In 2005, when digital audio interface maker Apogee Electronics moved its headquarters to an old print shop in Santa Monica, Calif., legendary mixer Bob Clearmountain, husband of Apogee owner Betty Bennett and consultant to the company, turned an unused space in the rear of the building into the studio of his dreams.
“We just had junk stored in here,” says Clearmountain, seated in the cozy control room of what’s now called Apogee Studios. “I thought it could be a studio that doubled as a live venue–something to do for fun.”
Clearmountain and Apogee tricked out the exposed-brick space with a mix of top-notch vintage analog gear and Apogee’s cutting-edge digital products. During the last three years, more than 30 acts, including Patti Smith, James Blake, Nas and the Shins, have performed concerts at Apogee for Santa Monica radio station KCRW, with Clearmountain handling the live mix. The studio has also served as a real-time testing ground for new Apogee products. “People have asked us to block-book for an album, but we don’t,” Clearmountain says. “The radio shows are more important to us.”
Clearmountain’s goal was to make the studio as high-end as possible, which meant looking for a Neve 8068 console. The search led him to Oklahoma, where he found the old board from studio A of New York’s storied Power Station, which he helped design in the late ’70s. Clearmountain had used the Neve for Bruce Springsteen’s The River and early albums by Chic and Bryan Adams. At Apogee, the board’s been utilized sparingly for professional sessions–strings for Adele and the Rolling Stones, overdubs for John Mayer–but it played a crucial role in developing products including the Symphony I/O, an acclaimed multichannel interface.
Clearmountain says he started using Apogee gear in the late ’80s. “On ‘Tunnel of Love,’ Bruce recorded all digitally,” he says, “and I remember struggling with it. Then Apogee came along with their filters. They figured out why digital didn’t sound good. The [recordings] sounded like what it sounded like in the room.”
When he finally met Bennett a few years later, he was smitten–by her deep understanding of digital recording. “I remember putting together a Pro Tools rig, and I [asked] her, ‘What do you think?'” he says. “She looked at it and gave me a bunch of technical comments. I thought, ‘Oh, wow, I’ve got to marry you.'” -Phil Gallo