Master Plan: Joe Lambert Mastering – Jersey City, NJ

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Making a move is something Joe Lambert knows how to do – in more ways than one.

Lambert went solo in 2008, after a decade plus of mastering at bigger NYC houses. Hanging out his own shingle as Joe Lambert Mastering was a risk, but one that’s paid off as he built up a discography with the likes of Moby, Stevie Van Zandt, Of Montreal, and many many more.

Then it came time to make the next move – whether he liked it or not. When his longtime pro home base of 10 Jay Street told its tenants it was going condo, Lambert’s suite (along with several other music studios in the building), were officially on the endangered list.

It was time to panic or get practical, and Lambert did the latter. His investigation into the perfect next place took him across the Hudson River to Jersey City, but this move wasn’t a stretch for this mastering engineer who hosts a high percentage of attended sessions and also knows his vinyl.

To see why JC was perfect for JLM – and could very well be right for many more music mavens in the near future – get his perspective, in our latest “Master Plan.”

It sounds good in here -- Joe Lambert Mastering's new suite.

It sounds good in here — Joe Lambert Mastering’s new suite. (Photo credit: Roman Vail)

Facility Name: Joe Lambert Mastering

Website: http://www.joelambertmastering.com

Location: Jersey City, NJ

Clients/Credits: Moby, The National, Lindsey Stirling, Stevie Van Zandt, Sharon Van Etten, Animal Collective, Local Natives, City and Colour, Deerhunter, Toro Y Moi, Of Montreal, Stephen Sondheim, Darkside, Washed Out, Ian Hunter, Hiss Golden Messenger, Andrew Wyatt.

On the Move: We opened up JLM in DUMBO June of 2008. I wanted to find a place in Brooklyn but still be close to Manhattan. It was a fun neighborhood to be in. They recently changed the zoning, so the majority of the neighborhood is going residential.

The building we were in was one of them — they gave everyone three months notice to evacuate. I suspected it a little earlier, so I wanted to find a place before the end of last year. I wanted to be able to come in after the holidays and hit the ground running with the move behind me.

Quest for Space: I started looking around Brooklyn and Long Island City. First off, the prices seemed to have tripled since I was looking in 2008. More importantly, the few places I did like were all the kind of buildings I could see deciding to go residential in the near future. I was hesitant to build another place in that situation.

I saw an article in the NY Times about how Jersey City is starting to blow up, mainly because Brooklyn has become maxed out and people no longer can afford it. So I checked it out and was really liking it. I found a great spot right next to the Grove PATH station. It’s 8 minutes from Manhattan and is the perfect size and situation.

One of the big selling points for me was how helpful the building owners were with the buildout. They paid for the majority of the build! It saved me so much money. It’s a really good situation lease-wise for us and it’s a commercial property/workspace that I don’t have to worry about going co-op.

Improving the Room: This time I was able to build the room to the exact size I wanted. I loved the room I had at Trutone, (which was designed by John Storyk) so I wanted the same dimensions.

I wasn’t able to do that with the DUMBO room because of limitations in the space. The old room had a high loft ceiling.  We installed a series of clouds that helped, but I never loved it. This time we installed a lower acoustic panel “drop” ceiling that I like much better. Luckily I was able to use the majority of acoustic panels that Taytrix built for the last room so that saved a lot of money. I also put in better bass trapping for the new room. The low end in this room is noticeably better. It’s really tight! I’m very happy with it.

How to Move Studios…Without Getting Overwhelmed: I WAS overwhelmed! It was very stressful. It’s so difficult because you’re looking for the right area/space. It’s not like you can just pick a room with a nice view somewhere, good parking and set up your laptop. There are so many things to consider while making it work financially within the realities of the current music industry.

On top of that I still had to get all my day-to-day work done. I’m just starting to feel normal again.

The good news is we have a better facility now with room to grow. The only advice I would give someone is to pick an area you think will work long term. And try and plan ahead, because these things always take at least twice as long as you are told by contractors, architects and such.

Perfect Attendance: I have always done a high percentage of attended work. I try to be personable with my clients — maybe that’s part of it.

We have always encouraged those who can attend to do it. Especially if you haven’t made a record before. It’s great. You get to listen to your music in an environment that is likely to be the best-sounding experience you’re going to have. This is a very big reason we built the type of studio where we did, the way we did.

Clients make the trip to JLM on a regular basis.

Clients make the trip to JLM on a regular basis. (Photo Credit: Roman Vail)

Master Mind: I am a life-long musician and I also worked for several years in high end audio. It helped me develop a better appreciation and understanding of the difference between something sounding good and something sounding really magical.

While I was at Full Sail they would bring in different hot shot engineers to play us their mixes. They sounded really good, but not like the records I was listening to so I mentioned it to them and they of course said, “It’s not mastered yet”. So I asked, “What do you mean?” and the more I started engineering I felt that my skill set would work well in that field. Then I put my head down and starting working my butt off at it for the last 19 years or so.

It’s easy for me to stay passionate about mastering records. I get to work with so many different people. Many have become friends that I’ve made records with for years. I honestly feel like I’m just hitting my stride. I love being involved in the creative process.

How I Hear It: My approach is “Serve The Song.” What I mean by that is to simply listen to it and do whatever I can to make it as listenable or enjoyable as possible. Most decisions I make feel like common sense…a certain balance, dynamic range and such.

Then I have to take into account if the artist has a specific concern for this record.  For example, sometimes they ask me to make it heavier in low end than normal or a little brighter or more vocal centric. To me there is a place where I think it’s just “right.” Most of the time they say OK, but sometimes they want more (or less) of something so I will let them hear the difference. Then we make a decision and go from there.

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  • TK Gringer

    Joe Lambert is a master! Nice article. Look forward to visiting the new studio