North of Lake Pontchartrain off of Hwy 59 in Mandeville, Louisiana sits a fine example of acoustic perfection. And nestled within its walls lies both a rich history and a promising future for the world of music. I am talking about Rabadash Studios, home to Rabadash Records, owned by John Autin. But in order to properly acquaint you with these elements I must first take you back some fifty-three years to a building located at 52 W 8th Street in New York’s Greenwich Village that would come to be known as Electric Lady Studios.
Working for an architect firm by day and playing in a band by night, a man by the name of John Storyk decided to take a volunteer position as a carpenter converting a loft in SoHo to a bohemian theater of a club known as Cerebrum back in 1969. His work caught the eye of the one and only Jimi Hendrix who hired John to build a club just like it. But Hendrix would quickly pivot from building a club similar to Cerebrum, to building a recording studio. It would be the only artist-owned recording studio in existence at the time. And this became the famous Electric Lady Studios, cementing Storyk’s place in history as one of the greatest acousticians of our time.
Fast forward to the year 2005. Hurricane Katrina had hit the Gulf Coast and a guy by the name of Dave Fortman, former guitarist for Ugly Kid Joe, was in search of a new home for his own Balance Studios. Years before, and for years to come, Balance Studios produced and engineered for such groups as Down, Superjoint Ritual, Evanescence, Slipknot and Eyehategod to name a few. Fortman found his new headquarters in an empty 4,000 sq. ft. building in Mandeville, Louisiana. He enlisted the services of John Storyk to design his new studio whom by now with his firm, Walters-Storyk Design Group, had designed and built studios for such artists as Alecia Keys, Bob Marley, Jay-Z, and Whitney Houston. Construction began and as fate would have it, even the contractor hired to build this studio was himself a musician. Doesn’t this all feel so good already?
As warm and fuzzy as this all may feel, Balance Studios would only reside there for a year or so. But this building would still play host to a different recording studio for nearly two decades. And THAT, if you’re still with me boys and girls, is the chronological spaghetti that leads us to the spicy meatball on our plate known as Rabadash Studios. The legacy continues to this day within that building, and the Chef du Jour is John Autin.
From the street one would never guess the precise architecture contained within its outer shell. For all intents and purposes, it looks like a plain warehouse. And prior to John being able to secure the building, it was actually slated to be gutted and used as storage space for a lighting company. But luckily, before this travesty could ensue, the building owner’s son Nick LaRocca, who was also a musician, walked through and recognized its original purpose and future potential. You might say the vibe from this building has resonated with musicians since day one. Because even the LaRoccas are a musical family that are very important historically in New Orleans. Nick was named for his father’s uncle, who recorded the very first jazz record with the original Dixie Land Jazz Band back in 1917.
Even just past its skin, this unassuming warehouse is made with nine insulative layers. Torrential downpours do not faze the acoustic integrity within. Every single piece of wood, every single piece of fabric, every piece of glass was placed just so by Storyk himself. The spacious live room is optimized sonically, providing an intimate setting ideal for tracking and overdubbing drums, horn sections, strings ensembles or vocalists. The wood floors and trim throughout are absolutely gorgeous. Large fabric panels and track lighting accentuate the area.
Through triple glass, the control room looks directly into this space and is flanked on either side by isolation booths. The monitoring system is custom designed by Dynaudio. Near fields, midfields, and large built-in natural wood faced monitors give arguably the best mixing environment in Louisiana. The back wall of this space ship is an architectural masterpiece where Storyk intended sound to be deposited, never to be heard from again. Twenty years ago, this concoction totaled over four million dollars. But as I stood there that day setting up for our interview, I couldn’t help but feel it was priceless.
Before the interview with John began, he was kind enough to give me a tour of the facility. Beyond the front door and past the foyer, there is a long open-area workspace. An antique organ caught my eye as John turned my attention to the full kitchen. The building sleeps six for out-of-town bands on a budget, and even has a full bath and shower upstairs. The second level housed a sound board, monitors, and screens dedicated to his newly launched Rabadash Radio. It is currently streaming online and you can find that link below along with a link to our interview footage.
In our interview, John outlined what he expected of artists interested in recording at his studio, as well as what they can expect from him. He stressed the importance of artistic freedom “almost to a fault” as he put it and touched on his methods for focusing on the artist’s strengths, allowing those elements to shine through in his mix. His decades of experience in the music business are further fortified by Platinum Record award winning engineer/ producer Marc Hewitt. Marc has been involved in the music business since 1981 and in his capacity as a sound engineer, producer, and musician has worked with such artists as Aaron Neville, Art Neville, Allen Toussaint, Fats Domino among many others.
John’s presence was a comfort. And combined with the spacious, relaxed atmosphere, I could see how an artist would feel free to create in this realm. From a business standpoint, recording here would be an intelligent move as well, both for the many years of experience John and his staff have, and the fact that Rabadash Records has been in business as a label for over forty years. I enjoyed my time at Rabadash Studios with John Autin. And I hope that the musicians out there reading this will consider recording their next project there.
John Autin Interview on our Youtube
John Autin Interview on our Podcast
Rabadash Studios website
Rabadash Records website
Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.