WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA, July 28, 2011 — Uptown Recording, named for the boom town that blossomed into the entertainment and cultural center of Chicago at the beginning of the 20th century, has been steadily growing since first establishing its roots in the still-thriving neighborhood over 15 years ago. Outgrowing its original basement location, established in 1995, and moving into a state-of-the-art multi-room facility in 2001, Uptown Recording has long considered Guitar Center Professional (GC Pro), the outside sales division of Guitar Center that focuses on the needs of professional users, its go-to source for pro audio equipment as the studio has grown.
“I call on GC Pro because they’ve always had the ability to get anything I wanted. If they didn’t have it, they found it through their network – and at prices that were cheaper than anywhere else,” says Rob Ruccia, Uptown Recording’s chief engineer. GC Pro always has the studio’s best interest in mind, he adds: “Rather than just sell us stuff, they tell us what our options are and lead us towards the most cost efficient way to keep up. We like to stay on top of things, and so does GC Pro – they are always up on the latest offerings.”
The 5,000-square-foot Uptown facility, which is in a former electronics repair shop, features two studios outfitted with similar equipment, such as Digidesign Control|24 control surfaces and Pro Tools|HD3 Accel DAW rigs with Apogee converters, to allow projects to move easily from one room to the other. Addressing the needs of local and national acts, which account for about 60 percent of the facility’s business, Studio East boasts the larger of the two control rooms, and additionally has an analog focus, featuring a two-inch, 16-track Sony/MCI JH16 tape machine formerly owned by Merle Haggard. The large tracking space encompasses two isolation rooms, and there is also a lounge. To help grow Uptown’s production, voiceover and sound design work for film and television, Studio West is outfitted with a 5.1-surround Genelec monitoring system and plasma screens for video playback.
The complement of outboard equipment, a mix of new and vintage signal processors, is also similar in each studio, and includes Empirical Labs, SSL and Universal Audio compressors, for example. Studio East, with its focus on music production, additionally relies on API preamps, EQs and compressors, rather than a large mixing console. Ruccia explains, “Everything in our mindset is ‘the big board is dead.’ Having a giant 80-channel console in our studio is pointless. Instead, we have four channels of classic API, a couple channels of John Hardy, some Avalon equipment, some Universal Audio. We’ve got different flavors for whatever purpose we’ll need.” Drawmer, Focusrite and Presonus preamps are also available at the facility.
According to Ruccia, “The John Hardys are a workhorse, and you can use them on just about anything. Also, he is from nearby, so we see him all the time. If anything ever goes wrong, he will come out and fix our gear – he is like a local hero.”
As for microphones, Electro-Voice RE 22, Neumann U87 and TLM 127, Royer phantom powered active ribbon and Sennheiser evolution 900 series models are heavily favored. “The Sennheiser 900 series are amazing on drums. Also, since they are on clips, they save setup time and clutter and are less intrusive to drummers,” Ruccia comments. Available backline gear includes a large variety of vintage amplifiers and drums, a grand piano and a 1950s Hammond organ.
The vibe at the facility, which enjoyed a major makeover in 2006, is still reminiscent of that original basement studio, comments Ruccia, who worked at the studio with his band in late 2001 and never left. “The décor is somewhat ‘basement-like’ – and we do this on purpose. We are going for a less corporate vibe in here because we’re all musicians – we all play in bands in and around the city.”
In addition to the staff’s credentials, Uptown Recording’s location close to historic venues such as The Aragon Ballroom, Riviera Theater, Uptown Theatre and Green Mill Jazz Club – one of the country’s oldest jazz clubs – has also been good for business, Ruccia relates, attracting such nationally acclaimed artists as James Iha, guitarist with the classic lineup of Smashing Pumpkins, and New York-based indie-pop singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson. “She had been playing a gig at the Riviera Theatre, and her label called and said she needed to track a couple of things,” Ruccia recalls. “Being close to those national venues is fantastic and has brought us some great opportunities.”
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