In the fast-paced world of recording where it's hard to see daylight between one project and the next, Otto D’Agnolo added a skylight to the new Mia Studio in Scottsdale.
The engineer/producer/editor/performer, who owned Chaton Recording Studios in its last 15 years of existence and worked there for 10 years before that, takes particular relish pressing a remote control inside the recording studio and film editing facility to reveal the impractical addition to the facility.
“It’s bad for the sound, which is why I have it covered up.” he laughs. “But it’s there because I've spent my whole life in recording studios with no windows and I didn’t want to spend another day in a studio without a fucking window. One of the reasons I think I was so happy to close Chaton Studios. I was single, I started thinking about my life and of all the people I know, every single person I know, I met in my studio, except the girl at the drive-through at Wendy’s and the girl at the other drive-through at Wendy’s. The one by my house and the one near the studio. I really didn’t do anything but make records. I lived there. Every day, all day. And I loved it but I realized I had to make a change."
The change wasn't entirely one-sided. The demands of an industry in flux and the more intimate way people were now recording their album projects also contributed to the decision to close the famous studio.
In the interim, a bunch of other interesting detours happened. He returned to performing original music again under the billing of Otto D, which led to him mounting a John Lennon tribute show titled Becoming Lennon and began hosting a weekly internet radio show at Star Worldwide Networks called The Otto D Show.
That show has been a harder sell to casino-type venues because it's not a beer-drinking show. But before he was done with fake facial hair, he became Ronnie Dunn (complete with glued-on beard and cowboy arm tattoos) in a Brooks and Dunn tribute show that has been doing brisk business, even with the country duo threatening to tour again. In 2015, he wrote The Sweetheart Deal, his first screenplay, a continuing project which he vows to finish. It became the impetus for building the studio in the house that he shares with his new bride Emily. (He got married last May, and it wasn't the drive-through girl at Wendy's.)
"It’s been my film school," he nods. "I remember starting this film seeing other productions and thinking why do they need all these people. I can do all that. I’ll never gonna be a director of photography. It’ll take the rest of my life to be a good DP. I’m never gonna be the guy behind the camera again. I’m never gonna shoot without a script supervisor. Once you try to do everything, you understand what everyone’s job is."
Mia Studio is a unique amalgamation of a film-editing, post-production house and recording studio where everything is movable to accommodate either kind of project. To demonstrate, six weeks before the studio's soft opening, D'Agnolo recorded tracks for The Sugar Thieves' next album. D'Agnolo recorded the band live-in-the-studio, as per their request.
"We had to be a bit creative in some of the amp and speaker placement," he says, showing me the shower in the studio bathroom where they had to place a Leslie speaker and the kitchen made into an isolation booth with an assortment of snacks in close proximity. "I was able to move equipment and panels around that could accommodate them, curtains that will work as bass traps, you can take them down stick them in the other room."
As for what trends he's noticed in pro recording studios since closing Chaton in 2015, "It continues to go in the same direction, it was heading, where there is less and less physical gear."
With Mia, D'Agnolo took into account creating a working environment for two distinctly different clientele.
"People from the music community, they want a place that feels a lot like their rehearsal space, the room where they plop on a couch and write a song. They don't want it to be in a laboratory," he says. "And studios always try to fight that, high tech versus basement. This space is more spartan, it's designed more as a commercial space concept. People in the film community or people who do voice-over work, people who work 9 to 5 and do commercial work, this is an environment they feel more comfortable in because it looks and feels professional, there's attention to detail, they want to know they’re going to be taken care of. And since I’m focusing more on film work, this room is built more for me."
That is made apparent by the studio's motto: "You shoot it, we'll finish it."
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While the 48-channel mixing boards of yesterday may have gone the way of the dinosaur, the one studio component that will never be virtual is the platinum award-winning producer/engineer himself.
"In the past, when you functioned as a studio, people would really be hiring the room and bring their own engineers where they would have been better off hiring me to do the job than helping their guy do his job," he says. "At times, at Chaton, it was like I was the guy making the coffee. This studio is more like my tool. If you hire Mia Studio, you're hiring, uh, me."
To hire Otto D'Agnolo for your project at Mia Studio call (602) 292-3024.