Interview with Valentine Recording Studios Producer Nic Jodoin: Restoring Analog Glory

On Laurel Canyon Boulevard in North Hollywood, a recording studio once frequented by Bing Crosby and The Beach Boys has attracted a lot of attention from actors such as Haim, Kesha, Black Lips and many others, eager to playing with pristine vintage gear for decades. .

“People will pay top dollar to record in these historic studios, only to feel humiliated by those who have been there before them,” says Nic Jodoinproducer and studio manager of the renovated Valentine Recording Studios since reopening in 2015. “Those who belong here will walk into the studio and feel thrilled to be part of its legacy.”

But it’s not just a sense of legacy left behind by icons past that draws artists to Valentine Studios today. The space itself is transportable – when you walk in it’s like stepping into the past, from the sleek, nostalgic feel of its vintage furnishings and classic decor to the warm, comforting tones of its tube amps and microphones. aged ribbon. If space seems frozen in time, that’s because it was.

In 1946, war veteran and aspiring sound engineer jimmy valentine began assembling his first home studio. He had gotten a job as an engineer at Capitol Records and, noticing an increasing demand for recording time, eventually decided to open his own studio in a former dentist’s office. Over the years, Valentine Recording Studios has become a sought-after location for sessions with musical visionaries such as Bing Crosby, Stan Kenton, The Beach Boys, Jackson Browne and Frank Zappa, as well as voice-overs for Hollywood pictures like series televised. Battle of the planets and Hanna-Barbera productions.

But the changes in music in the late ’60s were not pleasing to Valentine. The more artists wanted to be involved in the recording process, the more discouraged he became. Jodoin says, “Until the mid-60s, the Wrecking Crew played on everything… At some point, the artists decided they wanted to do everything themselves. Now, instead of bringing in mercenaries and doing it in three takes, the engineer had to care about the opinions of those players who couldn’t really do it.

The growing influence of drugs on the genre—and their prevalence in the studio—also deterred Valentine from taking on new clients. Meanwhile, his attention turned to another business opportunity: after him and his wife, Day before, struggled to find spare parts for their 1957 Nash Metropolitan, they started buying whatever they could find and in 1975 they opened a specialty auto shop next to the stuid – a family business that still exists today. With this shift in focus, Valentine Record Studios became a storage unit for the Metropolitan Pit Stop and lay unused for nearly 30 years.

Valentine’s Day Recording Studios in Los Angeles.
Steven Dewall

When Jodoin moved to Los Angeles in the mid-90s, his goal was to get into producing and writing songs. After getting his start as a member of Vancouver-based psych garage band The Minstrels, he began working with pop and hip-hop producers. Decades later, the resurgence of garage rock and analog recording gear brought Jodoin back to his roots and sustained his devotion to collecting old-school recording gear. In 2015, when Jodoin reluctantly agreed to check out the remains of equipment from an old studio at the request of his friend, he couldn’t know what kind of treasure he would find.

“The family didn’t really know what to do with the place, but they were thinking of selling the equipment,” explains Jodoin. “They were quite open to my idea of ​​reopening the studio because of the namesake and its history. People had looked at the space over the years, but everyone thought it needed to be modernized; it was just the right time when I came in, because I didn’t think so. My idea was that we would just buy a good converter and we could use all the original equipment. The technology is quite good.

Valentine’s detailed record keeping enabled Jodoin to reassemble the studio to its original configuration. Several months of clearing the space and analyzing its salvageable equipment revealed several mysterious oddities, such as two functional trapdoor echo chambers in its ceiling and what Jodoin described as a spiritual presence making inexplicable noises during his first move.

Both recording rooms still use much of the same equipment as nearly 60 years ago, such as a 32-input MCI JH-416 quadraphonic card console, three Pultec EQP1 equalizers, a remote-controlled Universal Audio 177 limiter, an EMT 140 mono plate reverb, Quad Eight spring reverb and a variety of other preamps, EQs and compressors. The vintage shag carpeting in burnt orange and gold tones and the geometric patterns on its walls made it the perfect location for vintage film shoots. The use of analog gear and its chic, vintage aesthetic provide a time capsule feel.

“I didn’t want to have big [computer monitor] screens in front,” says Jodoin. “I want people to sit down and be part of what’s going on in the studio around them. If there’s a big screen and that’s all you’re watching, that’s a state of mind. different spirit. What we have to offer is that experience.

Valentine's Day Recording Studios
Valentine’s Day Recording Studios in Los Angeles.
Steven Dewall

Valentine Recording Studios officially reopened in 2015, and word quickly spread through the city’s music scene. Haim, Gotye, Eagles of Death Metal, Kesha, Elle King, Black Lips, The Coathangers and Curtis Harding have all recorded there, drawn to the vintage gear and warm ’60s aura that blankets the space sound. Yet Jodoin is selective about how the studio is used and who records there.

“I feel like a protector of this one,” he says. “I try to keep things as much as possible as they were. It’s too much of a mom-and-pop vibe and that’s the most important thing to me. It’s a vulnerable space and I don’t want to deal with someone who is unhappy with expectations or who won’t appreciate the quirks of what we have to offer. I’m not a hard-core purist. I still use Pro Tools. I think even when I use modern stuff, it’s still the same mentality.

While most of Valentine’s parents focus on running the Metropolitan Pit Stop next door, the studio remains a family operation. Valentin’s grandson, Justin Barsonyand his wife, Britney, partnered with Jodoin as part of the business and learn more about their family history in the process: Barsony wasn’t even aware of the studio’s history until Jodoin started making research. Today, the company pays homage to his former self, but more importantly – following Valentine’s death from cancer in 2008 – it also supports home care for his wife, Eve, late in life.

“When we sat down and made a plan for the studio, the most important thing was paying for Eve’s care,” Jodoin says. “Whatever we were going to do was with that mentality. My interest wasn’t to come in and call it ‘Nic’s Studio’ and do whatever I wanted with it. It was going to be Valentine Recording Studios, as it always has been.

At a time when home recording has never been easier, Jodoin is optimistic about the future of Valentine Recording Studios as an alternative to these contemporary techniques.

“I hope I carry on the legacy of Valentine’s Day – I’m a fan,” he says. “I haven’t met Jimmy, but I’d like to think he’d appreciate what’s going on.”

PROJECTOR:

When you arrive there are plenty of opportunities and what will seem like shortcuts to success. There are a lot of decisions to be made and a lot of opinions put before you. You need to stay focused on your goals and stay true to your vision.

I have learned that making mistakes is part of the process. That’s how we learn and sometimes that’s how we discover and create incredible things.

The great thing about the music is that it is forever. He will survive you. It’s history. That said, you’re better off working on something you can be proud of than chasing after a paycheck.

What is hard is how hard it is to keep a good perspective when you’re working on something for a long time. I find that often the first idea and how you instinctively do it has the essence of what it’s all about. It’s easy to lose that perspective once you work on it over and over.

Most people don’t understand how many hours (and days) can be spent in the studio just to make a three and a half minute song. The whole process, from writing to arranging, setting up, getting the performance and mixing. The back and forth between the members of the group and their producers, managers and labels. There’s a lot going on and sometimes, when you’re lucky, it seems like everything falls perfectly and effortlessly. These are special moments, the rewards.

Valentine's Day Recording Studios Producer Nic Jodoin
Valentine’s Day Recording Studios in Los Angeles.
Steven Dewall

Spotlight is a Billboard.biz series that aims to spotlight players in the music industry who are making innovative or creative moves, or who are succeeding in behind-the-scenes or under-the-radar roles. For submissions for the series, please contact [email protected]