In this 9th edition of the Brooklyn Studio Tour, we return to the Northside to visit the quintessential Brooklyn tracking and mixing room: Studio G . We also visit a pair of its most successful offshoots and a synth-head’s paradise near Kent Ave.
Studio G of Williamsburg is one of the busiest, and now, one of the biggest recording studios in all of New York City. It’s also one of the most quintessentially Brooklyn studios you could ever imagine.
The original Studio G was launched in the mid-90s by Tony Maimone, who was best known then – and perhaps now – as a bassist for wildly prolific cult artists like Pere Ubu, They Might Be Giants and Frank Black.
Maimone had moved into the neighborhood in 1986, back when Williamsburg was an epicenter of the crack epidemic, and the kind of place where you could still find a New York City apartment for a few hundred bucks a month.
At the time, crime rate in the neighborhood was roughly 400% of what it is now, but Maimone’s location was good. His space was just a few blocks from the 90th precinct, and sat on a busy, central corner right across from the famous Kellog’s Diner where cops parked their cars daily for meals.
Perhaps most crucially, the studio’s door sat directly atop the step of the staircase that leads up from the G train below. Anyone who visits the area regularly has probably passed the front door of the original Studio G dozens of times without knowing it.
Maimone became a fixture of the neighborhood, and he is still one today. He’s like the mayor of every block he walks down, always finding some familiar face to wave to or smile at.
Tony is midwesterner by birth, and those smiles come easy for him. He speaks slowly, entreatingly, with a cadence like a California surfer, and he has a round, ragged face deeply lined with decades worth of wide, boyish grins.
For a half-dozen years or so, Tony Maimone made a decent go of things by himself and with a series of short-lived partners at Studio G. But the story of his studio’s rise truly begins in 1999 when a young Joel Hamilton, then in his late-twenties, came knocking on Maimone’s door looking for work.
The Rise of Studio G
It would be too easy to cast Studio G as a place that was simply built on the right spot of ground at the right time, merely riding the rising tide of a gentrifying neighborhood.
While there is certainly lot of luck that factors into the success of any space, the story of Studio G’s growth is as much the story of Joel Hamilton’s growth as anything else.
“He’s really my biggest influence as far as engineers and producers go,” Tony Maimone says of the young engineer who quickly became his partner. “Joel Hamilton is right up at the top of the heap.”
“I mean, I haven’t met a ton of engineers,” he adds, qualifying his statement, searching the room for words before beaming at me again. “I mean, I haven’t met George Martin. But I have met some top guys. He’s on that level.”
Normally, this is the part of the article where I’d add some tempering words of clear-eyed skepticism. But I have to admit that on the topic of Joel Hamilton and Studio G, I’m completely biased. I’ll even go as far as to say that Joel is easily among my own personal heroes.
Part of his success comes from taste, talent, and hard work, but part of it is because he’s consistently looked to build up communities where others have looked to build up walls.
Hamilton seems to talk to everyone he meets like he’s known them for fifteen years, and has the assertive, but genial presence of a master politician. He’s just over 40 now, with the build of a college athlete and the eyeglasses of a 1990s proto-hipster.
He speaks regularly at conferences, has done volunteer work in AIDS-ravaged South Africa, and became a fixture of the Tape Op community, writing regular reviews and actively moderating their online messageboard at the peak of its popularity. He’s also a damn good mixer.
The original Studio G, which still operates today, measures in at a bit under 1,000 square feet. Maimone, Hamilton, and an evolving cast of assistants and interns ushered it from the days of ADATs and DIGI 001s, right up to its current iteration as a climate-controlled yet thoroughly vibey space decked out with a Neve console and racks full of esoteric and boutique audio gear.
Even the acoustic treatment at the original G is spirited and unique: The control room’s diffusers are comprised of countless hundreds of vinyl records. The ones in the live room are built of salvaged scrap wood pieced together over the course of a decade. Up above, glass bricks line the south side of the building near the ceiling, allowing natural daylight to stream into the space while maintaining complete privacy and sound isolation.
Studio G 5000
As the G became busy enough to warrant an expansion, Maimone and Hamilton set their sights on a new space just North of McCarren park, a few doors down from Nicolas Vernhes’ studio, The Rare Book Room.
The New Studio G is 5,000 square feet in total, with three ample, high-ceilinged production rooms. The flagship A room is home to an SSL G Series console and some of the choicest pieces of kit from the original G.
And as the space has grown, so has the crew: An in-house tech and a “small army of interns” have joined in at the new space, and a few new engineers, Jeff Hill, Hector Castillo and John White have been helping to keep all the extra rooms busy.
In addition to a museum-worthy collection of vintage mics and a wall of rack gear that would suit three studios its size, the A room comes equipped with a Bosendorfer grand piano. Taken by itself, an instrument like that could be reason enough to book the space.
But what the owners of Studio G know better than most is that the studio world does not operate on an “if you build it, they will come” basis. Decades worth of work and career development went into warrant building a studio like this one. If Maimone and Hamilton keep up their pace, it’s easy to imagine that the new G could have an even longer run than the original. I’d bet money on that, and clearly, so would the studio’s owners.
To that point, there’s plenty of forward-looking infrastructure built into the new G. A rooftop covered in state-of-the-art solar panels promises to push the studio’s electric meter back in the other direction. It should save them on day-to-day expenses, but it’s the kind of investment – much like a grand build-out and an SSL console – that could take more than a decade to pay off.
I’m fairly certain they’ll get that chance.
Tony Maimone and Joel Hamilton have gone through a significant number of interns, assistants and protégés over the years. One of them, John Davis, has gone on to help create what’s probably the second-biggest new studio in North Brooklyn.