Engineers: Arjen van der Schoot, Aram Verwoest,Richard Landers
Date: February 12, 2008
The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen is the name of the recording studio that Frank Zappa built and used extensively at his home for many of his recordings. The studio was completed on September 1, 1979 and the recording of several songs that were eventually released on the album You Are What You Is began in July, 1980. Today Dweezil Zappa record at UMRK and mixes his numerous album, live and archival projects there.
Arjen: I remembered an interview with Frank Zappa in Keyboard Magazine back in 1986.I was 16 then and basically divided my time between playing Zappa records, and waiting for the next one. In the interview he talked about an echo room in his house, a narrow but long and very high concrete room dedicated to reverb:
Frank Zappa: "One reason we use the echo chamber is that certain types of percussive sounds, when introduced into a digital reverb program that may be a long program, don't sound right. That program may be good for everything else in the composition that is not so spikey. But the spikey stuff in there tends to sound bogus. So what we do is use live echo quite often for the percussion-type things, and use echo programs with more harmonic content on the strings or brass or things whose duration you want to increase."
Arjen: "So 22 years later, when I saw a tech support email from Dweezil in the Audio Ease mail box I took the opportunity to ask him about that room. A couple of months later Aram and I took the day before the NAMM show and went up to the house to team up with Dweezil and Richard. We recorded the studio live room with our DPA 4006 TL's and the adjoining echo chamber using the speaker and microphones that were in there. Luckily they were set up exactly the way Frank had left them, showcasing Dweezil's dedication to authenticity."
For background information on the echo chamber I later contacted Mark Pinske, the engineer with the most experience with the room.
He told me: “I remember almost everything we did in the large chamber.
We would use PZM's on the walls, C-12 and Neuman FET u 47's. Sometimes we would close mic the speakers and add in a resonance from the various distance speakers like they did with Jimmy Hendrix at Electric Ladyland. On "No Not Now" we used the walls a lot. I would have the guys sing into the walls and mic off of them with the parabolic PZM mics. There are a huge number of recordings that Frank and I did with that room. Many times we would feed the vocals into it to add some natural reverb. Remember, the digital reverbs were not as good then so we had to use the real room sounds more.”