I recently had the chance to talk with Gary Violin and Izzy. They are putting the finishing touches on an amazing recording studio named UnContained Studios. UnContained studios is the recording leg of a larger creation named Live Jam. Through synchronistic circumstances a mutual vision is being realized. Gary Violin, Izzy and an inventive team of musicians, song writers, musical composers, arrangers and visual artists have built an amazing studio that will give you unsurpassed production without breaking your bank or rushing your creative process. High quality with integrity is at the forefront of their vision. Not to mention an amazing drum booth!
Gary Violin: That is one thing I’d like to highlight is the drum sound we get in here. 9/10ths of the money in this building has gone into the drum booth.
“Live Jam is being developed through music and the arts to promote and transcendent cause, a mission that lifts us beyond ourselves, and a passion that stirs us to self-sacrifice and causes us to contribute to the larger community in every aspect of our lives.” – Vision Statement
Gary Violin and Izzy: We are business partners in an overall umbrella company called Live Jam including Uncontained Studios. We hope to create a wonderful recording experience in Sonoma County.
“When you come and record at our studios we believe in your project (and you), we are open to support, partner, and equip you the best we can, as a part of our team. We’re all about collaboration and creation.” – Gary Violin
Izzy: Me and Gary met through a drummer friend of mine, Josh. Josh brought Gary over to play violin at our church. We hung out and started talking and a lot of our inner vision and mindset was similar. So Gary said, “hey, I just bought a bunch of gear and I want you to come over to my house, I have all this gear in my garage, I want you to check it out and see what you think.” So, I checked it out. Gary had a lot of great gear.
Gary V.: While his jaw was still hanging (laughs) I said to Izzy, “maybe there’s some synergy’s.” It’s kind of like, “I’ve got some roller skates and you got the key.” I had the roller skates and he had some of the keys.
Izzy: Yeah, so me and Gary started talking and he invited me over to help him with some of his projects and we just realized we were both on the same page. We both had a vision of producing and getting some great sounding stuff. Especially having experienced many different studios and having not been happy about the quality of product coming out.
Gary B. Gary, you had bought all this recording equipment. When you bought all this equipment was your vision to start a studio?
Gary V: No. I was just going to buy a quarter of a million dollars worth of equipment and have it for myself and my son. And then I realized, “man, I’m spending all the money, my whole retirement, everything that I had been saving.” So, I realized “wow, man, this is kind of rolling the dice. I mean I’m rolling the dice this whole way and I didn’t even think of a professional studio. And then when I came here (the building Izzy had) and I saw the room, once we tore out the ceiling and looked at this room and then I realized what we could build here.
Gary B. Izzy, so this building was a part of the key for a professional studio?
Izzy: Yeah. I was here before. This is a church here and I’ve been here with them since they bought this building. My dad is a pastor here so we had this room. We’re like, if we could dream that we could build something and get exactly what we wanted how would we do it? So we had some professional people come out from Full Sail Studios. They said, “You know what, put your money into the drum room. If you put your money there you should be good.”
Gary B. Now they told you that because when you record in a studio one of the most essential things is getting a good drum sound? (me playing dumb. Of course I know this since I am a drummer:)
TOUR OF THE DRUM BOOTH:
Gary V. I’ve always had trouble with the production quality of many studios I’ve recorded in so I decided I’m going to take my money and buy recording equipment that I like and record for myself. And then it became…a divine appointment that I met Izzy and we had our heads on straight and since then it’s been us figuring it out.
Gary B. So it’s becoming, organically, a larger vision. Izzy, you had the building and recording experience. Gary, you had the equipment and also recording experience. So it’s like “wow, we can make something happen here.”
Gary V. Yeah. And the truth is it’s a big vision because as we look at this building here it will become a unit outside of a bigger recording studio. One that we could have a small orchestra in or whatever and this becomes an overdub studio. This is phase one of the vision.
“We are stronger together, and we believe that we all have something to offer each other, in the world of artistic expression” – Gary Violin
Gary B. The backbone of this started with you two getting this vision together and then you decided, okay, we’re going to make a studio that we can get some great sound out of. First thing is we have to build a drum booth that is amazing. And Gary brought in his equipment that he had already bought.
Gary V. I had all this equipment in my garage and in storage. I was buying stuff according to advice from recording pros. Most of the things I spent heavy dough on were things I felt would appreciate. So, you know, what I did was invest heavily in microphones and preamps. Quality preamps. The stuff that you find in the real big studios. Look, everybody around now has a studio in their garage or their bedroom. But they don’t have microphones that cost $20,000. The way I see it is it’s the difference between driving a Chevrolet Nova and driving a Lamborghini, which many people will never experience. I’ve had the experience of driving a Chevrolet Nova and a Lamborghini. There is considerable difference between how they react. And we’ve got some of the best new digital microphone technology and best mics around. We’re building this studio to be a Lamborghini.
Gary B. Can you talk about some of the microphones you have for the drums?
Gary V. Izzy can talk about the microphones. We’ve done from the sublime and ridiculous to the normal . One time we had almost $25,000 worth of mics on a drum kit. Izzy, maybe you can speak to that?
Izzy: Yeah, we put the best microphones on the drum set. We were a little scared putting those kind of microphones on the drum set. We put a couple of vintage 414’s on the toms and a U47 on the kick out and used an Audix D6 on the inside. We used U87 on the bottom snare and a vintage Shure 57 on the top snare. Then we used some of the new Slate BL1’s on the overheads. The drums sounded great. We have the equipment to experiment with what sounds best.
Vintage (G)ear Candy
Vintage Neumann U-87 (Modded/Rebuilt in LA)
60’s Vintage Modded and rebuilt by Stephen Paul Audio in Los Angeles, California
Having a solid, beautifully defined sound that sits easily in the track, this has been a staple in both classic and modern music (Marvin Gaye to Jay Z)
When it comes to capturing an acoustic sound, it doesn’t get much better than the vintage Royer Ribbons. (Maroon 5/George Straight/Eric Clapton/Dream Theatre)
Extremely sought after, and highly desirable, and let me tell you, the proof is in the pickup.
Throw these puppies on your favorite instrument and you’ll get to know them sonically on a level
that you and the wife can only aspire too
…Lol Just kidding… but not kidding about much these two sound sage’s ROCK our socks off
Pair of AKG C414’s
(One of my must use/go to’s)
AKG for decades has been bringing the heat when it comes to microphones, but nothing takes the cake like a breathtaking familial pair of C414’s… (Just ask Chris Martin from Coldplay) And then we went and threw some C12 Capsules on them… Because why the heck not!
Vintage Neumann U-47
One of the legends, our vintage Neumann U47 is both Impeccable, expensive and impressive (Elton John and Beck think so too) Able to put a timeless splash of German brilliance on practically all musical elements.
(specializing in lows/mids)
…Just wait till you hear this thing
Gary B. And then in building out the drum booth that’s quite a task in itself. I see you raised the ceiling and have it angled for acoustics?
Gary V. The integral part of any kind of room or drum room is three fold. 1, is you want the angles dealt with. Next you want the strength and density and width of the wall, how that affects the inner room and then 3 is how you use the acoustic tiles. All those combinations, including that huge, thick antique rug you see there in the drum room. All of that affects the tuning of the room. And we’ve moved things around to optimize the sound. After much time spent on all of those things we ended up with a really great sounding room.
Gary B. Your drum room seems a great center anchor for this studio.
Gary V. I think it’s a cornerstone. If I was to brag on this studio it would be that drum booth is great but also it’s the people we have around us. The people who are making this possible. You have to have something but then you have to have talented people who can really draw it out too. We have the both around here. That’s integral. After the drum booth and that I think it’s our microphones and pre-amps that can put us on par with any studio around here.
Gary B. Let’s talk a bit about the people behind this studio. Gary, I know you’re a great musician and amazing violin player and so you add your musical background to this studio. Izzy, you’re a musician, songwriter and sound engineer and then there’s Julio (not present at this interview) working with you who is a percussionist and sound engineer.
Izzy: Not including Gary, Julio and myself we have 4 engineers on call. We’re building a strong team to carry the weight.
Gary B. If I came in here to book time could I bring my own engineer?
Gary V. Absolutely.
Izzy: Or if you don’t have your own engineer we have a list of people to call.
Gary B. How about if you’re a solo artist and you want to produce a record but don’t have the musicians?
Gary V. That’s one of our fortes.
Izzy: We’ve already done a lot of that in the short time we’ve been up and running. If you’re a songwriter and only play guitar and you want to hear a whole arrangement we have people lined up that do that. If someone comes in and they want a country or rock or pop sound we have the people that can produce the sound they want.
Gary B. So you can produce a sound and get the musicians to play on the tracks so the songwriter can just come in and do his/her thing?
Gary V. Yes. We are connected with enough studio quality musicians that we can do that. It’s a funny thing. If you or I went around this town and listen to different bands we’d hear different drummers, singers, guitar players and bass players that are terrific live. Take those same people and put them in a studio and they can cost you money. That’s what we believe we are good at. We’re good at being able to make those matches so you’re studio recording comes out great. Also, we’re not burying people in their budgets. Our whole deal is that we didn’t start this studio about money. We started it for our own projects. Now we want to move it into a business. Yes, we want to be wise and have a profitable business. But you know, pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered and we don’t need to be hogs.
Izzy: We’re all musicians. That’s one of the wonderful things about this studio. We understand, as musicians, it’s not easy to get your vision out there. Many times, because the clock in the studio is running, you have to get out because, you know, you’ve gone 1 minute over time. It costs money to book another hour. So musicians have a hard time finding a studio where they feel they’re not being rushed.
Gary B. So UnContained Studios would be a more comfortable setting? You guys wouldn’t be pushing on the clock?
Gary V. No. I’ve experienced a lot of that in some of the studios I’ve went into. Immediately all the engineers are watching the clock and they’re writing stuff down and always pressed about the time thing. That made me very uncomfortable and that happened a number of times. I’d walk in and immediately feel it. You’re on the clock. You walk in the door, “the clock is beginning.” Or you’re there for ten minutes and the engineer announces to you “the clock is on.” (laughs) I don’t even want to think about that right now!
Izzy: Yeah, that’s where we’re at right now. We believe that artists/musicians should really get a chance to be comfortable in a place they can create and not feel rushed. And again, a place where they will get the quality. Maybe they wish they had a different type of preamp or different type of microphone. We can supply that. We have the equipment to experiment. We find the right microphone for you. Let’s take out 10 microphones and try every single one.
Gary V. A lot of times, with voices, you can kind of line somebody up. You hear a nasal voice or a dry voice, you get an idea of what mic could work for that. You can get it down to maybe 4 or 5 mics. But my experience has been, with a lot of other studios, is you go there and what happens is they have one mic they’ve invested in heavily and that’s the one they’re going to make you use. They’re all steering you to this one mic. They put other ones out to show you they have a selection but the truth is they’ve got this one mic and that’s the one they record with. We, at Uncontained Studios, have numbers of high end mics to choose from. And then preamps that cost 10K and up. We didn’t buy a Neve board for a million dollars like Dave Grohl. Instead we bought one strip and that one strip will give you the same sound that all 40 of his will get. The point is we have the ability to create the same sound as his million dollar board. We try to have an understanding of how these sounds work. We also have young people on board who are hip to today’s sounds.
Gary B. You guys have an age range of musicians/producers available to speak to all genres? 60’s and 70’s sound to what’s happening today?
Izzy: Yes we do. That’s what we’re about. We definitely have a diverse team here.
Gary V. (laughs) Take that 60’s – 70’s sound out! I don’t want to date myself! (laughs)
Gary B. Are you now open for business?
Gary V. Not exactly. It’s a soft opening.
Izzy: We have business coming in.
Gary V. We’re also all working on our own projects here. So through that, taking it real slow, we’re not in this giant hurry. Another thing is that we’re using any money that comes in to enhance the studio and get it right where we want it.
Gary B. You guys are sure going about it right. What a great thing to be able to work on your own projects. A good reason to start a studio, because you are all musicians and you have music you want to record.
Gary V. Sure. Just for my drum and bass tracks with the project I’m working on it would have already cost me over 3K.
Gary B. Can you tell me what you’re vision for the future is. You guys have spent a lot of time and money building out this studio, building a great drum room, purchasing amazing equipment, gathering a great team. From here, besides working on your own projects and getting more people in here, what is your vision?
Gary V. What we’re really wanting to do is, ultimately, to become very comprehensive. What I mean is that, we haven’t talked about video at all yet, but we really have a vision to be a recording entity and also be involved in all that includes. In this day and age when you are a music artist you are also video artist. So we don’t want to have to sub that out. We want to get it all done in house. That’s part of where we’re headed. Right now, we’ve got access to the best video recording gear around. We don’t own all the equipment but we have relationships where we can use the gear.
Izzy: Overall, we want to help artists do everything, all in house. Ultimately, a one stop record label. Help artists get their vision out.
Gary V. And we want to operate from a place of integrity. What I mean by that is, we’re not looking to lure people in here and steal their publishing. We’re not looking for people to come in here and rip them off in some way and have them not read the fine lines. We’d like to have an A & R department. There are many artists that I see around here, busking or what not, and I say, “wow, this kids got a lot of potential.” I’d love to be able to help these people. A win win position. We want to be known as the people who treat you right.
Gary B. Lastly, can you give me a short background of what got you into music.
Izzy: I’ve been in music since I was a kid. My dad got me into music because he was the leader of a band in church. I started playing guitar when I was 5 years old. Then in high school I played with a lot of bands. I moved around a bit and then ended being a teacher at a music school in Fremont. A worship music school. Teaching people how to run their teams and lead their bands. I was there for about 4 years. I also learned how to engineer in a studio. I got into producing myself. Right now I mostly produce and play music in the church. I also still teach. I teach piano, guitar and vocals.
Gary V. : I was a professional musician back in the midwest. All the college towns. I was in a couple of popular bands. One of the bands was Chameleon. We were going up like a rocket ship. Yonni came from Chameleon. I sang in those bands. I now play mostly violin. Presently, I’m working on a violin project exploring frequencies. Frequencies known to heal or help relax. And I’m also involved with a group of people who are writing a rock opera. This rock opera, I hope, will be timely and poignant. It’s about this kind of a creature who is a “hater” and through relationship and love the creature is transformed. There’s so much hate in the world right now that it seemed poignant to try to address it. I think in a year or two we will have something to present.
Gary B. That’s wonderful. To transform hate to love is a beautiful thing. I’ll look forward to hearing more about this rock opera.
It’s been fantastic to talk with you and Izzy. You guys have a great thing happening here. After hearing some of the music you’ve recorded I’m ready to talk my band into recording a few songs. Of course, I’m drooling over the chance to record in your drum room! I’ll be talking with you soon.
Check out UnContained Studios Here:
STUDIO GEAR for Home Studios: