After a two-year renovation and upgrade process, Silver Cord Studio—the home base of French metal band Gojira—recently opened to the public. Operated by Gojira frontman Joe Duplantier and engineer Jamie Uertz, the new and improved Silver Cord features two separate but interconnected studios, a spacious live room designed for bombastic drum sounds, and thoughtful interior design that sparks creativity the moment you walk in the door.
As part of the studio upgrade, Duplantier worked with Vintage King Audio Consultant Patrick Carpenter to outfit the studio with a new SSL Origin 32 console, eight additional Neve 1073 CV preamps, and a selection of “must-have” microphones, outboard gear, and synthesizers to offer bands and engineers who come to record. We spoke to Duplantier and Uertz about the studio’s history, the sonic and workflow benefits of an analog console, Gojira’s creative process, and more.
How long have you had this studio, and how has it evolved over time?
Joe Duplantier (JD): I’ve always had a way to record what I was doing, because me, my brother, and the rest of the band grew up in an area of France where there's not a lot of studios around. There's no big city nearby, so very early on, we started recording our own demos, and then we decided to record our own albums. When I moved to New York in 2009, I thought, “How am I going to work on Gojira by myself without a studio?” So, I decided to look for a cheap place, and a friend of mine helped me to find one in Ridgewood. And that's how it started—in this big empty warehouse space with no lights, no electricity, no heat. I had some chalk and I drew the plans to the studio directly on the floor. I started by myself and then I got help from Jamie, our sound guy Johan Meyer, and my brother Mario, the drummer. Mario helped to put in all the insulation, do the floor, paint the walls, and everything.
There were two different phases of the studio. There's the one up until 2020 and there's the new Silver Cord Studio. Instead of taking the advance from the record company back in 2014 and spending it all at a studio, we put everything into gear. We invested the money that artists usually spend on studios, and we used it to build our own. It was half-finished for maybe six years, but we did record two albums in there. There were all these little things I wanted to finish, I was missing some microphones and one day I wanted to get a real console in there. When the landlord doubled our rent in 2019, I needed to share the space with other artists, so my idea was to upgrade a little bit, bring it up to code, and organize things better.
What were you looking to improve when you decided to upgrade the studio, and how did you end up choosing the SSL Origin 32?
JD: The main thing I wanted was a console. I'd never thought I needed a real console, because I used to work in the box with a Control 24, but we realized we wanted something full of real wires and electronics and warmth; something musical that would change our workflow. Little did I know, it changes everything.
Jamie Uertz (JU): About a year ago or so, Joe was having a conversation with Gojira’s live sound engineer, Johan, who's a big gear nerd too. He said, “If you're gonna get a console, SSL has this new one,” and all of our favorite records, especially Andy Wallace's mixes, were done on an SSL. So it just made sense now that there's this console that’s more affordable than the other SSLs but still has the EQs and the routing. Will Putney, a producer, and engineer in New Jersey, had gotten an SSL Origin from Vintage King, and after talking to Will, we got hooked up with Patrick at Vintage King, and then once Joe and Patrick got to talking about the SSL, it just kind of snowballed into, “Why don't we get this? Why don't we get that?”
Cedric from Vintage King came to actually install the SSL and wire up a patch panel for us in the live room that goes to the control room, and that was amazing. Vintage King has been great about communicating, swapping stuff in and out, and adding stuff we forgot about. Now that we've had it for six months, everyone loves it. It's great.
JD: Now that we're working on an SSL, it's day and night in terms of workflow and the way it reacts. When you’re working in the box, sometimes it's hard to add high-end on guitars, for example, because it becomes aggressive. I find that on analog gear, it's never aggressive, so you can crank that high-end and it stays musical. That's what I like, and that's what I was looking for with the massive upgrade that we started two years ago.
JU: We also wanted to have some other gear in there that every studio has, so we got Distressors, 1176s, and Neve 1073s. But one of the really cool things we like to pitch is that we have a lot of in-house instruments and amps. We got the Kahayan amp-switching system, so we have the ability to switch between eight heads and four cabs, which is great. And of course, with the Gojira connection, a lot of people have sent Joe pedals, so we have a killer pedal collection.
You also revamped your B room. What improvements did you make?
JD: My friend Elliot Hoffman, the drummer from Car Bomb, built a room upstairs on top of the control room but never really finished it. He brought it to life and we recorded a few vocals and things, but eventually, I took over and changed everything in there. I built a vocal booth and made it an extension of what we have downstairs. The patch bays can communicate, so you can have your bass amp upstairs or use the vocal booth while you’re tracking in the live room downstairs. Or, you could start a project downstairs and finish it upstairs because it’s a cheaper room. We charge $50 an hour upstairs, and for New York, that’s pretty cheap. You have access to almost all the microphones in the studio and there's a really nice vocal booth. There's a vibe when you enter studio B, like you could be in the twenties or something. If it wasn’t for the computer, you could feel like you're in a different time, which I really love.
Which monitors do you use, and why were they the right choice for the studio?
JU: We've had the Genelec 8351s for about five years now, and they really changed the game for us, so we got two more for Studio B. We wanted to have the same speakers in both studios so you can easily transition from one room to the next. I even have a small mix room at my house in Atlanta just so I can do some mixing there, and I had to buy the same ones because they're so good and the mixes translate perfectly. They're controlled by this SAM system and you set them up with a reference mic that's calibrated just for those speakers. We also added a Genelec 7380A subwoofer in the control room, and that's taken some getting used to because all of a sudden we have this incredible low end. We've played around with the crossover and level, and I think we have it dialed in now.
The studio also got a major redecoration and reorganization with this upgrade. Tell me about that process and why those aspects of the studio were important to you.
JU: We both had the same vision about how we wanted the studio to look, down to the lighting. We were picking out wallpaper and light switches, and people were like, “Why do you care about that?” But in the end, it matters. I know it sounds crazy, but we spent a lot of energy and time on wallpaper. Now, when people walk into the studio, the first thing we hear is usually like, “Holy shit, this place is gorgeous. I wanna record here.” It’s a really nice vibe.
JD: There's something to say about organization in a studio, too. When you need a fuzz pedal, you can't spend an hour looking for it. Maybe it's in this box, maybe it's on top of this shelf. You have to have a spot for everything in the studio. That was a big challenge for me, but it was almost at the core of everything. I’ve done a few sessions since the revamp and I'm amazed to find things. This microphone belongs on this shelf, this one that’s a little fancier is in this closet that has a key, the key belongs in this drawer, all the pedals are here—you know what I mean? We also moved the computer to the side. It used to be in front of us, and now it's on the side because what's most important is the sound. We’re not trying to use our eyes, we’re trying to use our ears. Organization, workflow, and having a real console changes everything.
You acquired a few new synthesizers, notably the Moog Grandmother, Subsequent 37, and Korg MS-20. What makes a synth interesting to you, and how did you choose those instruments?
JD: I had a Korg MS-10 for years that I bought on eBay, and at first I thought that thing was broken because there were no presets or anything on it, so I was like, “What the heck? There's just noise.” But then you find out there are all these things you can get from it, and you understand more about waves and sounds when you dive into a synth like that.
One day, Jamie brought in this completely beat-up, old-school vintage Moog from the sixties that a friend of a friend acquired, but it wasn't working very well. I decided we need a couple of good synths, so I asked around about what's best, and that's how I came to buy the Sub 37 and the Grandmother.
What do you think sets the new Silver Cord apart from other New York studios?
JD: Our studio is pretty famous in New York for having a good live room for drums; you can get a great drum tone in there. People say that if you have one good preamp, one EQ, and one killer, versatile microphone, you don't need a whole studio; but the minute you do a project with drums involved, all of a sudden you need not one channel but like 20 if you want to do things right and be flexible. If you're in an electronic studio or a hip-hop studio, you don't even need a console, but being a rock studio, we want to track killer drums. I spend a lot of time thinking about drum recording. I even bought a ride and a snare stand recently. I'm not even a drummer, but I buy drum gear!
JU: At least for New York City, we’ve got a large live room. It's like 26 by 25 by 12 feet. And we have two studios. There's what we call Studio A, which has the big live room and control room with the SSL, Neve preamps, and all the great outboard gear. Upstairs is what we call Studio B, which is just one room with a vocal booth, but it has Pro Tools and a couple of really great preamps and stuff. We also have a lounge and a really killer workspace attached to it. There's a guy that comes to the studio every Friday and fixes guitars and amps, so that's a cool thing I think we have to offer bands that are recording. We’ve got a guy that can come in and set up all your guitars, fix anything that's wrong and work on your amps.
What’s your approach to recording Gojira in the studio?
JD: We take our time to record an album. It's usually a pretty long process, and it kind of changes on every album. I like to experiment, so there are always new things going on each time we record. Mario lived in New York for years, so both of us were here, and then we would fly the other guys in for ten days to jam and find ideas together. Sometimes we fly them in just to record demos, and then Mario and I will fine-tune and stuff like that. And then, when it's time to track, we start with drums and the guys will fly in for a few days here and there to track other stuff.
And what should other bands expect when they come in to record?
JU: It usually starts with drums, some scratch tracks, and click, of course. Then, the drums get cleaned up and quantized—or not, depending on the band. And then we overdub guitar, bass, or whatever order they want to go in. We have done a band live, too: this band called MCLOUD from Lithuania. Joe recorded them all live and I mixed it, and it wound up coming out incredible. They literally got off a plane from Lithuania with nothing. No amps, no guitars—nothing. We put them all in a room, set up a shit-ton of mics and they did it live with some overdubs for synths and vocals and stuff. It was a really cool energy; it sounds like a wild bunch of dudes from Lithuania all in a room going nuts.