Sitting in his Jersey City, NJ studio, Tim Gilles is expanding with new facilities in the works in upstate New York and internationally. JERSEY CITY, NJ—With the economy crashing around your ears and studios across the country retrenching, what is a facility owner to do? In the case of Tim Gilles, owner of Big Blue Meenie, the answer may appear counter-intuitive: Expand.
“This is a time in the business in which everyone is doing a duck and cover,” says Gilles. “That means there’s not a lot of lead in the air. I’m going to be the one who jumps out of the trench and runs like hell. Why? After seven years of trench warfare, there has been no advance. It’s been downsize this, smaller that. I’ve got to get bigger—because if I don’t get bigger, I’m going to get wiped out.”
Gilles is a man with a plan—if not for global domination, then certainly an international presence. From his base at Big Blue’s multi-room facility in Jersey City—originally built in 1981 as Quantum Sound and subsequently a gold and platinum disk-generating powerhouse—Gilles is in the process of opening a studio in Utica, NY; has just shipped a container- load of control room equipment to Sweden; and has his eye on Australia’s Gold Coast.
“The bottom line is that we’re underway with half the plan as far as the technology end of it goes,” he reports.
The plan largely revolves around the 5088 analog mixing console produced by Rupert Neve Designs. Gilles, a longtime aficionado of Mr. Neve’s products, was the first in the U.S. to install Amek’s Neve-designed 9098i console, which anchors Big Blue’s A room. Until recently, the B room featured an Amek Mozart RN (for Rupert Neve); that console was decommissioned in mid-August and replaced with a 5088.
Gilles has treated Big Blue as his own production house: “I’ve done 37 for-release products since the turn of the year,” he shares. But going forward, the facility will operate more as a “sound hotel,” as he refers to it, offering services and gear at a daily or hourly rate: “I have never had a big intersection with that business, but by virtue of the downsizing of the industry, the reality is to diversify or die.”
The 5088 will attract both the 50-plus crowd that is comfortable with analog desks and young engineers looking to improve their bedroom productions, he believes. “It’s old technology in terms of its mindset and pedigree; it’s new technology in terms of its manufacture and build and some of the concepts behind it.”
Meanwhile, in Utica, his hometown, “I’ve got a couple of old friends who have recently inherited a nine-year-old John Storyk-designed build-out. I had a chance to work on a record there and it’s an absolutely magnificent place,” says Gilles. Located in a former church, the studio is to be re-branded Big Blue Meenie North and equipped with a 5088.
The Jersey City facility “is more of a Sound City-type of thing, a blue-collar studio,” he says. “The one upstate is going to be a more ritzy, getaway studio. We’re going to start shuttling acts up there and my staff are going to work it, so it will be an efficient, easy system.”
It will be Gilles’ second Utica studio. In 1994, he expanded from his home-based studio in Hackensack, NJ, outfitted with an Amek Big by Langley console, to a residential studio in Utica, similarly equipped. He sold the Big in his dining room studio when he bought Quantum. The Utica Big, which Gilles relocated to Jersey City, has now been shipped to Sweden, to a privately funded creative arts and technology school where he has taught audio engineering for the past few years.
“I went over and read the school board the Riot Act. I told them the hub of the school should be the audio engineering community; that is your portal to the outside world in an arts school. It’s through this studio that you’ll increase tuition and admissions.”
In return for his time and equipment Gilles will provide a location— Big Blue Meenie—where the school can send students. “I told them, you’re going to send interns over here and regularly cycle them through New York City, making label records with credits, with their names.”
Eventually, a few years hence, he expects the Big to be replaced by— you guessed it—a 5088: “Because I want my interns to know how to run a 5088!”
Gilles, who is married to an Australian, also spends a lot of time Down Under. “I have an Australian market; I fly back and forth with a frightening degree of regularity to work there. So there’s a chance for me to build another very similar vibe to what I have here in Melbourne, my favorite city in the whole world.” Once he’s found a suitable studio or partner, he plans to open Big Blue Meenie South with, naturally, another 5088.
Over the next six months, says Gilles, “My plan is to have three operational 5088s: two in America and one in Australia.”
Big Blue Meenie
Rupert Neve Designs