warehouse studio article (http://www.bumph.com)
*close this window to return to the studio.

FULL-TIME WAREHOUSE JOB Adams came home a month prior to the Junos and played a five-song set before 800 people at an autograph session in A&B Sounds east Vancouver Warehouse Feb. 25. Adams has a warehouse of his own where he can play (and record) any time he wants.

It's the Warehouse Studio in downtown Vancouver's historic Gastown district. Adams transformed a derelict 107 year-old brick building at 100 Powell Street into what he believes is among the world's elite recording and mixing facilities. Along with his Grammy, Oscar and Juno trophies, he now has a City of Vancouver heritage award for helping restore part of the city's past.

In this case, a former grocery warehouse built by David Oppenheimer, a German immigrant who became Vancouver's second mayor. Even before the Warehouse was finished in February, Fugee Wyclef Jean came to record demos and the Tragically Hip dropped by to mix tracks for its next studio album.

According to Warehouse-keeper Ron Vermeulen, Adams spent $5-million acquiring the property and amassing a dazzling array of new and used equipment, including one of three Neve recording consoles built for Beatles' producer Sir George Martin.

"Bryan has a real passion for recording, he's truly interested in how records are put together," Vermeulen told Bumph during a January tour. "He knows how to run an SSL (mixer), he knows how to run a Neve, he has a good understanding of the background, he knows his microphones. "It's the ultimate hobby tool that he's been able to put together, but a hobby that other people are able to use."

The project was by no means easy. Adams and Vermeulen were vexed by city hall red tape andprovincial government property tax hikes. "Building this studio was never a "get rich quick" scheme," Adams told the Vancouver Sun in a fax interview published Feb. 26. "Business initiative and employment opportunities are being stifled and denied because the government is forever tightening the rack to squeeze more and more tax from business owners... money that could be used to help the economy not the politicians and bureaucrats."

The three-floor building has a massive main studio on the second floor and a mixing suite on the third. There are two lounge/kitchens for bands to unwind, not to mention plenty of natural light streaming through the large windows; most studios are like cocoons where daylight is but a rumor, Vermeulen said. Adams' personal tape vault and collection of more than 250 antique microphones are on the ground floor.

The adjoining building at 102 Powell was gutted, but the facade remains. It conceals a small parking lot with a basketball hoop next to a two-hole golf putting green.

"One of the most popular sports for musicians in the pop community is actually golf," Vermeulen said. "I've been in the studio world since 1976 and one of the biggest problems in the studio is the boredom factor: when you're not working, what are you going to do? You can only play so many video games."

A day of recording or mixing at the Warehouse will cost you about $2,000, Vermeulen said. The Warehouse is good news for some West Vancouverites: Adams' days of waking up the neighbors appear to be long gone. The basement of his secluded Mathers street house was used by the likes of Billy Joel, AC/DC and Van Halen. Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic spent 10 days there mixing Nirvana's posthumously released From The Banks of the Muddy Wishkah live album.

Vermeulen, meanwhile, is a study in contrasts. He resembles Mark Knopfler but is better known by his punk monicker, Ron Obvious. He copped the name from a Monty Python sketch about a daredevil's naive attempt to leap across the English Channel.

Vermeulen got his start as an engineer at Little Mountain Sound in 1976 with Bob Rock. Together they recorded commercial jingles by day and punk bands by night. The Warehouse isn't Vermeulen's first studio assembly project. He helped Adams' former songwriting partner Jim Vallance build his Armoury Studios on Vancouver's west side. That's where Seal recently recorded his latest album.

Rock, by the way, has a studio of his own in Hawaii where ex-Cult guitarist Billy Duffy and ex-Alarm singer Mike Peters have united to record under the name Colorsound.