A key feature of Pie Studios is the control room’s eight bays of outboard gear, seen here behind owner Perry Margouleff (center) and assistant engineer Wesley hovanec. GLEN COVE, NY—Pie Studios, located in Glen Cove on the North Shore of Long Island—the famed Gold Coast of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s day—is celebrating 25 years in business. During the heyday of big-budget recording, some major artists recorded at Pie, but these days the facility is semiprivate.
“The studio has really become a think-tank, a sort of laboratory, for the projects we’re doing,” explains owner Perry A. Margouleff, who has been in the business for rather more than a quarter-century. The facility is certainly open to customers, “But I don’t have a shingle hanging out anymore looking to book studio time in the conventional sense. It’s really repeat customers, and people who are part of the family we work with. That’s the only thing that makes sense; otherwise you’re beating your head against the wall.”
That family includes producers Rick Chertoff and William Wittman, known for their work with Joan Osbourne and others. “Bill just mixed a Broadway play here for Cyndi Lauper, Kinky Boots,” reports Margouleff.
“The people who come to me are not people calling to find out how much it costs to book time,” he continues. “They’re people who are calling because they want to mix and they know I’ve got a Neve 8078 with GML automation and Studer 800s in good working order and they can’t just go anywhere to do it.”
Margouleff already had those major pieces of equipment from an ill-fated earlier studio venture with a partner in Connecticut. “We discovered rapidly that all the neighbors in this very suburban area would not tolerate people making noise at 1:00 in the morning,” he ruefully recalls.
He decided to go it alone, against the recommendations of his uncle Bob, whom, as a young person, he would watch working with the likes of Stevie Wonder. “Bob said, ‘It’s the most difficult business.’ But I said, ‘Oh Bob, I’m different.’”
Margouleff found an existing studio in Glen Cove, necessitating little up-front expense. The control room, measuring 26 feet by 20 feet, needed a little work, he says, but the 35-foot by 28-foot tracking space with 18-foot ceiling and two iso booths offered a nicely balanced, live but controlled environment.
The facility is not short of outboard equipment, microphones or backline choices. “The period of ’87 through ’91 was the demise of the great New York studios, and I was fortunate to be at the auctions for the Record Plant, Media Sound, A&R, RCA, CBS, Tin Pan Alley, Cherry Lane, Sound One and other studios as they were going out of business, buying the gear. So by the time I put the room online, I didn’t have to go out and buy anything.”
The eight-bay credenza houses an impressive collection of devices from Altec, AMS, API, Dynacord, Eventide, Fairchild, Flickinger, GML, Lexicon, MXR, Pultec, Telefunken, Trident, UA and more. Out on the floor, clients have access to a 1931 Steinway Model B grand piano, Hammond B-3 with Leslie 122, and stacks of amplification. The mic locker holds numerous gems from AKG, Beyerdynamic, EV, Gefell, Neumann, RCA, Schoeps, Sennheiser, Shure and STC.
“My attitude was, you’ve piled a bunch of gear into the room, now the room acoustics really changed, and if the people are paying for the room, they should just be able to use whatever they want to use. So I had this insane collection of outboard gear and there was no extra rental cost.”
Although Pie is located less than an hour outside Manhattan, that discouraged potential local clients. Instead, he says, “Cheap Trick would come from Rockford, Illinois, or the Rolling Stones would come from whatever planet. They were traveling from wherever they were traveling from, so it was more about the space.”
These days, Margouleff focuses on production projects and his label, Pie Records. “I have one artist [Thom Chacon] on the label at the moment, a young singer/songwriter guy in the vein of John Prine. We’ve made a couple of records of him with Bob Dylan’s band.”
He adds, “I’ve been doing a lot of work with Paul Rodgers [Free, Bad Company and other bands]. We made a record in Memphis at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios and mixed it at my place. We brought a lot of microphones and gear with us, so a part of Pie went down there.” Margouleff plays guitar on the record and has also been playing live with Rodgers.
Looking back, building a studio and a business did turn out to be as difficult as Uncle Bob predicted. “But I did it and I survived and we created something special and unique, and serviced a lot of people who appreciated it while the studio thing was still a popular commercial venture. It was a lot of work, but it gave me the opportunity to work with a lot of really brilliant people, and to learn a lot, and to develop and hone my craft. And that’s the more important aspect of it for me.”