Studio Profile: Snoop Dogg's Beach City Music complex
Following the completion of three new studios at the facility, those responsible for the install tell Colby Ramsey how the new upgrade is driving the megastar’s vision forward.
Snoop Dogg’s Beach City Music has served as a beacon of creativity on the US West Coast for some time. After the construction of three new studios, with ‘The Mothership’ as the centrepiece, those responsible for the upgrade tell Colby Ramsey how the new-look facility is driving the megastar’s vision forward.
Just five minutes away from Los Angeles International airport there is a 20,000sqft building that houses the headquarters of one of the biggest names in hip hop. But Snoop Dogg’s Beach City Music complex is more than just a recording facility, and the owner more than just a musician. Surrounded by his collection of classic and modern cars, alongside a full-size basketball court, games room, radio broadcast studio and video edit suites, it is the pinnacle of Snoop’s business vision and a hive of culture and creativity for the modern artist.
Nestled within the complex is The Compound: a trio of futuristic, flexible studios that convey the experience of being aboard a spaceship. Snoop’s right-hand man, DJ Pooh, was instrumental in deciding on the AMS Neve Genesys Black console that is integrated with a Slate Raven Mti2 into a custom Zaor desk, and sits at the heart of Studio A, also known as ‘The Mothership’.
“The console is great. Snoop could have had any console he wanted but the Genesys Black just did everything that we wanted it to do”, says DJ Pooh on the acquisition of the 64-channel Genesys Black, which was selected to satisfy the need for an analogue console with ‘an old school workflow’, particularly for tracking and mixing.
Much of the work done at Beach City combines production-based music from sequencers, drum machines and keyboards with tracked live instruments, and so Snoop and co needed a console that could switch between multiple tracks being worked on simultaneously with ease.
After much deliberation over which console would best satisfy these requirements, the Genesys Black was supplied by Professional Audio Design, which has been associated with AMS Neve for around 20 years. The company’s president, Dave Malekpour, praises the console as “a great solution, combining the sound of both the vintage Neve 1073 transformer coupled mic preamps and Class A 1084 with the modern 88R’s signal path for clarity and tonal expression combined with instant reset.
“The combination allows Beach City’s producers and clients to move swiftly between projects and tracks and to add the classic sound to their recordings,” he continues.
The Zaor desk that holds the console is also home to workstations that allow producers to plug in to the main system, giving them power to work on their own material until it’s ready to send to the Genesys Black for processing.
“Along the way we ended up designing the furniture system for The Mothership, maintaining the same aesthetic design throughout,” Malekpour explains. “We took some of the visual cues and were able to create a workflow to suit them and their desired sci-fi vibe.”
But the console carefully selected for The Mothership was just one – albeit important – element of the wider installation, which also encompassed Studio B (The Battleship) and Studio C (The Starship) as well as several smaller recording rooms, isolation booths, live recording rooms and video production spaces. Sales consultant Chris Young and CTO Jonathan Deans of Westlake Pro, which specialises in the construction of recording facilities, worked closely with Snoop and DJ Pooh on the design, project management, wiring and equipment integration throughout the studios.
“In the time of studios disappearing and shrinking, it was fun to help build a large facility again,” says Young. “They were looking for someone to wire the studio when they initially reached out to us but we provided a majority of the gear for the installation in the end.
“Mostly we just had to collaborate on the details and work around his schedule. We started talks in February 2015 and the plans were not finalised until the August, so the installation was finished in November. We were just patient and ready to go when they needed us,” he continues. “It was a little different from usual because we were interfacing with project managers Snoop had assigned the task of completing the studios. Usually we work with the client directly, so sometimes it was a challenge making sure everyone was on the same page with details.”
The Mothership utilises a Pro Tools HDX Rig with 32 analogue I/O and 64 MADI I/O, all tucked away in a machine room outside the studio. The full 7.1 surround system features Focal SM9s for left and right in tandem with JBL LSR 708s and 705s for centre and surround, along with the new JBL Sub18 for the LFE channel. Additionally, the Westlake Pro team anticipated that Snoop and DJ Pooh would want extremely low frequency for playback, and so they put a Crown Audio IT12000HD on the sub channel alone.
“Studio A also features some new and vintage rack gear, including Pultec EQs, LA2A, two 1176’s, two distressors, Avalon 737, and Tube Tech CL1B, all integrated into a TT patchbay of 14 Bittree patchbays,” Young explains. “The wiring guys had their hands full for sure. Our biggest concern was whether the general contractor had allowed enough space for our cable troughs and pass-throughs. Luckily the cable pulls went really well and it all came together.”
Meanwhile, studio B ‘The Battleship’ features another custom Zaor desk with a Slate Raven Z3 multi-touch production console, utilising a 5.1 speaker setup with the same components as The Mothership. While this secondary room has less analogue gear, it similarly has a Pro Tools HDX system with 32 analogue I/O and Focal SM9 midfield monitors. Two workstations in the rear corners of the room also allow producers to hook up laptops, synthesizers and other instruments.
(L-R): Dave Malekpour and Snoop Dogg with AMS Neve's James Townend and Elizabeth Wilkinson
Professional Audio Design ended up providing all of the custom furniture, gear and wiring for Studio C ‘The Starship’, a tracking/writing room that was created for Snoop’s son Cordell, who is also involved in music production.
To satisfy the need for high SPL and superior clarity, Malekpour also built the largest Augspurger system he has built to date – a Quattro 415 system including a pair of Solo 12MF monitors flanked by dual 218subs as well as a Slate Raven MTi2 to manage Pro Tools files.
It was the Augspurger monitors that Malekpour was originally approached for. “Snoop and DJ Pooh seemed to be compelled by the sound quality and were impressed when they heard them working together with the Genesys Black,” he remarks.
“Having a console that gives some of that vintage impression but also has that openness and clarity in the mix bus, which the Genesys has at the heart of it, is a significant factor for these types of artists, who essentially just need the console to sound good.”
Malekpour was able to tune the Augspurger DSP to produce an accurate and consistent mixing curve across all three of the rooms, and believes that this is a major part of why the studios have been so successful already in the few months they have been operational: “When you can make three rooms of different purposes and different sizes work together as one it’s something special – I think that’s a signature of Beach City Music,” he says. “The whole collaborative approach between parties is somewhat of a reflection of how Snoop does things.”
Snoop himself was also delighted with the Burnley FC shirt presented to him by AMS Neve’s Elizabeth Wilkinson during her visit, celebrating the link with the town where the pro-audio desks are designed and built.
Malekpour concludes: “Snoop has an incredible vision and helping to create these studios as part of that, as well as hanging out with these guys and understanding how they work, was a great opportunity.”