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In Part 1 of our conversation with Mara, the freelance engineer, studio owner and tape machine wizard talked about his start in the audio industry. The focus now shifts toward the specifics of Mara Machines, how his restoration process was developed and the amount of work that is put into each of the pieces that comes out of his shop.
Any horror stories when it comes to finding a machine? Maybe pulling it out of a destitute location or finding the machine in really horrible condition?
I bought a machine from a guy in St. Louis one time, several years ago. I was in town, so I went to pick it up; around 8 or 9 at night. He was a huge guy and the machine was in the basement. He said, “You go first,” so I did. About halfway down the stairs I realized I was basically in a scene from Silence Of The Lambs and that I had failed a serious life test. Don’t worry, I lived.
How long does it take and how many on average do you do a year?
Three to four weeks per machine. We did 50 last year!
What are the highlights and pain points of these projects?
Highlights are when you get one working perfectly. It’s really fun to hear a mix back from a freshly restored machine. A pain point is when it’s 98% right and several days are spent trying to fix that one last thing.
How has the resurgence of vinyl and analog impacted both Mara and Welcome To 1979?
It’s been very nice. As I mentioned, we have a lacquer cutting facility within Welcome To 1979, which is directly affected by vinyl taking an upswing. There’s a great deal of synergy between the businesses, since people who buy Mara Machines and record on tape are more likely to release their recordings on vinyl. They come to us for that. Same with the studio. We get a lot of people who book time at 1979, then buy machines, or hire me to mix projects they’ve recorded on Mara Machines or book 1979 to track on a Mara Machine so they can do overdubs at their own studio on their Mara Machine. It’s all good!