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Fantasy Studios

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Berkeley, California

Pro Tools HD

Saul Zaentz

United States

Fantasy Records

Type of business
Recording Studio

Fantasy Studios httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

Dates Active
1971 (private), 1980 (public), remodeled 2007

Analog SSL 8056 & 4000E, Digidesign C24

Fantasy studios

Fantasy Studios is a recording studio in Berkeley, California, at the Zaentz Media Center, known for its recording of award-winning albums such as Journey's Escape and Green Day's Dookie. Built as a private recording studio for artists on the Fantasy Records label in 1971, it was opened to the public in 1980 for recording, mixing and mastering. Fantasy Studios continues to operate as a full-service recording studio for the music, television, film and gaming industries.


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Fantasy Records

Fantasy Records and its subsidiary, Galaxy, were established in San Francisco, California, in 1949 by Max and Sol Weiss. The first artist on the label was Dave Brubeck. With help from profits earned from his records the label went on to record Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Cal Tjader and Vince Guaraldi. In addition to musical acts, the label recorded beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg and comic Lenny Bruce.

Creedence Clearwater Revival and expansion

Saul Zaentz, who joined Fantasy Records as a salesman in 1955, assembled a group of investors in 1967 and purchased the label from the Weiss brothers. In 1968 Fantasy Records signed Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR), who soon became extremely profitable for the label. Within eighteen months, twenty of CCR's singles made Billboard Hot 100 list and nine were consecutive Top 10 singles in the US. The band also earned 21 RIAA-certified gold or platinum records with total sales of over 100 million worldwide. These successes for CCR made Fantasy the most profitable independent record company in the U.S. and directly resulted in the expansion of Fantasy Records.

In 1971 Fantasy Records relocated to Berkeley, California. In addition to a lobby area, the building included a sauna, an exercise room and a lunch room, which until 1981 was catered daily by Narsai's Restaurant in Kensington. The sauna and exercise room were later rebuilt for other purposes.

In the early 1970s, under the leadership of label president Ralph Kaffel, Fantasy Records purchased the catalogs of three independent jazz labels: Prestige, Riverside (established in 1953 by Bill Grauer and Orrin Keepnews) and Milestone, which Keepnews started in 1966 after the demise of Riverside. After the acquisitions the company became known as "Fantasy Inc."

Recording studios

Fantasy built Fantasy Studios to accommodate its growing roster, which remained primarily jazz artists but included some in rock, soul and disco. The building went up at 10th and Parker Streets in the western industrial area of Berkeley. Because of the source of funding, it was nicknamed "The House That Creedence Built." Fantasy was the most profitable independent record company in the U.S. Jim Stern, who had served as producer for the Sons of Champlin and Van Morrison, was chief engineer from 1974 until 1981. Jesse Osborn was another early engineer along with Eddie Bill Harris and Don Cody.

Each of Fantasy Studios' three rooms was built to serve a specific purpose:

Studio A

At 1,344 square feet, Studio A could accommodate a traditional big band, and included a DeMedio console. Small audiences could be brought in to give a recording date the feel of a live album, as Keepnews did for a 1973 Cannonball Adderley date, resulting in the album Inside Straight. Studio A also had a projection booth, pull-down screen and portable mixing console that was built for film mixes. During those early years Fantasy also had a film unit and its films (mostly promotional pieces for the label's artists) were mixed in Studio A. The film unit was headed up by Irving Saraf and Bob Zagone, two Bay Area documentary filmmakers. Feature films were mixed in Studio A as well, including Academy Award winners One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Apocalypse Now, Amadeus and The English Patient.

Studio B

Studio B, at 546 square feet, was used mostly for smaller acts and comedy records, and was typically used for overdub sessions. Like Studio A, it too used a DeMedio console.

Studio C

Studio C was built expressly for CCR, with a separate entrance. Parts of their albums Mardi Gras and Pendulum were recorded there, and the Live in Europe album was mixed there. John Fogerty recorded The Blue Ridge Rangers in Studio C and was in residence there until he left Fantasy in 1974. At 888 square feet, Studio C was also the site of a film soundstage and Foley pits. Studio C was the only studio at Fantasy which used an API console. Studio C was closed to the public in 2008 with the space taken over by another Zaentz Media Center tenant.

Studio D

From the profits of the 1975 Zaentz-produced film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fantasy Studios expanded further in 1980 with the addition of an adjoining seven-story building which included a fourth recording room, Studio D. It also marked the point at which all rooms became open for use by the public for recording, mastering and film scoring.

The new Studio D was designed by Tom Hidley and constructed by Sierra Audio. The control room featured an automated Neve 8108 board, Hidley monitors, Ampex 16 and 24 track recorders and a Studer 24-track recorder. At 1,500 square feet, the live room was built with multiple interior surfaces (unlike the other three rooms): one side of the room featured bass traps, cork and rock on the walls for a "dead" sound; the other featured hard wood floors and ceiling, and mirrored walls for a more "live" sound.

One of first albums to be recorded and mixed in its entirety in the newly opened Studio D was Journey's Escape, which reached #1 on the Billboard 200 Chart. The album contained such hits as "Open Arms" (which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 List), "Who's Crying Now" (reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 List) and "Don't Stop Believin'" (reaching #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 List). Fantasy Studios' staff engineer Wally Buck worked as Assistant Engineer on the album.

Studio management

The expansion of the studios can be accredited to the leadership of a new Studio Director, Roy Segal, hired in 1980 by the label to manage the studios. One of his first initiatives—along with the addition of Studio D—was to purchase new equipment and perform an acoustical upgrade to the rooms. Such upgrades included removing carpet from the studio floors and installing bass traps and tiling for the walls in an effort to acoustically tune the rooms. Equipment upgrades included replacing the original consoles in Studios A and C with Neve 8108s and a Trident in Studio B.

In 1982, Segal was asked to manage the three-year-old Saul Zaentz Film Center, at which point he brought in Nina Bombardier to manage the studios. Bombardier started with Fantasy in 1973 as a receptionist, then moved to manage the Record Plant in Sausalito. She served as the director of Fantasy Studios from 1982 to 2007.


Concord Records acquired Fantasy in late 2004 and the two labels merged to form Concord Music Group. Concord Music Group owned the studios through 2007, at which point the new owners of the Saul Zaentz Media Center, Wareham Property Group, purchased the studios. The role of Studio Director was filled by music producer Jeffrey Wood upon Bombardier's departure. The current staff engineers are Adam Muñoz, Jesse Nichols and Alberto Hernandez.

Today, Studio A contains an SSL Duality SE console and Studio D uses an SSL 4000E console. Studio B contains a Digidesign C24. In November 2011, Studio D saw an update to its floors wherein hardwood cherry flooring replaced the original half-wood, half-carpet installment. There are five working natural echo chambers of varying sizes and tones, accessible from all three control rooms.

In addition to recording music, Fantasy Studios currently sees clients in the film, television, gaming and audio book industries for additional dialog recording sessions. All studios are ISDN-compatible, providing full-frequency audio and real-time connectivity to other recording studios around the world.

There are two full-time mastering engineers on site: George Horn and Joe Tarantino. Over his career, George has remixed or remastered albums by artists such as Charles Mingus, The Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Santana. Joe Tarantino has mastered albums by artists such as Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. To this day, both Horn and Tarantino work with clients on mastering new albums, as well as update classic records to have a modern sound.

Selected major releases by year

  • Jack Nitzsche - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Original Soundtrack), 1975
  • Journey - Escape, 1981
  • Journey - Frontiers, 1983
  • Europe - The Final Countdown, 1986
  • Soda Stereo - Signos, 1986
  • Too Short - Life Is… Too Short, 1988
  • Bobby McFerrin - Simple Pleasures, 1988
  • Chris Isaak - Heart Shaped World, 1989
  • Primus - Sailing the Seas of Cheese, 1991
  • En Vogue - Funky Divas, 1992
  • Green Day - Dookie, 1994
  • Blues Traveler - Four, 1994
  • Rancid - …And Out Come the Wolves, 1995
  • Jawbreaker - Dear You, 1995
  • Santana - Supernatural, 1999
  • Santana - Shaman, 2002
  • Richard Thompson - Grizzly Man (Original Soundtrack), 2005
  • Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me, 2010
  • Bill Frisell - All We Are Saying, 2011
  • Iggy & the Stooges - Ready to Die, 2013
  • References

    Fantasy Studios Wikipedia

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