In 2011, longtime Long Beach resident Brian Frederick was ready for a change. The local music scene at the time left him wanting more, so he shut down his recording studio, Secret Hills Studios, and re-rooted in L.A. He found an apartment across the street from his new second home, Serenity West Recording Studio, whose clientele includes the likes of Adele, Dr. Dre, Aerosmith and The Roots.
Through the next three years, he came up through the “program” — starting at the bottom of the food chain as an intern taking lunch orders and running errands. After a year, he was promoted to assistant sound engineer, picking up every trick of the trade from a motley of mentors, then to staff engineer the following year, taking on clients like Wiz Khalifa, DJ Quik and Backstreet Boys.
He left the studio when Isabella of Florence and the Machine tapped him to be her audio engineer in the States. When their daily morning sessions at Bedrock Studios slowly faded out due to her extensive touring schedule, Frederick found himself at a crossroads. He could either stay in the freelancing world — which he found increasingly demoralizing — or with the help of some investors and friends, he could take a wild chance back in his hometown and manifest an unprecedented business idea he had.
Last Saturday, 3 Pt. Studios celebrated its grand opening with the local music community. Nestled in an old manufacturing building in northwest Long Beach, it shares a roof with friend and local musician Miguel Vasquez’s Stacks FX, which launched five new original pedals on Saturday. The idea, Frederick explains, is to have instant and direct feedback from the musicians who come through the studio. The prototype goes back and forth between the studio and the workshop until it’s in its best shape.
Both operate under Castalia Productions Company, of which Frederick is COO. They’re also in the process of developing Talent Event Solutions, which under the direction of Jon Zell of MOVE, will hire musicians for corporate parties, weddings and other high-end festivities.
“I keep describing it as water flowing downhill,” Frederick, 31, says. “It just finds a way, and I keep getting these amazing people around me that can take the concept and really do it justice. That’s what I felt was missing out of Long Beach when I left that’s here now — there’s a sense of ownership over our future.”
He’s changed too since the last time he ran a studio in Long Beach. He’s developed a nurturing style of producing and working with musicians, and with new experience under his belt, he feels confident in his ears, engineering and producing chops. He’s also recruited locally renowned sound engineer J.P. Bendzinski to join the staff. Plus there’s a new sense of community embedded in his practice.
“What L.A. taught me is, it’s about how you work with people, the vibes and energy of what you’re able to bring out from the performance,” says Frederick, who will be recording local jazz/soul/reggae group Via Leaves’ first studio album in the coming months. “There’s an openness among engineers in Los Angeles that I learned so much just by exposure in that time. You can’t steal someone else’s recording tips — we’re helping each other hear.”
Frederick met Vasquez a few years back when he engineered a record for Wild Pack of Canaries, which Vasquez played bass on (he also plays for Bobby Blunders). Vasquez, a 29-year-old Oxnard native, ran a shop in the same building, where he fixed, built and experimented with gear. The two shared many late nights hanging out and “throwing ideas at the wall,” Frederick explains.
Both of them began experimenting with their respective crafts at a young age. Vasquez, who never had formal training in electrical engineering (he studied audio engineering), says he learned how things worked by taking apart the TV set, telephone and whatever else he could get his hands on. When he started playing music, he became the go-to guy to fix his friends’ gears. He then began building his own. His nickname became Stacks.
“It’s hard to explain to people that what I do is my passion, my hobby, my obsession,” he says. “I’m feeding all those three at once. It doesn’t feel like work. When you find something that doesn’t feel like work, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Stacks FX’s next project is to develop the “ultimate dub production” pedal, in cooperation with Mike Happoldt of the Sublime and Long Beach Dub Allstars fame.
“There’s just this beautiful energy going on in this town right now,” Frederick says. “You can’t really deny it … there’s no reason why we can’t have an insanely thriving supportive music scene down here."