Making Tracks

SIX BLOCKS SOUTH of Criteria is Quadradial Recording Studios. The owner, Robert Michael Ingria, sees his operation as Criteria's chief local competitor. James Brown has recorded here, too, as well as Nantucket, Al Stewart, and Chubby Checker, but Ingria's most loyal customers are Ted Nugent, Anthrax, and Pat Travers, who completed his new album, School of Hard Knocks, at Quadradial in April. Though it's not generally acknowledged to have the world-class status of Criteria, Quadradial is unique, designed as much to be a piece of art as a functional recording facility.

In 1975 Ingria began building Quadradial with assistance from a friend who helped design it, neighborhood kids who'd pitch in with labor, and a $160,000 loan from First State Bank, known as "the rock and roll bank" because of its willingness to fund studio construction. (First State was subsequently bought by Barnett.) As a director with one feature film under his belt - the award-winning Gangbusters - Ingria saw the warehouse at 14203 NE 18th Avenue as a place to record movie soundtracks and as an exhibition room to display the films to potential distributors.

One day a stranger walked up to the 24-year-old studio builder and told him about the mahogany that grew in the jungles of Honduras, a type of wood so resonant it was used to make violins. Ingria went to the guy at the bank, borrowed more money, and set off for the unknown to get his wood - not to make violins, but to build the interior of his studio. "I had no idea where I was going," he recalls. "And I did a lot of dancing to get it. It was either that or Home Depot - Lindsay Lumber at the time." Ingria got his Honduran mahogany, and built a facility that is as architecturally gorgeous as it is functional.

The rooms that adjoin the studio - the kitchen, offices, fine-arts workroom (Ingria is an accomplished painter) - are set off by ornate stone arches. Windows are stained, a floor-to-ceiling carved-wood post stands in the middle of the large studio, which has a spacious control room in the back. Small, closetlike rooms are arrayed opposite the control room. If you stand in one of these isolation booths and clap your hands, you will hear a dull echo, a thudlike reverberation. Move to another isolation room, do the same, and you hear nothing but the clap, sharp and precise, no echo whatsoever. Instruments and vocalists can be placed in these rooms to generate precisely the required acoustics.

As Ingria was completing the construction of Quadradial, back when it was soundproofed by egg cartons on the walls, local bands began asking to use the space for rehearsals, then began paying five dollars per hour to record on the primitive four-track equipment Ingria had obtained for his movie projects. Today his studio is booked solid by musicians and their producers, and the state-of-the-art equipment installed over the years is about to be upgraded - Ingria is negotiating for a 48-track digital setup that goes for a quarter of a million dollars, as well as about $30,000 worth of "toys" - high-tech gewgaws that, in the past, Ingria would rent when a client requested what Ingria calls "exotic pieces of equipment."

FORT LAUDERDALE'S New River Studios, which already features a bounty of recording gear manufactured by Neve, Studer and other respected names in the industry, recently sent out a press release trumpeting the purchase of "A Mitsubishi X850 32-track digital recorder, equipped with Apogee filters and a pair of Pultec EQP1 eq's. In addition, the control room of Studio A has undergone renovations." Like most things electronic, the machines used by studios need constant updating because manufacturers continue coming up with improvements, and if one studio has this, the other studio feels a need to have that.

Another feature that sets New River apart is the fact that it's one of only a handful of studios in the nation that are owned and operated by women. Virginia Cayia and her mother, Paulina, opened New River in December of 1982. "We saw it as an alternative from Miami," Virginia Cayia says. "At that time there weren't any major facilities in Fort Lauderdale, just little demo places."

Miami Sound Machine considered the alternatives and selected New River to record two Spanish-language albums, as well as their first English-language effort, Primitive Love. Jimmy Buffett, Peter Frampton, the Everly Brothers, Hall and Oates, Bruce Hornsby, and Jeff Beck are among the stars who've shined up their music at the Cayias' studio. And like Criteria, New River is superstar friendly. When Don Johnson came in to record, the shrimp-and-stone-crab platters were chilled and garnished to his liking. Just recently the rambunctious hard-rock outfit Skid Row cut their soon-to-be-released album at New River. You'd expect something wild from Sebastian Bach and his boys, but it was Jimmy Buffett's band that brought strippers into the studio for a birthday celebration. All Skid Row demanded was cases of Yoohoo chocolate-flavored drink. "We even had to stock it in the Coke machines," Virginia Cayia says.

Money is money whether it is spent by Yoohoo-chugging stars or hardscrabble local rock bands - studios do not recoup their investment money on the sales of the CDs, cassettes, and albums they record. Studio bread is buttered by the renting of time, generally by the hour, sometimes in long blocks known as "lockouts," in which an artist takes over a studio for days or weeks at a stretch. There are a variety of payment plans for studio time, with hourly rates ranging from about $30 at smaller studios to about $150 at fancier places. It can go much higher depending on an artist's demands.

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