Interview: Capitol Studios’ Dave Clark
Posted on: Wednesday 29th of December 2021
In Resolution issue V21.7, we chatted to Dave Clark – Technical Engineer at Capitol Studios in Hollywood – about his work there, his memories of the installation of the 88RSP2 in the facility’s iconic Studio A, and his career working with AMS Neve technology
The installation of the 88RS in Capitol Studio A was one of the first parts of a lot of changes that happened in the facility. Was it exciting to be part of that change?
Dave Clark: Yes, it was. I was not part of Capitol at that point, I was an independent engineer hired by AMS Neve to assist with the installation and commissioning of the 88RSP2 into this studio. In January of 2011, I had assisted installing the 88RSP2 Abbey Road Studio Two. Then I was hired to assist Robin Porter to install the 88R here at Capitol about a year later. I believe Abbey Road Studio Two is a 60, this is a 72-input. So yeah, it was it was pretty intense. We did have to work around the rather intense remodelling Capitol was doing — I was hired only for the desk install. the wiring and room remodelling was taken up by the existing Capitol staff. I had also been involved with the console that was previously in Studio A, a VR with a scoring panel; I did servicing on it and things like that. The control room has changed a lot, but the live room hasn’t really changed at all since then. Having seen both desks in use, what was the reaction of people when they moved from the VR to the 88RSP2? Capitol wanted to move more into a film situation, with the extensive stem monitoring of the SP2 console. So from that perspective, they were quite happy with it. But — that being said — they did a demo session right after it was installed and pretty much everyone who heard it commented that this is the best sounding 88 anybody’s ever heard. It probably had something to do with the fact that it was a brand new desk, and brought up to the latest specification. But also, the mains wiring here was designed for minimum noise and best isolation from the outside world. So I think possibly part of that is the noise floor of the overall infrastructure because it was designed properly and designed well. It’s very, very quiet and allows the console really breathe and be able to present forth what it is best at — which is the highest level of fidelity in a large format recording on an analogue recording console.
How big a factor has the SP scoring system been to the reputation and success of the 88RSP2? It was kind of the killer app at the time..?
Yes. At Capitol, it’s not really been used to its fullest extent. It hasn’t been really put to the test as it has in some other film scoring studios here in Los Angeles. I’m great friends with the studio tech that used to work at Fox, and he said there were times when they’d completely run every bit of horsepower out of that console. With maximum stems and such. We haven’t gotten that far here, but we have had sessions where they have to use pretty much every function other than the stem monitoring. They have used the stem monitoring, but not to the extent that the film scoring has done.
And in terms of your role, technically, what’s the month-to-month process that you go through to maintain the desk and to maintain the studio as Capitol wants it to be?
The only thing that we do on a proactive basis is to exercise the switches and the controls to keep their intermittency down to a minimum. Because, as we found — or I found, doing this for a pretty long time — a lot of the issues are really based on mechanical problems. If we keep it exercised and working, that mitigates the issues that can happen. The console itself has been quite good. We try to keep everything up and as running as best as possible, we try to offer — and we think we do offer — one of the best five-star services in the world. We’re one of the top studios and you know, there’s, day-to-day maintenance, and things like that on other pieces of gear, but this particular console has been rock solid.
Capitol is very much of the ‘old school’, in that the studio serves as a reflection of the wider company — and symbolises the company’s ethos in a way that it’s not really as prevalent as it used to be. How does it feel to be a part of that team?
It is definitely a perk, it is something to be proud of. We look to keep the Capitol brand growing and leading this state of the art, even though we’ve been here for a long time. In the sense that Abbey Road has cast in stone studios that really shouldn’t ever be changed, and won’t be changed, it’s the same here. We have what we think is the best selection of different size rooms for the recording community at large, which includes records, films TV. When people book Capitol, they expect that everything works, and everything they need to have their session go off without a hitch to be done. That is what they get here at Capitol.
Do you think that the 88RSP2 is halfway through its life-span now, I know that’s a difficult question… but do you think its life-span will exceed that of the VR that preceded it?
Yes, I do believe so. The VR was in here for about a little over 20 years, so I would expect the 88R to last at least that length of time here. Studio B, which has a Neve 8060/8058 has been here a Capitol, I believe, since the mid-80s — maybe even earlier than that. So that’s one of our legacy consoles that’s been here for a long, long, long time. Studio C, before it got changed over, also had the very first 8108 manufactured by Neve — the prototype. That was here for a good long time. So the expectation is the life of the console here is probably going to exceed 25 years overall. Knock on wood!
As VP of Capitol Studios, Roey Hershkovitz is one of the people tasked with setting the direction of the facility as it navigates towards the future, so we were interested to get his take on the facility’s blend of tradition and new technology, and how that works as a symbol of the Capitol ethos.
“You know, to many it feels like a throwback,” he begins, ”But for us, that is part of the flavour of the studios and the appeal. Some would refer to it as ‘the history’ or ‘the legacy’ of these rooms — and ‘the way recording has been done’. But for us here, it’s still very much a way we operate today. In terms of the role of the Neve 88RSP in Studio A, Heshkovitz sees it as a totem of the blending of old and new, which serves as one of Capitol’s USPs — along with the technical prowess of people like Dave and the team he works with.
“A significant part of that is is the rooms and the equipment that’s available” he continues, “but also the talent of our staff as well. When you hear Dave say: ‘Oh, well, you know, the Neve hasn’t needed a tremendous amount of maintenance or TLC’, that’s because of the knowledge and experience that Dave and the team bring to the rooms. The reason it doesn’t need an overhaul is that it’s getting TLC every day, every week, and every month. Our cool old stuff works here, and that is incredibly appealing to a wide variety of artists, labels, and productions today — knowing that they can come in here and get that… let’s call it ‘old school flavour’.
“We’re very proud of the history and the legacy of the studio and, at the same time, fully embrace the technologies of today. Where you can sit in one room and have Pro Tools and your up-to-date plug-ins, and still be working and using the echo chambers. Or, move over to Studio C and be working in the immersive lane as well. So we’re very proud of that, that whole picture of yesterday, today and tomorrow. And we would not be able to do that without the wisdom and excellence that Dave and the technical department and electronic maintenance engineers bring to our rooms.”