A professional sound engineer, who honed his skills back in his native Chile, Martinez has worked in a number of studios and corporate entities after coming to the Unites States in 2002. But he had his eye on creating a place of his own, where he could use his creative skills and still help others in the music industry.
Opening his own recording studio, however, was a costly investment, which he didn’t bite off all at once. Instead, he collected pieces a little at a time, stashing them away for when he would have enough equipment, enough capital, and a space of his own.
In April 2012, all these things came together and he managed—with the blessing and support of his very patient wife, Loreto—to open L&I Studio at 47 Kennedy Boulevard, two blocks from the foot of the Bayonne Bridge.
What did it take to see his dream come true?
“I spent eight years buying equipment,” he said. “But I had a lot of support from my wife. That’s what really drove me.” This is why he named the studio L&I after her first name and his. They have been married 11 years.
Sound is serious business
Located in Unit C of an industrial building, the studio is surprisingly versatile with a small reception area that displays a vintage Teac reel-to-reel multi-track recorder, homage to an earlier era. Multi-track recording has long given way to more sophisticated digital technology, and yet some classic rock albums such as the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” owe their layers of sound to such machines.
Most of Martinez’s business comes from budding rock and roll stars, although the studio can accommodate almost any kind of music short of a full symphony orchestra (and perhaps even that with a squeeze). With its numerous rooms, it can isolate each performer to get pure tracks from each without spill.
The studio has a rehearsal room near the front entrance where performers can get in the groove before a session or just find a place to perform where they aren’t disturbing the neighbors back home. The garage band of previous eras is often not fully appreciated in today’s crowded urban environment.
“This room is just for rehearsals, not recording,” Martinez said, showing off each room like a new father. “This is the smallest room that I have. We have everything, amplifier, drums, PA system, and microphones. I have a lot of microphones. The only things musicians have to bring are their instruments, cable and cymbals and drum sticks. I have the stands, the drum set.”
The control room with its large window lets Martinez look into the main recording studio, the instrument lights from the control panel lighting up his face.
A musician in his own right, Martinez said he has a passion for sound.
“I play some guitar, but this is my art—recording and sound,” he said. “I’ve been doing sound professionally since 2000. I went to college in my country, and I worked for one of the biggest sound companies, and they hired me right away as an engineer.”
When he arrived in the United States, he took a job as main sound engineer for a company that did corporate work.
“I worked freelance in some studios as well,” he said. “Then I had a studio in my basement, and when I had enough gear to start up in a bigger place with a real professional sound, I decided to open the studio here in Bayonne because I live here. I like to add something to the community, something really professional, but with good rates, and a professional environment.”
Although he wants to work with musicians, he cautions that they come to his place to work, not party.
“I have experience with all kinds of music from orchestra to heavy metal, jazz, blues, meringue, salsa, and others,” he said, although the people who hire the studio tend to be into rock and roll. “It is the universal language,” Martinez said.
He said he has done orchestra recordings by sections, not the entire orchestra at once. A few of his clients come from New York City, but most are from Hudson County, primarily Bayonne, Jersey City, and Hoboken.
With the help of his family, he built the studio from scratch.
“I designed the studio and did the construction with my brother-in-law,” he said. “We did all the wiring. I am a sound engineer, but I’m also an acoustic engineer.”
He has three rooms for recording.
“I can have everyone on headphones separate from each other, so I can record a full band, multi- track with more isolation.”
Musicians book by the hour.
While he has yet to get any sitars or other exotic instruments, he said they would be welcome as well. He also hasn’t attracted any famous musicians yet, though he would like to someday.
He said he also provides setups, such as sound equipment, for live acts that a band or performer could use when performing at a club or other performance space.
“My services are recording, live sound, rehearsals, and restoration,” he said.
For live acts, he can bring an array of speakers, floor monitors, mixing board, microphones, and instruments if necessary.
Restoration means helping to save sound from old media such a records, old reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, even 1970s-era eight-track tapes.
“I can restore sound,” he said. “Sometimes people have mixes on their reels from the ‘70s or ‘80s, and they want to re-master it and boost the sound for a better quality. I love doing that because you have to conserve the original sound, but don’t want to clean the sound too much or you lose the original feel.”
What does he listen to when he goes home and puts on the headphones to relax?
“I like any kind of rock,” he said.
Back home in Chile, he frequented live venues to catch local acts.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.