OKRecords is a new recording studio located in Nyack, NY, a quaint, “main street”-like Victorian village situated alongside the Hudson River, just 19 minutes north of New York City. Occupying a circa 1912 brick warehouse that has since been totally remodeled, the 3,500-square-foot studio is owned by producer/engineer Greg Talenfeld, whose work has been associated with Pavement, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Walkmen and many others.
While design and construction of OKRecords took just about two years, Talenfeld is a top-notch recording veteran who has paid his dues for over two decades at several NYC-based studios, including his own Waterworks Studio, which he started in 1989 with an Otari MX 5050 8-track tape deck and a box of mics.
OKRecords is a quintessential tracking facility with a 500-square-foot live room, a 300-square-foot control room and two generously sized iso booths. The acoustic design was handled by Fran Manzella, whose FM Design is headquartered just a few miles away across the Hudson. Manzella says that when he and Talenfeld originally met to discuss the project, there was an instant alignment of chemistry. "We were speaking the same language," Manzella recalls. "I realized this was a guy who does real recordings with instruments and microphones—kind of lost art stuff. Everything I like about recording, he was doing."
Talenfeld, who knew he wanted OKRecords to be located in the vibrant downtown area of Nyack close to coffee shops, bookstores and restaurants, chose the historic structure after keeping a close eye on several potential sites through his real estate broker. He made his move when the real estate market softened in 2007, and purchased the building out of foreclosure. "When I was looking at opening a new studio, it occurred to me that you really need to own the building," says Talenfeld. "I had seen so many studios go under because they are slaved to the lease."
One of the earliest conversations with Manzella was about whether or not the facility needed a control room. A musician himself, Talenfeld prefers to be in the same room as the musicians. "We had a healthy discussion about this," recalls Talenfeld. "Fran told me, 'You need a critical listening area—a control room is different from a live room and has different acoustic functions.' I would say, 'I understand that, but production is more important than engineering.'" Ultimately, Manzella's view prevailed; he also talked Talenfeld into putting in a dedicated machine room. "Fran told me to take everything that makes noise out of your control room and seal them off. So my tape machines and Pro Tools racks are all in there. When you are in that control room, it is perfectly silent—you don't even hear the HVAC."
One of the more traditional features of the live room is a LEDE (live end-dead end) style treatment, where one half of the room is acoustically more reflective, the other more absorbent. Manzella says he favors this approach in a live room whenever space allows. For Talenfeld, it presents him with many more acoustic options when situating performers and microphones in the live room. The large iso booth—measuring 80 square feet—brings additional flexibility and can easily accommodate a drum set, amplifier stacks, even a horn section.
Once the facility was completed, Talenfeld put it through its paces with three different bands/musicians: French artist Marc Farre, Brooklyn-based indie band P.G. Six, and a local Nyack-based act, Andy and the Rattlesnakes. "I did a day of tracking, a day of overdubbing and a day of mixing using entirely different approaches," Talenfeld recalls. "For example, the P.G. Six recording, which comes out next month on Drag City Records, was entirely analog—tracking to 2-inch, 24-track and mixing to the Studer. The Marc Farre album, which has already been released on All Weather Music, was done completely in Pro Tools and mixed in stems." The tests were a success. "Everything worked surprisingly well; Fran's work was amazing."
Perhaps the best thing about his new facility is that he doesn't have to look very far for a sonic sweet spot. “It took me about 10 years to learn every nuance of my last room," Talenfeld relates. "In this room, I have found that every instrument sounds good, and that there are sweet spots everywhere. I had a sax player in here the other night; I told him to walk around the room and tell me where he liked the song. He picked a spot, and I miked him up with a Neumann TLM 103. It sounded absolutely fantastic."
Manzella says that this is how it should always be: "You shouldn't have a room that is difficult to work in. You should have a room that gives something back and that you can get many different pleasing results from."
In addition to having an outstanding-sounding room, complete with a fully wired lounge upstairs, Talenfeld has a full complement of vintage gear he relies on, centered on a classic Trident 24 console. His mic closet includes Neumann, AKG, Shure, beyer and Sennheiser, including matched pairs of Neumann TLM 103s and AKG 414s. For preamplification, he will often use a stack of Neve 1272 preamps, which he will then send into his original Urei black face and silver face 1176s.
"I find that the 1176s are very colorful, but it is a very usable color; it is always right," he observes. He also keeps a Summit DCL 200 close by, which he likes to use for "gentle" compression, as well as a pair of ADL 1000 mono tube compressors, which he uses for '"ore cutting and harsh" applications.
"It's a personal experience here," Talenfeld insists. "It's not a generic studio with generic equipment and a generic engineer. It is a customized experience for each client."
OKRecords’ quaint, convenient location is also very appealing to clients: "I am a musician too, and know what it's like to work in a studio, you want some amenities," Talenfeld observes. "I had a session last week; the bass player was knitting between takes and ran out of purple yarn. I told her, 'There's a knitting store around the corner.'"