HOLLYWOOD, CA—“Sleep. Eat. Record. Repeat” is the tagline for a global network of music production facilities launched by W Hotels Worldwide, initially in Bali, followed by Seattle, Hollywood and Barcelona. W Sound Suites, a collaboration between the hotel and Paul Blair, professionally known as DJ White Shadow, in partnership with Coca-Cola, offer guests and local musicians a comfortable, creative environment outfitted with high-end gear, complemented by 24-hour room service.
W Hotels and Coca-Cola have partnered with Shure and Native Instruments to outfit the W Sound Suites with key items of production technology. Every facility is also equipped with Pro Tools, quality monitoring and a variety of outboard gear.
“We change some of the stuff from place to place, but generally it’s all high-end vocal chains,” says Blair, who is best known for his writing and production work with Lady Gaga on her albums Born This Way, for which he was Grammy-nominated, and Art-pop. The W Sound Suite in Seattle, for example, which launched in April, also features a Neve preamp and a UA Apollo interface, he says.
The manufacturer partnerships ensure that products such as Native Instruments’ Komplete 11 production software and hardware including the Maschine groove production system, Komplete Kontrol S-Series control keyboard and Traktor Kontrol S8 DJ system are available at each location. Shure is providing its SHR440 headphones plus X2u, KSM32/SL and Beta181 microphones.
Blair, who has been appointed North American music director, W Hotels Worldwide, reports that the W Sound Suites concept was born out of his experiences while touring with Lady Gaga, who was constantly writing and recording on the road, and the W brand’s passion for music. “The idea is that you can travel from city to city, get your demos out, and have fun and play music with people,” he says.
But while each W Sound Suite has a similar complement of gear, they are far from cookie-cutter facilities, not least because Blair must work with whatever space is available at each property. But every location features a vocal booth. “When you’re recording in a hotel room, it’s very difficult to capture a vocal that you can keep,” he says. “I was very concerned with keeping the iso booth very stable from studio to studio, so you get a consistent product.”
Each studio also has its own unique vibe. In Seattle, where the facility is on the 25th floor, he says, “You can see Mount Rainier from the vocal booth, and I decorated it like Twin Peaks.” In Bali, windows look out onto the jungle. In Barcelona, there are no windows: “But you can open the door, walk about 10 feet and you’re on the beach.”
Both the Bali and Barcelona studios are more DJ-centric, but the Hollywood facility, which opened in June, supports full-blown record production. “The short story is that this is all my stuff,” laughs Blair. “I had the idea of making this a bigger studio. We were budgeting what we could do and it was tough, because there wasn’t an ROI yet. So I said, I’ll partner with you and we’ll build it out to the top specifications.”
The centerpiece in Hollywood is his Solid State Logic AWS924 mixing console. “The engineer that I worked with on all the Gaga stuff purchased an SSL. I went over to his house and said, this is really awesome. So I grabbed one for myself.”
The Hollywood equipment list also includes a Manley Massive Passive, Eventide Ultra-Harmonizer, Tube-Tech CL 1B, Teletronix LA-2A, Universal Audio 6176 and dbx 166XL and 160A units. A BAE 3LB “lunchbox” offers a Class A channel of 1073D mic pre and EQ, and a Neumann U 87 Ai is available for vocals. Monitors include Genelec, Yamaha and Avantone.
Leon Young, W Hollywood’s general manager, observes that the studio is a natural fit for the neighborhood. Tech companies like Buzzfeed, Netflix and Viacom are nearby, he says, and the hotel is well-placed for anyone performing at or attending the Grammy or Oscar ceremonies, or local theaters.
“We’ve had performers that have had to do sound bites and wanted to do it in their rooms or asked if there was a quiet space. This really plays into that,” he says.
As the former GM of the W in the French Quarter, Young says he would like to see a W Sound Suite in New Orleans. “We’re also looking at Nashville,” he reports.
“In Austin, we’re partnering with a local studio and getting into that country vibe,” adds Blair. “And we’re talking about Atlanta and Argentina.”
This is not some elitist venture; Blair’s intention is to keep the rates affordable. In Bali, he says, “We’re giving away hours to local musicians; they can come in and record for free. We wanted to be able to give back to the community, and be a part of the community as well.”
Solid State Logic
W Sound Suite, W Hollywood