Grand Haven, MI (June 25, 2018)—After more than three decades on the road with the likes of Maroon 5, John Mayer and Christina Aguilera, monitor engineer Bill Chrysler is looking forward to getting on the tour bus for the last time. But he has no plans to give his ears a rest; rather, he plans to spend a lot more time at Third Coast Recording Company, the two-room facility he owns and operates on the shore of Lake Michigan.
“I’m getting older—I’m 64. I’m really looking forward to getting off the road,” says Chrysler, speaking on the phone during a break in Maroon 5’s nationwide Red Pill Blues Tour. “And I just love the studio environment.”
Chrysler partnered on Third Coast with Joe Sturgill, erstwhile frontman of the band Four Finger Five and now leader of TruthInFiction. They were previously renting a facility, but a few years back they had an opportunity to purchase a 10,000plus square foot former car sales and service center-turned-dry cleaning business that had been acquired by a church.
Recording clients just kept coming, he says, so they found a construction crew that could build out two studios in the downtime between bookings. Chrysler may have learned a thing or two in the process, but to keep out of trouble with the acoustics, he sought advice from Jay Kaufman of Kaufman and Associates in Los Angeles. “Jay did a room for John Mayer and one for Jesse Carmichael [Maroon 5 guitarist]; I got to know him through the Mayer camp. I ended up sending Jay some money. He saved us from having to fix things later.”
Third Coast’s two studios occupy the former car showroom. The former garage houses Th3rd Coast Media Solutions, a video company. “They signed a five-year lease with us—and we’ve started doing their post-production work,” he says.
They specialize in 360°, AR and VR projects and have demonstrated some of the newer technologies for Third Coast, Chrysler reports. “You put the camera in the middle of a session and you can look at any of the players or into the control room. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be doing that on a regular basis.”
Back in the day, Chrysler worked for sound and lighting company Electrotec, which was founded in the UK in the mid-1970s. He caught his first big break in 1983, mixing monitors for Roxy Music, and went on to work with Barry Manilow, Paul McCartney and, well, you name them, he probably worked with them.
He even brought a piece of Electrotec with him to Third Coast— three pieces, in fact. “We designed our own mixing boards [back then]— the blue Lab-Q—and we had Soundcraft build five pairs from our design. They then got to use our design and take it further, which became the Series Four,” he says.
Chrysler has two of those original blue Electrotec desks, and when he started Third Coast, he put an original black-faced Series Four in the main control room. “I’ve recapped that whole thing, put in new ICs, new faders. It’s fun. That’s my ’57 Chevy—it’s therapeutic,” he says.
Studio A is spacious, designed specifically for musicians to track together live, he says. “When we started building, there weren’t many big rooms still around, especially in our neck of the woods in Michigan. Acoustically and sonically, it sounds great. The big room disperses well. You put a gobo in there and you can mic an acoustic guitar in the room with a drum set and get away with it,” he says. The tracking space includes multiple iso booths, including separate drum and guitar rooms.
About a year ago, Chrysler bought an SSL 4000G from a facility in Chicago, installed it in the A room and moved the Soundcraft into B. “Studio B is smaller, tighter,” he says. “It’s acoustically symmetrical, designed for mixing. Even when B wasn’t open, the control room was finished, so we did a lot of our mixing back there.” Both live rooms are tie-lined to both control rooms.
The B room works well when bands want to overdub, he says. “We can always bring in any of our mic pres, but there’s a lot of records that were tracked on that thing. It doesn’t sound like a standard Series Four.”
The SSL is kept in shape by Bruce Millett’s L.A.-based company, the Desk Doctor. “Tony, his tech, has a vacation place right next to Grand Haven and comes out regularly. He’s probably been [to the studio] close to 10 times and has really got it tweaked nice.”
Outboard, there’s a mix of vintage and newer microphones, mic preamps, dynamics and effects processing. Then there are the instruments.
“We have a lot of vintage keyboards, all in great shape,” he says, listing a Hammond B3 and a C3, both mid-1950s, plus four Leslie cabinets, a ’73 Fender Rhodes Suitcase and a ’70 Wurlitzer 200A. The vintage backline includes Marshall heads, an AC30 and a ’65 Fender Twin Reverb. “Apart from 3 inches of speaker cable,” he reports, “it’s all original.”
There are plenty of drum kits to choose from, he continues, and Third Coast works closely with Dream cymbals. “They make wonderful dark cymbals for recording that are just amazing.”
A Studer A810 2-track machine in the A room serves almost as a hardware plug-in. “We’ve run so much through it: almost every bass track, acoustic guitars, vocals. Pretty much everything gets mastered to 2-track on it, just so we can soften it up,” says Chrysler, offering an option to the Pro Tools master.
As his Medicare enrollment approaches, Chrysler is obviously pleased to be packing away his in-ears for good. “It’s going to be a wonderful transition for me,” he says.
It will most likely still involve long hours, though, he admits. “But I’m really looking forward to just going home at night.”
Third Coast Recording Company • www.thirdcoastrecording.com