Eastside Sound: The Profile [Part I]

Posted on: April 23rd, 2013 at 6:40 am by
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It all began in 1972.  A year dotted with music milestones for our beloved city – Clive Davis signed Aerosmith to Columbia Records at Max’s Kansas City, Elvis sold out four MSG shows in one day, and Mayor John Lindsay threw his weight behind John and Yoko in their fight against deportation.  It was also the year Lou Holtzman, a Lower East Side native, opened a recording studio inside the ground level of his family-owned 98 Allen Street (aka 99 Orchard) abode.  Now, four decades later, the company is still going strong, having notched industry accolades such as Grammys and platinum records.

Eastside Sound was born at 98 Allen Street back in 1972, before the arrival of Congee Village; a time when carrying a gun for protection on the neighborhood streets wasn’t considered out-of-the-ordinary.  This original location was conceived as a simple four-track studio, but would eventually grow to occupy three floors and as many recording rooms.  Much of the output then, as now, was quite diverse.  From Jazz and rock, to new age.

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But by 2000, as the music industry entered a period of uncertainty, the time was ripe for a change.  Holtzman forged a partnership with former intern Fran Cathcart, and decided to downsize the operation to its current location at 150 Forsyth Street.  In its wake, the popular Chinese eatery swooped in and annexed the vacancy. In this new decade, however, Holtzman is sole owner.

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On a previous visit, chief house engineer Marc Urselli was kind enough to walk us through his world of sound.  The ground level of 150 Forsyth is comprised of two studios on one floor.  Studio A is the marquee live room with six Isolation booths (to record separately), including one with a 1977 Steinway ‘B’ Grand Piano ($150/hour); Studio B is much smaller with strictly the bare-bones essentials ($85/hour).  The former reports to the more advanced control room, stocked with comfy couches and plenty of recording equipment to make a gear-head dizzy.

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The main board is a beast from 1993 – 96 Channel Harrison Series 10B Analog Console – which is complemented by racks of vintage and classic preamps and processors.  Some of the equipment is vintage from the Les Paul era; the late great was also a frequent customer at Eastside.  In fact, Urselli was the head engineer on his 90th birthday record, American Made World Played, which earned him a pair of Grammy awards (Best Instrumental Pop & Best Instrumental Rock).  He noted that even with all the advances in new technology, the best studios are often “a compromise between the old and new.”  Truth.  Which is why the crew considers themselves “one of the longest running, best equipped studio in New York City.

Stay tuned for Part II, in which we interview owner Lou Holtzman.

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