The Power Station


Hell’s Kitchen(ish), NY, NY


I have worked at Avatar. Like Abbey Road, the staff of this studio has complete reverence for the history of their studio: right down to the 1970’s vintage, diagonal paneling. The reason I call it The Power Station here is simply that when I first walked into the building (I’m dating myself) it was The Power Station. It was more than a studio; it was a legend. I suppose everyone with whatever genetic material it is that instills a love for recording has a quintessential facility that was, probably at the time of their entrance into the business, the center of the universe. For me, this was the Power Station. Sure, the band of the same name had an effect on my impression but more than that, this was the studio most associated with Bob Clearmountain and at Berklee in the mid ‘80s, that was that. He put a piece of tissue over the tweeters on the NS-10’s and so did every studio in NY – Yes, I do know it wasn’t actually “tissue”, a fact that sold more stock of whatever off-brand hand wipe it was than their marketing staff could possibly have understood. I think that if word leaked out that he mixed with the speakers face down on the floor, every assistant in Manhattan would have been ordered to put them in that position during set-up. While I was at Berklee, he attained god-like status and The Power Station was Mount Olympus.


While I fully admit that my youthful hero-worship had created ridiculous expectations for these rooms, there was one aspect of the Power Station’s reputation that completely lived up to its billing. The drum sound in the main live-room was incredible. Yes, the back wall of the control room featured a dedicated Pultec for every channel on the legendary Neve and the house drums served as the world standard for what drums were supposed to sound like at that moment but the room itself was truly magical. Toms exploded in that space. I will, from time to time, mention specific rooms that were/are perfect for certain sounds. In 1986, this was the best drum room on the planet. Okay, so at least the best I’d ever heard. I haven’t been back since the 80’s (I’ve mixed in the upstairs room at Avatar) but at that point in time, it kicked serious ass. As the best engineers know, a killer drum room is defined by room mics: if the kit sounds amazing through one stereo pair placed at some distance, that’s a real drum room.


This facility has been through quite a bit since the 80’s and I haven’t anywhere near enough experience with the new set-up to rave so unapologetically about it now. It’s still a great place to work and it sits in one of the music world’s gravitational centers. I hope that the assistants who spend their days there now still feel all the potential and promise that my classmates, who were lucky enough to land there, felt when it was the Power Station.


Here’s a spell check pet peeve: the short form of microphone is not mike; it’s mic. Someone in the vast computer-sphere needs to fix this!