Inside the New Brooklyn Studio That Has Hosted James Blake and D'Angelo

Electric Garden’s Studio A.
Frank Oudeman

Electric Garden’s Studio A.

In 1986, Drew Vogelman, a drummer and an engineer, opened his first studio, Dessau Recording, in Manhattan. (It closed in 1999.) Twenty-five years later, when his son, Lucas, wanted to learn the business, Vogelman set up his wall of analog gear at their home in Brooklyn. The Garden was born.

Vogelman was soon inspired to expand the space, an idea he attributes to his friend and business partner, Grammy-winning engineer and producer Ben Kane (D’Angelo). And when in 2015 the two stumbled upon a former bean-sprout factory in Williamsburg, the idea found a home.

“A studio is a weird beast,” says Kane. “You’re trying to get inspired by the space -- and make something inspiring at the same time.” They enlisted visual artist Missy Ablin, who helped design the studio with circular shapes to channel feminine energy, says Kane, and installed a wobbling wooden circle above the mixing desk (think psychedelic redwood donut). Another artist, Danny Ebru, made floor panels and wall coverings with a Turkish dipping practice using oil and water. The rooms are packed with analog gear that Vogelman has been collecting since the 1980s, including a Studer 2-inch tape deck, the kind of machine that studios were ditching 10 years ago. Adds Kane: “The whole [place] is a piece of art.”

Vogelman, 57, and Kane, 35, who raised $50,000 through Kickstarter, estimate that the actual cost of getting Electric Garden up and running as closer to half a million. (Kane says that at least 10 people did work for cost “just to contribute.”) “You don’t look at business plans and say, ‘Hey, I want to open a studio to make money,’” says Vogelman. “You’d be better off opening a laundromat.”

The studio will officially open in March but has already hosted a slew of top talent: D’Angelo began sessions for his forthcoming album; James Blake dropped by to work in December; and Grammy-nominated R&B star H.E.R. is slated for February.

How did the studio land such top talent? Kane credits it to the overall vibe and the surplus of gear and instruments. “Why do something like this if you’re not going to do it absolutely right?” he says. “It’s a crazy idea to begin with.”

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 26 issue of Billboard.