Variety, November 17, 1997
HEADLINE: Vintage recording studio still cranking out the hits
BYLINE: ROBERT KOEHLER
Walk the labyrinthine halls of the famous Village Recorder recording studio, now know as the Village, and you can spot the tell-tale signs. The sound booths with the diagonally slatted wood paneling that screams 1970s. Rooms custom-designed by Fleetwood Mac lead singer Stevie Nicks to show off her gypsy look. A light display creating the convincing illusion of a Pacific Ocean sunset.
The walls are lined with gold and platinum discs of the recordings made here, from Bob Dylan and the Band's "Before the Flood" to the Rolling Stones' "Goat's Head Soup," from Steely Dan's "Can't Buy a Thrill" to Supertramp's "Breakfast in America."
The Village, as it's identified in stained glass on the facade of its Masonic Temple home in West Los Angeles, is a must on any tour of '70s pop history --- the prototypical musicians' hangout when the gravitational center of rock shifted from London and New York to Los Angeles.
But, as Village CEO Jeff Greenberg acknowledges, the mecca had become a forgotten way-station in recent years, "not at all the first choice of studio for artists when they were looking around L.A." Just as formerly bustling film studio complexes have fallen into decline, so had the Village. Two years ago, owner Georde Hormel, heir to the Hormel meat empire and a jazz musician himself, made changes.
Step one was bringing in Greenberg, a music industry veteran with an enormous range of experience, from concert promoter to International Creative Management agent. "Georde wanted somebody who understood artists, and knew how to cater to their special needs," Greenberg says. Step two, as Greenberg says, was "cleaning out the place of people --- there were way too many people here for what was needed, and it made for a noisy, distracting environment for artists to work. You can walk these halls now and hardly see anybody, and that's by design."
Step three included redesigning the interior and beefing up the legendary studio complex's array of equipment --- now including a vintage Neve 8048 console with 72 channels for studio A, one of the few in the world whose walls are lined with solid lead. Each studio is stuffed with creature comforts to make musicians and engineers feel at home --- crucial, notes Greenberg, "since they may be living and working here for days and weeks at a time." One lounge area, for instance, uncannily re-creates the mood of an old English parlor room.
Now, reports Greenberg, talent is flocking to the Village, and "our schedule is booked solid for months in advance. Like the concert business, openings will suddenly occur. We have not had many days of vacancy, though, that is for sure."
While '70s loyalists such as Robbie Robertson and Jeff (Skunk) Baxter are long-term tenants, '90s bands ranging from the Smashing Pumpkins to Nine Inch Nails are Village dwellers, making this site of pop history more than a museum.