Brooklyn, NY—Who among us has not suffered from gear lust and the certainty that acquiring that one piece of equipment will, well, solve everything? For Anthony “Rocky” Gallo, owner of Virtue and Vice Studios in Brooklyn, that one piece was a vintage Neve 8026 mixing console—his last big upgrade ever, he insists—and, happily, it has had a positive effect both on his work and his bookings.
Gallo, formerly chief engineer at The Cutting Room Studios in Manhattan, has worked with some major names—John Legend, Common, Norah Jones, Carly Simon and Jon Bon Jovi, to name but a handful. He has likewise worked alongside such engineers and producers as Steve Lillywhite, Eddie Kramer, will.i.am, Track Masters and Jimmy Douglass.
Yet a cool vintage desk can have as much impact as an impressive résumé, it seems. The 8-bus console, featuring 24 channels of 1084 modules with a pair of 2254 compressors and offering 48 channels on mixdown, has caught a lot of people’s attention since he installed it near the end of 2017, he says.
“When people walk in and see that massive desk, it just gets them,” he says. “They say, ‘Now we’re making a record.’”
The desk had previously been refurbished by Vintage King Audio for its previous owner, who had a private facility but ultimately had to sell. “I guess it was that or put his kids through college,” Gallo chuckles.
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Having also purchased his previous console, a Neve 5315, from Vintage King, he was happy to give them his return business. “Vintage King has a great reputation and they are thorough. It was a little bit more expensive, but the risk factor goes down to next to nothing,” says Gallo, noting that he can’t afford any downtime because of maintenance issues. “I don’t have the ability to miss out on even a week of work—this is all funded by records and credit cards.” To that same end, he also had the board commissioned by Nat Priest, a Neve guru with his own private facility in Brooklyn.
A console like this can have a significant effect on bookings compared to other gear upgrades, says Gallo. “A U47, a $15,000 investment into your business, should have some kind of monetary reward, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t. And if you spend 40 or 50 grand on outboard gear, you’re really not going to see a lot of interest.” But in an era where people are making perfectly good records on laptops, certain clients’ eyes still get a little bigger when they first see the Neve, he says.
The switch to the 8026 came on the heels of his move to a new facility in a former warehouse in Brooklyn’s South Williamsburg neighborhood that offers a tracking room larger than his entire previous studio, around 600 square feet, with high ceilings. “We found it on Craigslist,” he reports, after visiting 70 other potential locations. Some building owners hung up on him when he phoned and told them he ran a studio. “But this guy couldn’t be better; he’s amazing,” says Gallo.
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“He said, ‘You’re not going to make enough noise to bother me. Just don’t bother the hotel behind us.’ The first week, I had to get working and had a hardcore band with five Marshall stacks and a bass rig that looked like it came out of the new Mad Max movie. It was insane, and so loud. I went outside, and with the street noise and it just being New York, you couldn’t hear it. It was good to get that box checked early on.”
There wasn’t a budget for an expensive studio design, he says, “but we treated the room where we saw problems. I feel extremely confident about the drum sounds you can get here. I’d put them up against any classic drum sounds.”
He prefers to mix unattended. “If someone is sitting two feet over from the sweet spot, they don’t know what they’re listening to. So, listen to it at home, where you can properly give me notes.”
Gallo employs a method similar to Chris Lord-Alge when mixing, relying on tried and trusted signal chains. “I’ll patch things the exact same way and the settings stay nearly the same. I take five or six iPhone shots; that’s my mix setup.” He also uses plenty of plug-ins, he says, not least because Pro Tools offers recall, unlike the console.
There is a ton of outboard gear: API, Calrec, dbx, Drawmer, Empirical Labs, RCA, Scully, Alan Smart, Universal Audio, Warm Audio and on and on. The mic collection includes some of the expected AKG, Audix, E-V, Neumann, Royer, Sennheiser and Shure models, plus a Warm Audio WA-47. Gallo evaluated the WA-47 against another re-creation, he says. “The Warm Audio had a little more sparkle, and it sounds super rich.”
He sold his 24-track tape machine some time ago. “I found myself getting worse sounds. With converters, what you’re putting in is exactly what you’re getting back. With tape, it’s almost like I’m putting Vaseline on the lens. But I always mix down to the 2-track.”
Gallo had been enjoying the sounds he was getting from his previous Neve desk, which was installed at his former location in nearby Greenpoint. “The 53 series is absolutely fantastic, and it was really hard emotionally to get rid of it. It had done so much for my career.”
But the 80 series desk has upped the ante on sound quality. “You’re getting great sounds until you realize you’re selling yourself short and you can get something even more out of control,” he says.
The 8026 also adds functionality, including subgroups, that better fits his workflow. Gallo was used to working fast on the SSL at The Cutting Room, especially on a series of remote live performance broadcasts for KEXP-FM in Seattle. “Ever since I started, and with budgets maybe being more restricted, I don’t know any other thing, just that people want to work faster.”
Summing to groups, he says, “I can get things concrete right away, rather than finding a blend of sources in post. It’s kind of a UK thing, committing to the sounds.”
That experience has been useful with a newer client who runs an online bass course and has brought bass players and their bands to Virtue and Vice to record sound and video. “He’ll have a 12-piece band and they need to roll in 10 minutes. I can do that; I’ve been here before.”
Virtue and Vice Studios • virtueandvicestudio.com