HOLLYWOOD, CA—Alex Pizzorni, a Caracas, Venezuela-born DJ and musician who records under the name Merlin Moon, recently completed his sophomore album, Bohemian Side of the Sky, at his personal studio in the Hollywood Hills. The modern exterior of the house belies the impressive collection of vintage equipment inside (some of it dating back to the 1940s), thoughtfully assembled by Pizzorni based on his reading of the recording practices of his musical heroes.
“I’ve always been a fan of gear, and I’ve done my research,” he explains. “I have a good ability to buy and sell stuff, so I made it a business, until I could build this room.”
Almost every piece of gear in 19 Angels Studio is a model that was used by Pizzorni’s influences, many of which were prominent in the 1960s and ‘70s. He’s also a fan of electronica, and of more modern bands such as Radiohead. The collection includes Pultec tube EQs used by Alan Parsons on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album; RCA BA6A tube limiters of the type used on Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”; a Korg synth favored by Tangerine Dream; and original Univibe stomp boxes of the types used by Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.
In addition to an unusual 1969 germanium-transistor Neve console, there are also pieces by Western Electric, Lang, Neve, SSL, Helios, Collins, more Pultecs, yet more RCA units, and an unusual compressor, built in the 1940s by Industrial Television. “It was built for the U.S. Army Signal Corps,” reports Pizzorni. “It’s one of the best compressors I’ve ever used, and my main compressor for vocals.”
Alex Pizzorni (left), with his producers, SubClones, has assembled a studio that includes many vintage pieces of equipment
favored by his musical influences.Not everything is strictly original. For example, he shares, “I had a guy build me a pair of 1176s for $900. I put all the parts together and had him build it.”
And not everything is vintage, or analog. There are modern devices, from TubeTech and Bricasti, for example, and everything is recorded into Avid Pro Tools. That said, a Studer 2-inch machine works in tandem with an Endless Analog CLASP system when tape saturation is called for. Other notable items in the signal chain include EMM Labs converters, Mytek summing and B&W mastering-quality monitors.
Pizzorni initially got into buying and selling gear some years ago while traveling. During that period, he amassed a collection of synths: “You could go to pawn shops in England and buy a Jupiter 8 for £300 [about $490 US], and in California, you could sell it for 7 grand! I bought an EMS Synthi, the Putney, used on , for a little over 2 grand, and I sold it a month ago for $10,000.”
For his new album, Pizzorni enlisted Mark Needham, known for his work with The Killers, to mix some of the songs; Rafa Sardina mixed a couple of acoustic ballads. Bringing things full circle for Pizzorni, who is a big fan of Pink Floyd, the producers on his album project were the SubClones, who are, in turn, working on their own album with Alan Parsons, with whom the enigmatic band members also tour.
According to gClone, “We’ve started using this room for mixing the Sub- Clones. I also have an overdub/tracking room in Hollywood, and Alan has offered his room in Santa Barbara for any parts we want to do there.”
Indeed, Pizzorni’s studio has become a Hollywood annex for Parsons’ projects. “He wants us to be his guys,” comments pClone. “We can do the work, and he can come in on the last day and say yes or no.”
“Certain projects can involve him hands on,” adds gClone. “With this studio—this board and outboard gear—Alan’s in his comfort zone.”
The hope, in fact, is to establish a creative world in the Hollywood Hills that can serve as an incubator for new talent. There are also ongoing discussions with a major L.A. facility to handle its booking overspill.
“This is a new world we’re creating here,” says gClone. “I want people to feel the excitement when they come here, and feel like this is a great environment to make music. We are in a place where we can make stuff sound like big budget with lower budgets. We can even go to no budget and still make it sound good.”
“We’re looking for artists who are singing positive songs so we can create a positive place,” Pizzorni adds. “If people are interested and need production, they can contact us [at firstname.lastname@example.org target=”_blank”].”
There’s no doubting Pizzorni’s commitment to the venture. “If this studio picks up like I want it to, I’ll move out of here,” he says.