TOM HEDDEN MUSIC, inc.
The Time Machine
Retreat studios don’t get a whole lot better than the hidden luxury of The Time Machine. It felt a little like being at the world’s nicest, mountain-getaway resort while working here. The guesthouse was a post and beam marvel that sat adjacent to a pair of ponds that were so full of rainbow trout you could practically catch them with your bare hands. We were encouraged to fish and one evening I landed dinner for about ten people in under an hour. Every detail of the experience was crafted to be the ideal of Vermont country living and the amenities were far beyond anything that was designed for the use of a recording studio’s clientele. This is because The Time Machine was built on the estate of one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the late 20th century. He had developed a product the world needed and he and his very business savvy spouse made a vast fortune selling it to us. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the family but the studio was built for their sons so that they would have a world-class studio in which to create their music. I met the man responsible for this beautiful place only once. He was not detached or bored by his own station, he was not condescending or haughty, he was a genuinely nice guy and he obviously loved this incredible place. His invention was literally a lifesaver and it made the whole world a safer place. In short, he was not your stereotypical “Robber Barron” and seeing the pride and joy in his eyes as he surveyed the fabulous mountain escape his good luck had afforded him was truly a pleasure. Sadly, he was taken by cancer but for years after his death, the estate was used, for free, by cancer charities to provide sick kids with an incredible vacation experience. This may still continue but I’ve heard rumors that the property has been broken up and sold.
So… the estate: In the summer, the trout ponds had little electric speed-boats and pedal powered craft for the less aggressive souls. On land there was a full compliment of golf carts to travel around the property. Snow machines were provided for use in the winter. Over time, a three-hole golf course was added to the back meadow. There was a Har-Tru tennis court and picturesque views in every direction. All of the buildings were spectacular but the pool house was beyond hyperbole. The building was, of course, post and beam construction and it housed an eighty foot swimming pool, a racquetball court, an arcade with real arcade games, a billiards hall, men’s and women’s locker rooms, a gourmet kitchen, a multi-bed tanning spa, a sauna, a board room and multiple ping-pong tables. The pool was surrounded by a massive collection of opulent indoor/outdoor furniture, some of which moved outside to the giant bluestone patio in the summer months and adjacent to the billiard room sat an après ski room with a stone fireplace that towered twenty-five feet up surrounded by glass. In short, this was a palace, and its enjoyment was included with the studio booking. Suffice it to say that taking a walk to clear your ears was a very strong temptation.
One aspect of having all of these diversions available near a studio was that the competitions among our crew became quite fierce. I was not the racquetball, ping-pong or 8 ball champ, but I held my own in pinball and the racing game, Cruisin’ USA. The final straw came when the studio manager walked past four of us trying to throw stones about fifty feet straight up to hit a hornet’s nest in a tall tree next to the studio. We weren’t really even close and I’m not too sure how we got started but it had become another contest. He stopped, took our measure and simply stated, “I can’t begin to tell you what a terrible idea that is.” We realized our tournament had gone a bit too far and started limiting ourselves to more cautious pursuits.
The studio itself was an outstanding place to work. I say “studio” but I only ever used it for mixing so it would be more appropriate for me to use the term “control room”. The actual recording space was not particularly large but it appeared to be functional enough. The main control room was equipped with a massive SSL 9K and the working environment was about as relaxed and focused as it could be. The staff was great (the mix engineer with whom I was working stole a few of them…) and they had a real taste for good gear. Without the luxury of local rental companies, the Time Machine took great pride in the contents of their racks, always a plus when mixing. All in all, I would have mixed everything I ever recorded here but sadly, that was not to be.
Family dynamics change and the business that funded the whole enterprise derived a great deal of its firepower from the imagination of one man. Once he was gone, the Vermont compound was no longer the center of family life it had once been and the studio was moved to Vegas and downsized. The commercial success of running a studio in the middle of their private playground was likely never really enough for the family to bear the inconvenience, so they encouraged the sons to shut it down.
My favorite moment came on our first trip to the studio. My family came along and the deal was that in exchange for enjoying time on the estate, my wife would be our studio chef. Ah, the good old days… Anyway, she loves to cook and jumped at the challenge by planning some outrageous meals for us. The other half of the bargain was that the engineer, a serious wine connoisseur, would do all the wine shopping for the weeklong booking. As we sat down to our first dinner, he poured a bottle of really nice wine. One sip and he was up again. “Nope. This wine is good, but not good enough for this place, with this food and this company”. New wine was poured and dinner resumed. That was life at The Time Machine.
The studio used “Tempus Fugit” as the slogan on all their literature. As I write this and think about that wonderful place I am reminded of how true that sentiment is…