At his 2,300-acre property downriver from El Paso, Tony Rancich, a John Malkovich look-alike with flaxen hair, plays two roles without skipping a beat: farmer and music man. He co-owns and operates a pecan orchard, whose nuts are sold to a subsidiary of the King Ranch, and owns Sonic Ranch, a “residential recording studio compound” that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Conor Oberst, and Ministry have called home. For weeks at a time, musicians and producers from around the world retreat to this refuge in Tornillo for the solitude, the homey vibe—Zenaida Sanchez, the cook, is regularly thanked in album liner notes—and the high-caliber equipment. In the largest studio on the property is Rancich’s crown jewel, the Neve Control Room. “This is where the tracking, or the recording of the music, takes place,” says Rancich. All hours of the day, band members, interns, and engineers can be found tweaking songs and writing lyrics here.
• A Studer A827 two-inch records 24 channels of analog music onto two-inch tape. Analog gives a kind of warmth that digital can’t.
• A Telefunken U47 is a high-end vintage tube mike. Frank Sinatra used to record on these.
• The left side of this console was the original West Coast Motown board. It was combined with another vintage Neve to form one of the largest of its kind in the world.
• Dirty Karma, a band from Mexico City, brought this in for inspiration while they recorded. They got it from a shaman from the Huichol tribe.
• The 1961 Gibson Les Paul Special is a very rock and roll guitar, with P-90 pickups.
• We have to clean the record and playback heads a couple times a day with Q-tips and alcohol.
• This Plexiglas tray was custom-made for this Neve because it’s sixteen feet long. Producers and engineers can wheel their computers up and down the console on it.
• A vintage ’65 Gibson Hummingbird is an extraordinary-sounding acoustic instrument. I think they put more care into making things back then.
• This vintage 1959 Fender Tweed Deluxe has a tone and sound that can’t be reproduced any other way.
Learn more about the state-of-the-art equipment and studios at Sonic Ranch by visiting sonicranch.com.
Although they’re Mexico City natives, the band Dirty Karma records their albums in English. Get to know them better through interviews and music videos posted on myspace.com/dirtykarma.
Quality audio and mixing equipment is a studio must. Ams-neve.com is the premier producer of consoles for television and music studios.
Vguitar.com is the online companion to the monthly magazine Vintage Guitar. Find in-depth articles and interviews with industry types and hundreds of classified ads for vintage guitars.
Arguably the maker of the best microphones in the world, Telefunken’s Web site, telefunken-elektroakustik.com, lists clients—Peter Gabriel, Van Halen, and Green Day—where to buy info, and a custom shop where you can personalize your microphone.