“Music is a single language of the world”: interview with Mikhail Mamonov, owner of SmartAudio Studio
SmartAudio Recording Lab is a modern, professional recording Studio based in Kirov and consciously focused on working with analog. About this and not only in an interview with the founder and ideologist of the project Mikhail Mamonov.
“SmartAudio Recording Lab is a modern media center with perfect silence. We built a recording Studio in a picturesque suburban village far from the hustle and bustle, where there are no airports, industrial enterprises and highways, — Mikhail Mamonov begins the conversation. — But not only that, because without the Imlight project, the Studio would not have happened.”For about 30 years, almost since the company was founded, Mikhail Mamonov has been managing one of the Imlight divisions.
– Mikhail, first of all, tell our readers about yourself. Why did you decide to become a sound engineer?
— To tell the truth, I’m not a sound engineer, but rather a stage person, in almost all aspects. Profession from the past-teacher. I graduated from the Kirov state pedagogical Institute. Yes, the practice of a sound engineer was, but it was quite different-a sound engineer at live concerts. And the main thing for me is working with sound and light on stage platforms. Since the 90s of the last century, I have worked with almost all artists and bands that have toured in our city. How did it all start? It just never ended. (smiles)the most Interesting thing is probably what is happening now-the preparation of the “Bi-2” concert at VTB Arena and the upcoming interview in the development of cooperation with John Meyer from Meyer Sound, whose products we present and use. And the sound in the Studio and the real sound engineer is my son Artem. (smiles)
— Three years ago, you finished building a new Studio for SmartAudio. Obviously, this was not an easy process? What tasks were set and did everything work out in the end?”The studios have been around for years. What we built three years ago is not a beginning, but rather a natural development. It all started almost in the home format. Today, the myth that you can achieve the same result at home as in a professional Studio is gone, and even pros are more concerned with new hardware and software than acoustic mode.So, Yes, we went against the system to some extent by implementing the high requirements for acoustic design that are necessary for professionals to work in SmartAudio. Moreover, we are currently positioning SmartAudio as a modern media center, which can also host master classes of well-known Russian and foreign sound engineers. What happened? Listen To John Davis.Seriously — to get the desired result, we built a recording Studio in a picturesque rural village, that is, in a place where the sources of all these noises simply do not exist. And of course, the entire building was originally built for specific purposes, and the rooms with all their proportions were designed based on special acoustic requirements. As an example: the control room and the main tone Studio are built as two independent buildings — that is, they do not have common walls. And the ventilation systems of these rooms are Autonomous from each other, which allows you to avoid the penetration of sound through the air ducts.
In the control room of the Studio
— By the way, Mikhail, this type of release is particularly popular among instrumental groups, such as a live session in the Studio (often such a concert is simultaneously written in audio and video formats).
— In the SmartAudio Studio, we paid special attention to the planned production light, which opens up more opportunities for videographers to create spectacular and colorful materials. It is also interesting that the theatrical light (even if there is no parallel photography) has a certain influence on the musicians themselves — their play and mood. We have already had experience when we selected an atmospheric light scene for recording one of the tracks.
— Tell us about your team, how did it develop? And why SmartAudio?
— Actually, our whole project is a motivated family hobby, rather a lifestyle. And with the brand and logo was a funny story: my son Artem once drew a sketch of the logo, it turned out something similar to “Smart”. And then when registering the site, they found an unoccupied name — that’s how it went.Artem started recording sound on his home computer, and five years ago went to Nashville, in the States and studied with Vance Powell (The BlackBird Studios/the Sputnik Sound). Returned fully analog (smiles). And I brought suitcases with analog iron, lamp microphone Park-the basis of our sound.
— At the beginning of this century, there were only two groups of enthusiasts of “tape business” for the whole world: the Tape Project and Fone Records, the latter never stopped writing on tapes in the analog. Over the past two years, the number of “tape” record labels has exceeded half a hundred… Do you believe in the Renaissance of the tape as the main carrier?— Rather, Yes, because all the top studios in the world still work on “iron” equipment, where the center of the Universe is a large-scale analog mixing console that allows you to “sum” all the tracks in stereo in an analog on the tape, and not mathematically inside the program. Now you can take the best of both worlds — the sound of the analog and the speed of installation in numbers. Naturally, all this goes to the market and finds a consumer.
Studer A 800 mk III-16 channels
— British analog Audient, three Shtuder and Otari from Nagra, plus a solid microphone Park-are you initially “sharpened” for analog? How does this fit with a number?
— I’ve never stopped being friends with tape and tape recorders. First “Olympus”, then from “Akaya” to “Revox” and quite naturally – “Studer” as the optimal professional technique. But you understand that it is almost impossible to repeat the interaction of internal elements — such as tape, lamps, transistors, etc. — in numbers, and especially the interaction of one device with another (this plug-ins do not take into account). You can only do something similar, but as practice shows, the difference is noticeable. And this difference has a huge impact on the final result, and the result is depth, width, volume, and dynamics. But the editing process in analog is almost a lost culture. Therefore, we write the first releases on the tape in two channels at once,”profitably”.
— So the art of ‘gluing and cutting’ the great van Helder is lost?”- Practically, and you try it yourself (laughs).
— How did you decide to enter the market of commercial copies of master tapes?— I am a person sick with sound, and I got sick a long time ago, in the seventh grade, coming to visit a classmate whose older brother owned a set of imported haifai. And I went in one person and came out another. I even started building my own speakers and tinkering with the home system. We try to record a good sound, but we just want to share a good sound! But we do not consider the release of tapes as a major business component, we just can afford to share this material. Well, the global advantage of the tape recorder and tape-this format sets up the owner of records to listen to the material in its entirety, focus on listening, and not drive files in numbers back and forth.
— The great al Schmitt estimated the cost of two-inch master tapes for recording Bob Dylan’s latest album at more than $ 20,000. This is an expensive pleasure for musicians, sometimes almost not real. We actually have a two-inch RTM SM 900 tape — more than 30,000 rubles for 700 meters, and this is only 15 minutes of recording at 76 speed. How do you find people who want to write everything in an analog?
“It’s more complicated than that. For example, the violist Svyatoslav Belonogov and our first work with the tape — the first release of “Partita for two viols d’amours” -we could not record on a 16-channel a-800 Studer. I had to go to tracking in Pro tools due to the complexity of editing, where one musician plays himself all the parties. But then the mixing and mastering are all on tape. That is, DAA-Digital, Analog, Analog. The viol d’amour is a very interesting, complex instrument, chamber in nature, and definitely not designed for large halls. When playing it, there are certain difficulties: strings located close to each other can touch, create sounds. It’s hard to write down.We write chamber compositions on the tape from the very beginning. But until we have mastered 30 ips, we are working on the 38th. And we can just afford to record on tape.
– So, Jon Davis Trio. How did you manage to convince a hyped American who played with Jacko Pastorius to sign up in Russia? His “Changes over time”, released a couple of years ago on Posi-Tone Records is great! How was the work on Your release going?
– John, as you know, tours a lot in Russia, and the idea to invite him to our Studio belongs to the double bassist Grigory Zaitsev, who together with the drummer Igor Ignatov took part in the recording.
John Davis at SmartAudio studios
John didn’t really understand what he was doing here or why he was being brought to this snowy land, warming his hands in fingerless gloves and looking around until he saw the piano — then he sat down and immediately started playing… We had everything ready for recording, and Grigory and Igor joined in-a pure improvisation from the current concert program, a live session. And this is the material you can hear. There was a parallel recording in DSD, and this file went with John.