30 Years / 30 Studios is a new blog series highlighting some of the studios Vintage King has helped during our three decades in pro audio. We'll talk with studio owners, engineers, and producers about how they got their start, where they are heading, and all the gear they've picked up along the way.

Learn more about Vintage King's 30th anniversary here.

Former Vintage King Audio Consultant Scotty Iullanelli (now with Soyuz Microphones) always knows a good thing when he sees it. He'd often come to me with client suggestions for stories here on the blog and say, "I got a guy!" with the wild-eyed excitement of a kid on Christmas morning.

One such "guy" is Mike Bridavsky. Scotty is not wrong (he never is), Mike is the man.

Under the banner of Russian Recording, Mike has officially been in the studio game since 2003. His Bloomington, Indiana-based facility is truly one of a kind, with a collection of analog gear that has to rank as one of the most unique in the world. The thing about Mike is that Russian Recording isn't some sort of stale museum where this killer gear doesn't get used. He's putting it to work daily, and if it's not in the mix, it's headed out the door.

Anyway, enough pontificating, you'll see what we mean about Mike after you read our interview. Check it out below:

Take me back to 2003 when you were opening Russian Recording. What was life like back then? What made you decide to open a studio?

Like so many people my I age, I started in my parent's basement in 1994 on a Tascam Portastudio 424 MKII cassette 4-track. Russian Recording technically opened its doors in May of 2003 in our original location in the spooky woods of Brown County when I was 23-years-old. I had just graduated college in 2002 with a degree in "Music and Film Production," completed an internship at Electrical Audio in Chicago, and was inspired to finally open my own studio, something I knew I was going to do since those days in my parent's basement. I had also just accepted a full-time position as the Technical Director for the Indiana University African American Arts Institute, doing local and touring live sound for the IU Soul Revue, African American Choral Ensemble and African Dance Company, managing a crew of about six student engineer. That's how I paid for my studio. So I was literally working a full time job, running a recording studio, making records, and/or playing/touring in a band during every spare moment I had.

What was the studio set-up like in the early days? Have you always been into analog gear or did that come as the studio grew?

When I first opened up, I didn't have a DAW yet, so I was borrowing a Tascam MX-2424 24-channel linear hard disk recorder which was similar to recording to tape in that it was destructive linear recording. I started with a small old British Studiomaster Console, then upgraded to a Sountracs Topaz, and eventually wound up with a 32-channel Speck M72 console and a DAW running Samplitude by 2005. I worked on that until 2008 when we built our current location and installed our Sphere Eclipse Type II console in 2010. In 2014, we got an Otari MX80 with 16 and 24 track heads, and I've been mixing down to a Studer B67 1/4" 2-track since 2003. Since the very beginning, I've always used analog outboard equipment (new and vintage), and I've always mixed "out of the box" and still do so exclusively to this day. And even though I've worked in a DAW for almost 20 years, I haven't started exploring the world of plug-ins until the past few years, and I'm glad I did. There are some amazing tools available in a DAW these days.

How did you first become aware of Vintage King? What was it like working with Vintage King as the studio blossomed?

To be perfectly honest, I don't remember - it's been so long! So, I just looked through my old inbox and see that my first email exchange was with Mike Nehra in 2007, when I bought a remote for my vintage 80s Klark Teknik DN780 reverb. A few months later, I bought one of the first pairs of Chandler Limited Germanium Compressors ever made. I don't have those anymore (and sometimes wish I did).

How has Vintage King helped you with gear selection, purchasing, and servicing in the past?

As I was looking through my old inbox from sixteen years ago, I saw another email to a fellow recording engineer, Erik Rasmussen (who now runs Palisade Studios in Chicago). Here is what I told him:

"Hey, you should consider these Shadow Hills GAMA Preamps.

Also, I say fuck [REDACTED]. They fucked me over so bad the one time I did business with them and never apologized. Vintage King rules though, and I'm sure they'd hook you up just as well, if not better."

And that sums it up - I don't want to disparage any other pro audio dealer, but the truth is that for the past 16 years, Vintage King has always been extremely reliable, responsive, flexible, reasonable, and, honestly, has gone above and beyond on dozens of occasions. When things inevitably don't work as they should (vintage or new), you guys have ALWAYS found a way to make it right and make sure I can keep my business going. I've had three "dedicated" sales guys since 2007, and not only has each one of them (Jeff, Scotty, and Andy) been awesome, I consider all of them my friends. That's saying a lot coming from a guy that can't stand sales guys.

What are some gear favorites you've gotten from us over the years?

Impossible question to answer! Depends on what I'm going to do on what day, and what I have (or haven't) had for breakfast. But let's see here, I very rarely hang onto a single piece of gear for more than a couple years unless it's become indispensable, and only now, after 20 years of making records do I feel like my rack is full of keeper gear that I won't ever let go of (mostly). And of that gear, I think some of my favorite pieces I bought from VK have to be the pair of Pultec EQM-1S3 Mastering Equalizers (bought new recently), my pair of Purple MC77s (bought used several years ago), my UBK Kush Fatso, or my Manley Labs ELOP (both bought new 13 years ago).

Tell us about the latest incarnation of the studio. What were some of your influences for its look, feel, and gear?

In 2008, I left my full-time job as the Digital Preservation Engineer at the Indiana University Jacob's School of Music to build my current studio and pursue record-making full-time. I designed the studio myself within the former warehouse for Secretly Canadian Records, and built it with my friends. Since then, I have been obsessively improving it by tweaking the acoustics and ergonomics, acquiring every instrument and pedal anyone could ever want (or not want) to use, perfecting our selection of outboard gear, and fleshing out our microphone collection, which has gotten completely out of hand (over 300 vintage mics).

I've spent the past three years focusing on the finer details of the studio. The biggest project was the complete rebuild of our vintage Sphere Eclipse Type II console, which has been fully redesigned and rebuilt from the ground up and now accommodates 72 inputs at mixdown, can bounce twelve stereo mix stems at the same time as your 2-mix, and has 16 busses, 12 aux sends, 23-position Elma rotary switches for channel pan, a 31 position wet/dry blend on the master insert, a one-of-a-kind stereo EQ made from a pair of NOS Sphere 900s and Sphere 300s, transformer balanced switchable inserts on every channel and lots more that I won't go into here because it'll take me all day. And surrounding the upgraded console, we've also upgraded our patching, our headphone system (Mytek Private Q) and our mic stands (Triad-Orbit).

I've also been refining the look and atmosphere of the studio. I always wanted it to feel homey and comfortable - a safe and welcoming place to create. But my style in 2008 as a 20-something was once described as "kind of a weirdo's college dorm room" by a visiting engineer, and that really resonated with me. My studio was a little too much of me, and it was meant to be a place for the artist. And as I grew older and wiser, my tastes did too, so I kept the comfortable vibe (we even added two dorm rooms, a full kitchen and full bath in 2018), but tried to make it look classy but neutral. I'm a big fan of vintage furniture, and it gives the studio a nice vibe without being too overwhelmingly whacky. One of the greatest improvements in the past five years was simply adding indirect natural light to the control room and main live room. Natural light is critical to a healthy creative environment (past age 23).

How do you decide what pieces of gear you bring into Russian Recording?

I like to have equipment that meets several criteria:

1. It's well-made and reliable.

2. It does not require excessive maintenance unless its purpose outweighs its neediness, which is almost never, since the purpose of equipment in a professional recording studio is to work.

3. Its controls are well-labeled and well-calibrated. Some unpredictable equipment is fun, but I usually feel that way about musical instruments and effects pedals (and some studio effects). But when it comes to preamps, compressors and EQs, I like to know how something is going to behave, and get the results I need quickly and reliably. If a piece of gear has a control labeled "sizzle" or "jet fuel" or something "creative" like that, I don't even consider it. The UBK Fatso is the only exception at the studio, and I've kept it around because it sounds awesome, and because I love to make fun of it for comic relief (sorry Gregory, this thing is awesome, and I use it on literally every session, but serial numbers that start with "420" and settings like Splat, Smooth, Spank, and Roasty are just plain silly).

4. It does something that other equipment I have doesn't do.

5. When I come across a need in the studio, and I am missing the tool that solves the problem. That's when I get something new, whether it's a Triad-Orbit mic stand, a Drawmer 500 series noise gate, or a Buzz Audio SOC-M Mastering Optical Compressor.

6. Beyond all that pragmatic mumbo jumbo, I am absolutely obsessed with obscure vintage equipment from the former Soviet Union and Japan. So we've got a ton of that too, including the most complete vintage Soviet and Japanese microphone collections in the world (I have a problem).

Was making the studio a destination where bands could stay with the comforts of home aka bedrooms, cats, and vinyl, always a part of the plan? What's the most enjoyable part of hosting bands and artists at the studio?

Yes - it was. My plan was always to have comfortable accommodations for out-of-town bands because we're in a small town in Indiana, but have one of the greatest American analog consoles and some of the coolest analog gear and microphone collections in the country. We also have a huge live room, a very well-tuned control room, and everything you could possibly want or need to make any kind of record at a fraction of the cost of comparable studios in bigger cities. So the plan was always to be a destination for out-of-town bands, producers, and engineers. In addition to the two dorm rooms, we also have two really nice Airbnbs above the studio that can be rented out for producers and artists.

We used to have four studio cats, but unfortunately, the studio has outlived most of them, and only one is left, Vivian. She was the "baby," and she's now 15. I don't think we'll end up getting more studio cats since we've had a lot of issues with artists with allergies (I had to record Phoebe Bridgers at Primary Sound on the other end of town).

And all the vinyl in our studio is all stuff that's been recorded or mastered here.

Tell us about one session that stands out as the greatest to go down at Russian Recording.

Well, there have been a lot of sessions here. And I'm not quite sure what would define "great," but one of the most memorable sessions I had was with the late great Jason Molina (RIP) of Songs: Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co. He booked the studio for three days, and said something along the lines of: "Mike, I don't know when I'll be in during those days. I'm only coming in when I feel like I've got something that needs to be recorded. So I just need you to be on call in case that happens. I might not come at all, but don't worry I'll still pay you."

He didn't show up or call on the first day. Then on the second day, he asked me to come pick him up and asked Mark Rice (his drummer, who had an art studio in the basement of the studio at the time) to play drums. He showed us the song he wrote, and then told me to set up and mic the drums, give him a vocal mic, and to play the guitar. We ran through it twice, and he said "That's the take I gotta go - finish up the song make it cool" and left. So I recorded a piano part, and added some bass and another acoustic, and that was the recording of Magnolia Electric Co's "It's Made Me Cry." I played him a rough mix I threw together of this song (and a few others we ended up doing that session) to see if he liked my parts, and he said, "That's it, this is perfect. I'm sending it into the label."

  What are your plans for the future of your studio?

Hope that my kids take interest and want to take it over. Man, what I would've given to have a studio like this when I was a teen.

Andy CatlinSee something you like in this blog? Got analog gear fever? We're here to help! Please contact a Vintage King Audio Consultant via email or by phone at 866.644.0160.