Studio Focus: Nylon Studios
Timing is everything in music, but for the advertising composition and sound design gurus at Nylon Studios, it’s mission critical. “Someone in New York might ring up at 2am in the morning needing a guitar part re-recorded, and they need it in 10 minutes,” says Music Director Mark Beckhaus. It’s a glimpse into the go-fast or go-home world of delivering for high-profile clients like Sony, Nike and Toyota. A world that has undergone drastic changes since Creative Director Simon Lister set up the business in Sydney 15 years ago. Both Lister and Beckhaus came from old-school analogue backgrounds, Lister worked at Marmalade in New Zealand and Songzu in Sydney, before getting the backing to start Nylon.
But when the simplicity of doing everything in-the-box became obvious, Beckhaus reckons he was one of the first to declare there was no longer a need for recording studios. Then in the GFC, businesses similar to Nylon started shedding in-house staff like a dog its winter coat. Nylon stuck to its guns though and decided to keep its in-house creative team. Currently, there are three full-time composers and three full-time sound designers in Sydney, and four full-time composers and one full-time sound designer in the five year-old New York office.
Having held onto this ‘old school’ in-house model, Nylon also recently decided to return to its analogue roots, renovating one of its ‘guy with a computer’ studio spaces into a new recording studio space and live room. It not only means the composers and sound designers are once again surrounded by warm and toasty vintage gear, but it’s a point of difference in what has grown to be a very vanilla market.
“We went through the whole period of just using computers, plug-ins and virtual instruments. Now everyone’s doing it, and it’s becoming very generic,” said Beckhaus. “In our business [a recording space] is kind of unusual, because it’s very deadline-driven and price-focused. So people aren’t taking the time to record drums and things like that. We’re hiring as many players as we can and sometimes using people from bands as opposed to session musicians to get back to what was interesting to us in the first place.”
The new studio space has some select pieces of outboard gear, ADAM monitoring, and an Allen & Heath GSR24M 24-channel analogue desk with motorised faders and DAW control. While Nylon still uses its fair share of available digital tools, the space affords in-house composers the ability to incorporate real instruments into their work like live drums and overdubbing real strings over virtual instruments.
Nylon staffers also get a lot of use out of the space for their own musical projects, and Nylon also takes on the odd film ‘for the love of it’. The latest one they’re working on is a Jeremy Sims-directed effort featuring Jacki Weaver. Nylon also uses the space to put on band nights where Nylon showcases new acts to the advertising industry. “We’re a bit of a conduit for record companies in that way,” said Beckhaus.
Nylon isn’t at the cutting edge of technology — preferring simple gear that works — and haven’t upgraded their ProTools TDM rigs yet, though it is imminent. With four studios running in Sydney, every rig needs to be mirrored, plug-in authorisations and all, so any producer can work from anywhere in the Nylon system. It means upgrading is a serious concern.
With the need to access any session from any studio, all of Nylon’s files are stored on Synology RAID NAS systems, addressable over CAT5. “We’ve got every job we’ve done since 2002 on the system,” said Lister. “We’ve got a Synology system in the building, and another offsite in a building called the Coach House in the carpark. It’s a complete backup, so we have double of everything. I’ve had five or six rooms running off the same RAID system, and I’ve had a feature loaded up in two rooms bouncing out 120 tracks at the same time without a problem. It basically loads everything into your RAM on the computer. We’ve had no hassles with it. We’ve also got it in our New York office, so we can jump onto that computer, pull a session and it comes straight down to our system here. We were thinking of having both systems talk to each other, but there wasn’t enough happening to warrant that.”
The new studio has reinvigorated the Nylon staff. Even Blair Joscelyne, one of the Nylon composers and AT writer — who could happily toil away on a 002 with an SM57 if that was all he had — loves the new setup. If nothing else, it’s a great place for clients to hang out and catch a bit of Nylon’s vision. And that’s worth its weight.