Ishikawa Studios – Progress Update #3

Ishikawa Studios Control Room

I made some serious progress on Ishikawa Studios at the end of February and the first week of March. The control room is complete, and the two live rooms are spaced out. The project took quite a bit longer than I thought, and then some music projects requiring my immediate attention crept up on me. I won’t lie. It feels good to be having a break from labouring, and concentrating on music again.

Even though the construction is on hold, there is not much left to complete, and I would love to share with you the progress so far.

It felt very odd to disassemble my previous control room. The shelf from my workstation, and the rack rails were recycled, and my rack-mounted equipment was perfectly patched into the new central hub – the analogue desk!

Disassembling the old desk

The shelf from the old workstation was almost exactly the correct length to be used on the new workstation. With some wood stain and sealant, and some additional galvanised piping and iron fittings, it was perfectly adapted for the new studio.

The new shelf

Patching in the control room alone took almost a whole day. I had budgeted a couple of hours. As with the rest of the project, my eyes were opened by reality. I have learned so much over the past month, and I still have more to learn.

Thank you all for joining me on my journey so far – I can’t wait to finish this studio and share the results with you!

Until next time,

David x

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Ishikawa Studios – Progress Update #2

Just a quick one tonight, seeing as the week’s labour is catching up with me.

Ishikawa Studios West is inching closer to completion. This week has been a tough one, with lots of wrenching and muscle building, but things are falling into place. I just want to share with you some progress images!

The main task over the last week was creating the workstation to house the mixing desk. Considering the analogue desk weighs more than I do (I’m not kidding), the desk needed to be pretty heavy duty. Not wanting to spend thousands on a pre-fabricated desk (made from plywood and cams) I decided to design a desk using galvanised steel pipe and iron fittings. I did some basic physics planning, and then overshot by a considerable factor. After designing it, I took the napkin sketches to The Home Depot in Stanford Ranch, where Donovan the plumbing master helped me piece together everything:

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After everything was cut and threaded, I took THIS to the checkout:

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Straight back to the local hardware store I went to pick up a second wrench and get building!

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So far so good.

These materials are, however, heavy duty PLUMBING materials. so when it came to piecing it together I realised I was missing an outlet, and the integrity of the frame was compromised. Back to The Home Depot I went so that I could have the main sections split, ready to be connected with Unions. A hard day’s worth of wrenching and painting later, I managed to finally create the heavy duty frame, on which the door-turned-tabletop can sit, made to look like aged black iron:

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You can see in the previous two images that there are some frames ready for acoustic treatment. As of writing this, those panels are filled and wrapped in burlap. I have already started moving equipment down into the studio. I can’t quite believe that in four short weeks I have gone from having nothing more than a small control room, to deciding to move forward with my career, and having a fully fledged studio almost complete.

I may have another update on the blog with a third progress report, or the next one might be a completion report.

How exciting?!

Until next time,

David x

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Ishikawa Studios – Progress Update #1

Hello everyone.

Let me begin by saying that this past week and a half has been a real brain and body ache, but it has also been such a great learning curve, and all of the challenges have been ultimately rewarding.

Ishikawa Studios West is starting to take shape!

Due to stipulations placed upon the unit, I cannot tear down the walls to fully soundproof them. Fortunately they are well insulated, and the main sound “leaks” are in the deep-set windows. This meant that filling them in with rockwool would be easy, and if frames were used to contain the rockwool, the filled windows could also provide a surface onto which the internal acoustic absorption could hang.

This meant a lot of wood was needed, and I think the chap in the Home Depot who cut up the wood was rather annoyed that he asked if he could help:

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That was only half of it

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And because I am a bit of a neat freak, that became:

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Every window in this place is a slightly different size, so There was a lot of measuring and planning involved. It seemed to take far too long to get to this stage. Too many hours of scribbling measurements and writing shopping lists for my liking, but I don’t see how I could have done it any differently. The frames couldn’t have solid sides because I wanted the insulation to be able to pad outwards and fill in any gaps, but I wanted it to be wrapped and contained, so I decided on buying natural burlap, which will also become the covering for the acoustic absorption in the rooms. From previous control rooms I have built I have had green and purple panels, but I think I will replace the burlap on there to match the rest of the Ishikawa Studios West aesthetic.

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One of the frames ready to be half-wrapped in preparation for being stuffed with acoustic insulation

I drive a coupé here in California and, whilst it is a very nice machine to drive fast and far, it is dreadful when it comes to storage. When my friend Justin had a chore day in Roseville, he said I would be welcome to join him in his truck, so I dropped everything to pick up what is to become the workstation that holds the console. A solid core slab door that weighs far more than the 30kg the specifications claimed. Some dark stain, a few layers of sealant, some foam, and some textured vinyl, and it is taking shape. It is still a work in progress, but take a look:

 

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You can see in the final picture above the unfilled frames in the windows with a flap of burlap left un-stapled. I learned how itchy and annoying rock wool can be when making the acoustic panels for the first of my control rooms, so I was not messing around this time:

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That is the progress after the first real week of getting my hands dirty. The second week of progress has already begun, and I will be sure to update this blog accordingly. Suffices to say, things are really starting to take shape!

Check back soon…

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Ishikawa Studios – My New Year’s Resolution In Action

Last month I made a commitment to saying YES to opportunities in 2016. Over the past couple of weeks I have been been presented with the chance to stay true to my word, and leap on an opportunity that, whilst it could be risky, could fulfil many of my dreams.

Without going into too many details, an apartment with three decent sized rooms (not including the kitchen and bathroom) came under my stewardship, and I had the choice of either renovating it into the first incarnation of Ishikawa Studios West (up until now, the facility using that name has been a control room for mixing), or I could walk away from the responsibility of the apartment and retreat into the comforting simplicity of not pushing one’s self.

Suffices to say, I said YES.

Here are a few iPhone shots of the rooms:

Ishikawa Studios West Reno 1

Ishikawa Studios West Reno 2

Ishikawa Studios West Reno 3

 

I also picked up the centre piece of the studio – a beautiful Toft ATB-32 console. I got to use one of these when I was studying my Master’s degree. In fact, Leeds College of Music, where I studied, was one of the facilities to be testing the prototype Toft desk. It just felt right, when choosing the analogue console for my studio, to return to the familiar. Especially when the familiar contains the same pre-amps and EQs as the Trident 80 consoles. Here it is in the back of the car as I pulled in from testing and purchasing it in Sacramento:
Ishikawa Studios West Desk 1

 

Before picking up the unit, all kinds of nagging “no – don’t do it” voices were in the back of my head. It would have be very easy to back out last minute. But down the I-80 I went. I knew that I had to give this a shot. The cash exchanged hands, and there’s no turning back now!

Tomorrow I will start on making the necessary changes to the apartment, and I will be documenting the process on this blog. So if you are interested, please keep checking back.

YES!

David x

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Resolve to Listen, Enjoy, and Create.

Good afternoon, friends. I hope you all enjoyed a festive break, whatever your traditions.

As a continuation of the theme of my Thanksgiving weekend, I have allowed myself to guiltlessly enjoy some time away from music and related business. I spent Monday 21st in San Francisco meeting with a new friend and colleague, which was very inspiring and creative – with fragments of ideas for 2016 emerging over espresso and pasta. The weather was cold and wet, the traffic terrible, but none of that mattered. This was like the last day of school I used to love so much – a little bit of work, a lot of laughter, and the promise of a relaxing couple of weeks. The drive home was very long, and the visibility was not great. I felt like Chris Rea. I was on my way home for the holidays.

I spent the 24th in Los Angeles, and then the 25th driving back up north. I much prefer giving gifts than receiving them, but this year I unwrapped a lovely hi-fi amplifier and a pair of bookshelf speakers. It wasn’t really a surprise, seeing as I had picked them out in the Black Friday sales in November, but it was very satisfying to set them up finally.

“But David – you are a music producer. Shouldn’t you already have a hi-fi system?” I hear you ask.

Well, I should have already had one. And now I realise what I have been missing for so long.

For the last nine or so years I have been pushing so hard for a career in music that everything to do with music in my world has been confined to either my control room or the car. Without realising it, my “office” had also become a convoluted relaxation room and, for those of you who know how control rooms are set up, it meant that whenever I wanted to listen to music I was sitting in the same “ideal” spot at which I sit whilst mixing, facing the gap between my speakers, with various pieces of gear in front of me and the rest of the room behind me.

Not quite the ideal spot for relaxing with a glass of Johnnie Walker Black and enjoying an album.

I realise now that I had spent so long pursuing music from a business point of view that I had forgotten how to simply enjoy it. Also, as I think back through 2015, I realise that I have written very, very little music. I released Dorothea’s Boat on 12″ Vinyl after a successful crowdfunding campaign (thank you so much to everyone who supported it), but the music for that was wrapped up in 2014. I did write the theme for Of Shark And Man this year, as well as finishing up the sound design for the film, and here have been one or two other collaborations under my other guise of HARUKO, but the volume of original work isn’t as large as it could have been. I have done a lot of mixing for other artists; I have produced an EP with EchoWants Her VoiceBack; and I have been doing a lot of talking with others, but these talks are always for projects in the future. I know that I have been busy in 2015, but from a purely creative point of view I feel like I have been in a bit of a rut.

Perhaps moving to California and having to network from scratch has been a big part of my lack of time for creativity. Maybe that has a little bit to do with it, but I think the fact that I have just been allowing myself less and less time to sit down and enjoy listening to sounds, familiar and new, is the main reason I have been going through a creative dry spell.

Alas. That has changed. As I type this I have music filling the house, and I am sat where it is comfortable – not just where my ears can mix. I must say, I feel instantly inspired. My resolution for 2016 is to separate the music I do for work from the music I hear purely for enjoyment. My goal is to have music inspiring music; sound inspiring sound. I am already starting to feel like a child in a sweet shop.

Have any of you got so lost in pursuing one of your passions that you simply forgot how to enjoy it for its own sake?

What are your resolutions for 2016?

I want to hear from you!

Happy New Year to all x

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Independently Together – When I Decided to Take Control

Over the past few of days of annual festivities, whilst relaxing, having fun, drinking wine, and generally taking my foot off the accelerator, I noticed that something was missing. For the first time since embarking on my career in music I didn’t have any anxiety, nor did I feel guilty for not working on some project or other. Talking to my peers and colleagues I know that these anxieties are all too common, too much of the time, and they are almost a pre-requisite for any freelance career. At times it gets to the point where it feels like it would just be better to quit and get a job, any job, where I wouldn’t have to think about everything, all the time.

 

So what happened? What changed? Why am I so calm this year?

Well, sometime during the past year things started to just go right.

 

A few years ago one of my good friends from University (who has made an excellent career for himself as a composer and producer) told me that he had started to feel like he could get far more done by himself, for himself, by simply cutting out the middleman.

Up until that time I had always been under the “guidance” of one person/entity or other, and I was always told to wait for project X to coincide with event Y, because, of course, that would be my gateway to success. Unfortunately circumstance Z always got in the way, and that put me back to square one. It was a very frustrating period of time for me, and, after taking a while to sink in, those friendly words of wisdom started to resonate.

 

Why was I waiting for other people to make things happen for me?

Why did I feel like I needed the validation of others for a sense of my own self worth?

Why was I relying on a third party to sell me and my skills?

 

All good questions. Questions, which required a complete reappraisal of myself and my goals.

Whilst I had been trying to “make it” as a solo artist I had been producing for and with other musicians and companies, and I came to the realisation that I was actually quite good at it – so I decided to pursue it further, on both sides of the Atlantic. Suddenly I was working as a professional music producer regularly. I was mixing some projects; mastering others; composing for visuals; arranging for artists, and generally flying all over the place to be involved with projects. This level of activity was very inspiring, and so I wrote more of my own music. I played some shows here and there, and gradually I realised that I was doing it.

Turning back to my own music, I felt a renewed sense of accomplishment, and decided to figure out the best way for me to release my album Dorothea’s Boat by myself.

I took a long hard look at the sort of record deals and business models that had been explained to me by varous people in the past. Deciding that I didn’t like any of them, I started working to conceptualise the type of record company to which I would like to be signed. And I put the wheels into motion.

 

Ishikawa Records was born.

 

I decided to turn to crowdfunding for Dorothea’s Boat in order to see if people actually wanted it. Running the campaign was difficult, time consuming, and at times stressful, but in the end it was a success. So the album, my first full length solo LP in six years, was released in March, with the Ishikawa logo on the back, to some excellent reviews.

 

By the way – if you haven’t heard the album, you can do HERE.

 

Since that point I have allowed myself to say YES to opportunities so much more often – all because I am not waiting for X to meet Y (and likely be interrupted by Z). And you know what? It is working, because the opportunities falling on my doorstep are opportunities to work together, with people who have also taken that leap towards independence!

 

So, let me ask you. When did you realise your own self worth and take control? What was the tipping point? If you haven’t got to that stage, what is standing in your way?

Whatever your career, passions, and goals, I want to hear from you!

David x

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