Michael Marquart recently opened Windmark Recording, which includes Studio F, featuring a rare vintage Neve desk. Santa Monica, CA—Michael Marquart, a multi-hyphenate on both sides of the studio glass, acquired the Flyte Tyme Productions building in Santa Monica late last year, renaming it Windmark Recording and relaunching the five studios built by former owners Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in January. In late March, Windmark unveiled Studio F, a newly constructed, analog-focused space designed by Peter Grueneisen of nonzero\architecture with studio technical design and integration by Paul J. Cox Studio Systems.
Studio F, on the ground floor, features a very rare Neve analog console and Les Paul’s former Ampex MM1000 16-track tape machine, plus a credenza filled with vintage and modern outboard processers. Many of those processers, as well as the Neve desk, were sourced and reconditioned by Vintage King Audio.
“I built this room for myself; it’s what I want for me to make my music,” explains Marquart, erstwhile drummer for A Flock of Seagulls, former member of Canadian band Alias and a songwriter and multiinstrumentalist—guitarist, keyboard player and singer, as well as drummer and producer—who records as A Bad Think. The indie-rock project releases its fourth album in June. As a mixer, Marquart has worked with No Doubt, The Meat Puppets, Frente and others.
“I love the process,” he says. “I do it all: I sing, play all the parts, engineer most of it, then I send it out to mix. I can afford to do my own albums, so there’s nobody telling me what to do—so I do it strictly for the art.”
He continues, “My music is getting better all the time. Every album is better than the previous one. I’m in the studio every day, seven days a week; I don’t understand where it’s all coming from, at 57 years old!”
Although designed for Marquart, the new room is available for hire and was included in the multi-month, facility-wide lockout booked by Rihanna that helped get Windmark off to a flying start. “All six studios have been hitting on all cylinders almost 24 hours a day,” he reports. “That’s a 10-year business plan. Once you get to the point where you’re running 24 hours a day, where do you go?”
Former Neve design engineer Geoff Tanner of Aurora Audio in Hollywood commented in an online forum in 2006 about the desk now in Studio F, “Those early 8078 predecessors were second only to the EMINeves in being the best consoles Neve ever made.” Rediscovered by Mike Nehra of Vintage King after several years in a London studio frequented by Bjork, Noel Gallagher and Mark Ronson, the console was a custom order (one of several; the location of the others is unknown) built for CBS in Japan in 1977, according to Tanner’s records.
Vintage King refurbished the modules while Paul Cox reconditioned and rewired the frame using era-appropriate methods, replacing the onboard patchbay—retained intact for future console restoration— with panel work color-matched to the desk’s current patina. The console, configured with 24 buses and 32 monitor channels, includes 40 31105 mic pre/EQ modules, Neve 2254 and Shep S2151 compressors and, unusually, a record turntable below the producer’s table. Cox also added console-wide phantom power and a remote patch system.
Studio F, which includes a tracking room and a separate large vocal booth, offers an eclectic range of outboard gear, including classics such as the UA 1176, Teletronix LA-2A, dbx 160, AMS DMX and RMX units and a rack of API 500 modules, plus newer SSL and Tube-Tech devices. The soffit-mounted main monitors are by George Augspurger and feature TAD components and Bryston amplification.
The five studios on the second floor of the building remain largely unchanged since Jam and Lewis operated the complex as their private production facility. Each of the rooms houses an SSL AWS900 console with well-stocked outboard racks and a variety of monitoring choices, including Augspurger, Genelec, JBL and PMC, and Bryston power.
After the 20-year run of his commercial studio in Virginia, “I thought I was done,” Marquart says ruefully. But with only a project studio now available at his east coast residence, he still needed somewhere to work at his California home. Plus, his daughter, Samantha Marq, a singer, and his son, Mikey, also a drummer, wanted to get into the studio business. “Don’t ask me why; I’ve done everything I can to try and steer them away from it!” he laughs.
Faced with having to spend money to construct a home facility anyway, Marquart made an offer on Flyte Tyme and handed the keys over to Samantha and Mikey. “I said, ‘You’re going to have to do all the work. I’ll finance it and give you my expertise, but you’ll have to cut your own teeth.’ There’s a lot of traffic coming through here. I’m so proud of them; they’ve done such a good job.”
Offering underground parking, the facility is an attractive proposition for artists who value their privacy. Windmark’s concierge-like services are also getting a good rap from its clients, reports Marquart. “We take care of our clients and give them everything they want. There’s fresh fruit and flowers; we have a cook; we make fresh-baked cookies all night long. Those details are important.”
Hopefully, he says, Windmark will eventually become known as one of the great studios: “I really want this place to be here 40 years from now.”
Paul J. Cox Studio Systems
Vintage King Audio