Times are hard for recording studios across Europe, and France is no exception. But there are still enthusiastic sound engineers fulfilling their dreams and creating high-end facilities. Franck Ernould found two of these at the recently opened Studio 85.
Studio 85’s owners are no newcomers to the professional recording world. Guillaume André created and ran Loko Studios, a SSL4000/MCI JH636-equipped residential facility in Normandy, for several years; while his partner Renaud Rebillaud is a freelance sound engineer and composer, who wrote several songs on French rap group Sexion D’Assaut’s latest album, which has just gone triple-platinum. The pair have known each other since 2003. Even during his Loko years, André dreamt of creating a mixing facility in Paris to complement his recording-oriented studio. By the time Loko ceased activities at the end of 2009, André and Rebillaud had already begun talking about a Parisian project. The place was found (85 rue Lecourbe, hence the studio’s name), then the money, and the mixing facility became, in the end, a fully equipped high-end studio. Studio 85 occupies an independent house in the backyard of a building in the 15th arrondissement, south-west Paris. The French capital still hosts several ‘big’ commercial recording studios (Acousti, Davout, Ferber, Gang, Garage, La Seine, Palais des Congrès, Plus XXX…) and many small to very small facilities. With a 55sqm control room complete with 48-channel SSL Duality console, a 40sqm L-shaped recording space, and a 10sqm vocal booth, Studio 85 sits in between these. Daylight is everywhere, there’s a private patio, a kitchen, a terrace in front of the studio itself, and possibilities to create supplementary rooms. André had already built Loko Studios from scratch, so it was quite natural for him to rebuild his Parisian premises, a former stocking area, helped by a novice Rebillaud. Both agreed to hire studio specialists Michel Delluc, Gérard Billot and Olivier Bolling to design and build the control room.
“We’ll have high-scale projects here, with freelance engineers, and the control room’s acoustics has to be pristine,” says André. “It made no sense to save money in this domain, and when we look at the control room today, we know we would never have been able to get it that way.” ICON systems seem a de facto standard in today’s recording studios, but André didn’t go that way. “I wanted a real analogue mixing desk, but a new one. I went for a Duality: I like the SSL sound, it has huge possibilities, the Pro Tools control layer is second to none,” he explains. “As an ex-4000E owner, I nevertheless find there are some ‘tricky’ aspects on the Duality. I loved the 4000’s no-compromise signal path flexibility, it’s gone – it’s not a real ‘in-line’ signal path, there’s no small fader and routing seems sometimes limited. I find there’s too much plastic on the Duality, but it’s a superb modern tool. Once I adapt myself, I’m sure I’ll love working on it.” The high-end studio gear came directly from Loko Studios: Tube-Tech, TC Electronic, Avalon, Empirical Labs, Urei, API, Aphex, Lexicon, Eventide, Drawmer, you name it. “We’ll soon add a Lunchbox filled with Pendulum compressors and Realios preamps, plus an Amtec Phanzen compressor,” adds André. “And we’ve got an MCI JH-618 console we’ll use as a ‘side-car’ to complement the Duality.”
Backline is impressive too: Gretsch Renown Maple, Sonor and Pearl drums, Mesa boogie dual rectifier, Brunetti, Orange, Marshall, Mesa boogie tri axis, Peavey 5150 and Soldano guitar amps, Ampeg Svt3 pro, Hartke, 4X10 trace elliot, and Ashdown bass amps, plus Korg Triton and Yamaha Motif keyboards and several guitars and bass. The studio is linked to 85prods, a production company owned by André and Rebillaud. “We’re both sound engineers/producers, but we are composers, musicians and sound designers too,” says Rebillaud. ‘This allows us to host post-production sessions, on ads for example. We already worked for France Galop, IBM, Phyto, Davidoff… We’ll soon have our own small control room to compose or sound design, which will be more intimate than our ‘large’ control room – but the former won’t be for hire.” André adds: “For the moment, we only have stereo speakers: FAR OBS, Mackie HR-824s, Yamaha NS10s, but the control room is wired for 5.1 setup, and we have a place for a video projector. We’ll be able to upgrade quickly when sessions ask for it.” This could appeal to national TV broadcasters such as TF1 and France Télévision, which are just a few yards away from rue Lecourbe… André and Rebillaud have already contacted the record labels they know as they try to find a balance between their own musical projects, recording sessions and post production.
‘‘We wanted to create a welcoming place that is nice to live and to work in. We want artists and customers to feel well when they’re here,” adds Rebillaud. His partner continues: “We both worked as freelancers in cramped places built in obscure basements, with less-than-average gear… That’s why we wanted to build a studio like ours: large, breathing, with daylight and high-end audio tools. As soon as you feel at ease in a place, the rest of the work goes fine!” Studio 85’s very first session took place in mid-May, and everything went smoothly. The website is in progress, and official inauguration will be held some time in September.