Santa Rosa, CA—Large swaths of Santa Rosa were devastated in October 2017 during one of California’s worst fire seasons on record, but the Tubbs Fire missed the Rock Star University (RSU) House of Rock and the industrial park where it is located. Owners of the multipurpose facility, who hope its combination live performance venue and multimedia production facilities will nurture the Sonoma County music scene, recently installed a 48-channel SSL Duality δelta SuperAnalogue console in House of Rock’s recording studio.
“We got really lucky,” says studio manager and engineer Jared Havens. “The fires went around the industrial park on both sides. Buildings down the block are gone.”
House of Rock opened with a bang in mid-2016 with shows by Quiet Riot and Blue Öyster Cult, followed by a summer season that included The Tubes with Fee Waybill, Puddle of Mudd, The Babys, Dokken and L.A. Guns. The facility was built out around 2012 as a private rehearsal space and showroom by a local entrepreneur for his young twin sons, Vincenzo and Vittorio Piazza, who perform as V2 (“V Squared”). Freddie Salem, former guitarist with Southern rockers The Outlaws, signed on as a co-owner in 2014.
House of Rock’s day-to-day business is handled by Havens and technical director Evan Alexander, who previously worked for Sound Expressions, a local area AVL rental, sales and integration company that has supplied equipment to RSU since day one. “I came in to help with both the live and recording sides and I started managing the studio,” says Havens, who joined the organization about 18 months ago. “But if a band doesn’t bring a mixer, I’ll mix for them on the concert side.”
The founder’s original plan called for a gradual expansion to encompass a venue, soundstage and production facilities with an educational slant. The venue also houses a restaurant and extensive backstage amenities. The latest addition to the business, dubbed RSU Recording Studios and Filmworks, offers the gamut of multimedia production services, including a recording studio, in-house multicamera HD video recording and editing with live switched production, and webstreaming.
The team called on Arthur Kelm, chief engineer at Capitol Records, to design the recording studio—which is on the upper floor overlooking the live venue—and integrate the equipment. In response to client demand, the new SSL Duality replaced a previously installed control surface and in-the-box solution.
Most of the processing is done in Pro Tools or on the console, but the sound begins with the analog preamps. Says Havens, “It’s the best of both worlds.”
He adds, “I’ve done a lot of sessions in the past where people have insisted on recording through a particular flavor of console and then mixing on an SSL.” But with SSL’s Variable Harmonic Drive (VHD), he says, “They don’t need any other consoles—it’s one console for recording and mixing. That’s probably its biggest advantage.”
Catering to all tastes, multiple channels of outboard API 3124+, BAE 1028, Millennia HV-3D and Focusrite RedNet MP8R mic preamps are additionally available. The control room credenza also houses a selection of processing devices: two Tube-Tech PE 1C EQs, two Empirical Labs EL8 Distressors, a Smart Research Stereo C2 compressor and a Kush Audio Clariphonic EQ. Monitoring is via in-wall custom ATC mains and PMC twotwo.5 nearfields.
“We sourced a lot of the equipment from Vintage King Audio and Sweetwater,” reports Havens. “We ordered most of it online.”
The studio operates standalone or in tandem with the live venue. Twin Pro Tools HDX rigs—one in the studio, tied into the stage with transport over Dante via Focusrite RedNet HD32R interfaces, and one at FOH—enable live recording at the venue. The SSL also handles the broadcast mix for live performance webcasts.
The tielines allow the venue’s stage to be used during music production. “I’ve done drums on stage for a record twice now,” he says. “For one record, we put the whole band on stage and put guitar amps in the isolation rooms.”
The live room adjoining the control room, large enough for a drum kit, has a window overlooking the stage. “If you have a vocalist isolated and the band on stage, they can see each other really easily. And there’s a window from the control room to the stage.”
The 15,000 sq. ft. live venue can accommodate more than 650 people, but House of Rock typically caps attendance at 500, according to Havens. The house system includes a flown JBL VerTec VT4886 rig powered by Crown amps, with a 96-input Soundcraft Vi3000 console at FOH and a Soundcraft Si Performer 3 desk at monitors.
In addition to the rockers who have come through the venue over the past 18 months, a list that also includes Winger, Lita Ford and Foghat, “We’re reaching out to a lot more local artists,” says Havens. “We’re going to try and get a local show every weekend. Santa Rosa has never had a great venue, so it’s our goal to build that up and use the venue to promote the studio, and vice versa.”
Solid State Logic • www.solidstatelogic.com