, and extremely accomplished producer, Eric Ambel first brought Audient consoles to our attention. We started investigating, and our interest was piqued from the get-go. I contacted anyone I could find who could talk to me about their experiences working with your boards. Time after time I heard the familiar refrain that these were extremely reliable, great sounding desks, that the EQ was very musical, and that the preamps offered an incredible amount of bang for the buck. So, Tim and I flew to New York so that we could get our hands on one, in the flesh. I ran the desk through its paces and pushed it hard (maybe harder than I ever will in my own studio, but don’t tell anyone), and from that moment on that we were sold.
The desk is extremely well designed, and very intuitive. The routing is extensive and very flexible. With the exception of a couple questions regarding the functions of the DLC, I have not had to crack the manual once since the desk has been up and running. I’ve been spending 12 to 15 hours a day in front of the ASP8024 and I can now honestly attest to the fact that, whether in tracking or mixing, all of the glowing endorsements were 100% true. So, kindly add mine to the list.
In short, it looks, feels and sounds great!
Did you upgrade everything as well as the console, or has a lot of your other gear come from the last place?
My old studio already had a nice complement of gear, all of which migrated to the new location. I did purchase some additional gear, mostly in the form of dynamics, and we also inherited some gizmos from the old studio which existed in the space before we took over. Among these items are fairly impressive complement of vintage microphones which, added to what I have in my closet already, comprises a formidable array.
«I can now honestly attest to the fact that, whether in tracking or mixing, all of the glowing endorsements were 100% true»
Two analog tape machines (both 24 and 2 track) came with the new place. These have required some love and attention, but they’re back up and running and humming right along! We also replaced every inch of cabling in the entire facility, and every solder point on every jack on every panel has been redone.
We contracted Pro Audio Design in Boston to conceive and execute our new patch bay. Apart from all of our outboard gear and our DAW and tape machines, every input, output, group, insert on the Audient comes up in the bay and we can easily assign tape sends (everything’s normalled when it needs to be) to either ProTools or the 2″ machine – or both, simultaneously.
We gather that you can turn your hand to most things – both sides of the glass. Tell us about a few of the projects you’ve got coming up.
For the moment, my own career as a performer is taking a backseat to my activities as a producer, and engineer.
I’m currently working on albums for a couple of New Mexico based singer/songwriters, as well as finishing up a really interesting project with Sufi-Rock musicians from Pakistan. This spring and summer I’ll be producing several new projects. Among them is an album for a nomadic (they live in a mobile home) husband-and-wife duo called «ordinary elephant«, a record for historic Italian rock band The Gang, and an album for an extremely talented singer-songwriter from Cambridge UK called George Breakfast (really!)
In between these ‘major’ projects, I tend to take on whatever comes my way. But – thankfully – the artists who tend to gravitate towards working with me are for the most part, the kind of folks I love working with! Birds of a feather, and all that….
What are you most proud of?
Survival. I’ve been a musician since I was six years old, and a professional musician since my early teens. The mere fact that I have managed to navigate the ins and outs, ups and downs, of this business for so long is miraculous.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
- Best general advice I’ve been given: There are many ways to skin a cat. You just have to get the cat to cooperate first.
- Best advice regarding mixing I’ve been given: Stop!!
- Best advice I can give: If you enter a «battle of the bands», you’ve already lost.
Tim adds: “Never be afraid to try something different”, which is excellent advice in a business where no two days (hours or minutes for that matter) are the same!
Jono it’s been a pleasure – thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us. We wish you and Tim every success in your fabulous new space.