It’s not the first time, John Storyk has changed his business vision. In 1968, fresh out of Princeton, he got a job working on a club in New York City. And, as the story goes, he made architectural suggestions, the owners liked them, and thus the club “Cerebrum” was born. The story really took shape though, when Jimi Hendrix went to the club and hired Storyk to design a club for him. With the help of engineer Eddie Kramer, that club became a studio, one of the few larger facilities still standing. Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village is now nearly 50 years old.
While the studio was made famous by The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie, today’s artists still record there including Lana Del Rey, Daft Punk, Beck and Adele.
Nearly 30 years ago, meeting his soon to be wife Beth Walters, Storyk merged their careers to form Walters-Storyk Design Group (WSDG). Today, they have offices in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Europe, Latin and South America, Mexico and Asia. WSDG has created over 4000 recording studios, audio/video production/post production suites, educational facilities, corporate distance-learning environments and conference rooms, hotel clubs, performance venues including Jazz at Lincoln Center and countless private home theaters.
Storyk says, “I never dreamed this would happen. I am an architect and a piano/sax player. I love music and architecture and the two got combined in this beautiful serendipitous moment in the summer of 1968.”
While admittedly, the music business has changed, and that can be difficult to accept, it can be fun at the same time, Storyk ventures. The era of large “rent by the hour” studios more or less ended 10 or 15 years ago, but he saw it coming. “The collective nervousness that seems to be around our industry, doesn’t scare me. Maybe it is because I am a little older and have seen a lot of cycles; economic and technological cycles.”
Every time somebody writes a story about studios dying, Storyk laughs. “That’s about the furthest thing from the truth. What is dying for all intents and purposes is one form of a business model. Studios have been my passion and strangely enough they still are.” In fact, he says, there are more studios being built than ever before, they are just owned by different entities.
This photo, taken by Matthew Wright, is the new mix room at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, PA
More music is being produced than ever, and where is that music being made? In a studio. “Consequently, we can’t keep up with the work. We also just set up a research department so we can stay current. Initially Beth (Walters) and I were the sole owners of WDSG, but over the years, my former students who joined us as interns have now become our partners; again, a dream I could have never imagined.”
Since the ownership transformation about three years ago, WDSG has grown into other areas, architectural acoustics, building isolations acoustics, stadium systems, churches, conference rooms, home theaters. Storyk says, “instead of building 20 giant studios, we might build 30 smaller studios. They are now called artist studios even though not all of them are small!”
Storyk says that WSDG is “gear agnostic. We are much more concerned with certain types of gear over others. For example, speakers probably are the most important pieces of equipment for us to study and relate to. It is the speaker that connects directly to the architecture and the acoustics of the room.” He is also a fan of DSP processing power as well as analysis/prediction software that is now available.
At any given time, we are dealing with about 100 projects .“While some of the lower isolation projects are handled by others, I know about all the projects.” And, the key to such success he says, is that he is not afraid to make mistakes. “It’s how you learn! However, at the end of the day, artists are making music, and if there is music, it is going to be made somewhere.”