JUNO Award-winning producer, engineer, songwriter and mixer Siegfried Meier owns Beach Road Studios, a private recording, mixing and mastering facility overlooking lovely Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada on a sprawling farm. At the age of 5, Meier moved with his large family from Germany to this Canadian farmland; having learned over the years to appreciate the attributes of rural life, he decided to build a destination facility where his clients could enjoy the pastoral views through its large windows and overall comfortable, inspiring pace. This setting provides balance for Meier, who has also spent considerable time working in Los Angeles, too.

“The first time I came to Canada was the first time I had ever heard Westernized music,” Meier recalls. “Even back then in Bavaria, it was mostly accordion music. So coming to Canada and seeing Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ music videos shaped things for me; I realized this was a thing you could do. At 13 or 14, I got serious…I had a band and was able to see the other side of the glass. As a ‘tinkerer,’ I eventually realized that it made more sense to acquire [recording] equipment and do music for our own projects. So that’s really how it started for me.”

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Built from the ground up, the Beach Road facility’s large dimensions were set from the beginning. “I had been in enough studios over the years that I knew what I wanted. I knew I wanted a large tracking room as well as other things in the building—like the kitchen, the lounge. But there were also money restrictions; we knew we couldn’t go beyond a certain point. So we landed on this 30x26-foot tracking space with a ceiling height of 23 feet at the peak of the room. The floors are just polished concrete with some rugs. If you think about it, the rooms at Abbey Road are just polished concrete, too.”

Meier on Beach Road’s 26 fader-frame TAC Magnum by AMEK analog recording console: “[It’s] cool British tone with British-style EQ for not a lot of money. My clients don’t care whether it’s a TAC, an AMEK, an SSL or a Neve.”

Balancing the liveliness of the reflective, hard floors, Meier used rough-cut wood for the tracking room’s walls, creating a warm yet large and acoustically attractive space, notably featuring a “guitar wall” hosting enough axes to reach 17 feet high. “They call it ‘barn pine,’ which is clean on one side and rough on the other,” tells Meier of his materials selection. “I purchased a great deal of it. The exterior of the building is the same wood. It was a simple way to put it all together. Because of the size of it—and because it’s not too large—a snare shot’s reverb tail on a mid-tempo song, captured with room mics up, is so nice that you never, ever need any extra reverb. It all blends so perfectly. I have speakers in the room, too, so I can fold back sound and effectively use it as an echo chamber, imparting its character on vocal tracks, things I’m mixing for outside clients and so on.”

Owning literally too much gear to list, Meier doesn’t just collect vibey, cool and interesting recording kit; he builds it. As such, he has a particular ‘gear philosophy’ when it comes to outboard. “If it’s cheaper to purchase it than make it, I generally will buy it,” he explains. “That’s especially true for the used market. But for a lot of the really, really high-end preamps that I’ve wanted over the years, I build it…and I won’t name names because I clone it! There are a lot of kits out there these days; when I started [building outboard gear], there wasn’t a lot of information out there about [doing that]. But for me, a lot of the classic gear—the API and Neve stuff—is the beginning of it all. In the end, preamps just have to sound rich, thick and full. Using that kind of gear creates tracks that fit together when you mix them; it already sounds like a record.”

“When things are too clean, they tend to not blend together very well,” Meier continues on the subject of choosing ‘tone rich’ signal paths and analog tape over ultralow noise modern gear. “I’m not worried about noise. Of course, if it’s a super-clean Celine Dion-type vocal, they aren’t going to want to hear tape hiss. But for most other things…25 years ago, all we wanted to do is get rid of the noise. Today, all we want to do is put it back into the tracks to get a vibe. But I take it on a case-by-case basis. If I use tape, I track to it first, then dump it into Pro Tools world where we can edit and manipulate.”

While Meier considers esoteric concepts like vibe and character paramount to making great records, he has no shortage of practical tech-based knowledge and careful recording skills to share. In fact, he has developed his own series of drum sample kits via MIDI-based libraries—Siegfried Meier Drums—and regularly hosts and teaches recording workshops, Pro Tools Certification classes, and is MFIT (Mastered for iTunes) certified. “For students to come out for two days and do the recording workshop with me, it’s focused; we do 12 to 14 hours each day. I also want to go out to some of the bigger recording cities—Nashville, Los Angeles, New York—for a recording workshop ‘tour’ of sorts, too.”

Beach Road Studios
siegfriedmeier.com/studio