Life On The Road / 21 February 2018

Kato Khandwala Talks Sphere Studios and Influences

Kato Khandwala is a name synonymous with punk rock high-flyers, having produced albums for The Pretty Reckless, Blondie, Drowning Pool, and Pierce The Veil. He’s also worked with Paramore, Papa Roach, Breaking Benjamin and My Chemical Romance, among many others, so you know this man comes with a pedigree.

Besides his stellar productions, it’s his resting nest in the legendary Sphere Studios that has piqued our interest. Sphere Studios was founded by one Francesco Cameli, moving from the UK to North Hollywood, and has since invited hard-hitters like Khandwala to come in and produce award-winning recordings.

Aimed to inspire real musicians and producers who appreciate Sphere Studio’s nuances, we just had to speak to Kato Khandwala about the mysticism of the studios, and how it helps bring out the best in artists:

What’s your daily hustle like? How much of your work comes from you going out and meeting people versus jobs finding you?

No two days are the same. They all start the same with waking at sunrise and a peaceful morning routine. From there, anything goes! It could be a writing session, tracking session, mixes or meetings or a combination of all of them. I travel to do my projects to whatever location is appropriate for the artist I am working with, and that takes me to a lot of interesting and inspiring places.

My work comes mainly from word of mouth.

What are some of your influences when it comes to audio recording? What sorts of sounds influence you today?

My recording/production heroes are George Martin and Mutt Lange, the records they made have left an indelible mark on my psyche! As far as today’s music, I gravitate towards anything uniquely identifiable, honest and risky.

What are your philosophies about recording and capturing sound in a room? How important is the artist’s interaction with a studio space?

The rooms we record in become an integral part of the final product. I believe that working with the particular quirks of a studio is essential to giving a recording life. The artist’s interaction with the room provides the spirit. The hang and atmosphere is 90% percent of it for me. I need that people are comfortable and feel safe to experiment, that freedom leads to those special moments that last. Those special moments lead to joy and isn’t that why we do this to begin with?

Tell us a little bit about Sphere Studios; some of the biggest artists have recorded in there, but what would you say allures them in, and what’s in there that allows the making of a great album?

I can’t say what attracts other people to Sphere Studios, but I can tell you what I love about it. I love that it is a spare-no-expense facility that has a singular focus on sonics. Those sonics can be clean and pristine or full of attitude and vibe, all of the tools necessary are provided to make whatever you can dream up. There is no other place like it in the world.

It looks like everything or every prop was placed where it is on purpose. Like that mural of a snake on the walls, or the Galaga machine – is this a specific vision, or a thought process adhered to?

The thought process is simple, this is the stuff we like. If you like it too, we are going to get along great and hopefully make some memorable music together and have fun doing it.

Who’s got the high score on Galaga then?

I have no idea, except that it isn’t me!

How much time do you get to spend in the studio each week?

I spend 10 to 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week. That other day is probably a travel day.

You’ve got heaps at your disposal, but what is your favorite gear at the studio?

I could never declare a favorite, but my Martin HD-28 brings me a lot pleasure right now.

What advice would you give anyone starting a studio?

Do not do it unless you absolutely love it.

What “magic moment” first comes to mind when you think of the songs you’ve recorded?

The very first time I overdubbed myself on a 4 track cassette recorder in my bedroom.

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