Yes, pals... jokingly, I fussily specified where Stefano's studio is... a small, tidy and tiny town, near a mid-sized city in Northern Italy, only few dozens miles from Slovenia and Austria's borders.
It's out of the fast highways of music industry, like Paris, Milan, Berlin, London or NYC... one of the reasons of ArteSuono studio's successes and awards, but not the main one...
I arranged to visit Stefano Amerio's studio, early this week and we timely met at his place for an informal chatting which I planned in ten minutes, as I well knew how to approach, out of my own and my readers curiosity, the matter.
Sometimes a sound engineer suffers of youth average music-playing and relative stresses... i.e. - not being a musicians but loving music, got a studio... sure not Stefano's case.
He got formal classical music education and played piano most of his life... but as a young, he also got intrigued by rock and jazz, and - most of all - by live music, attending, still in his teens, to gigs at a local place called "Cadillac", where he met top musicians like Glauco Venier, Giovanni Maier, U.T. Gandhi and others which are still good, best friends since then.
While chatting with Stefano, what was more than apparent was the friendships bonding in music, good food and good time and... humbleness and no-frills overall-approach to life.
This 47 years old professional, who recorded 1.500+ disks, 40+ for ECM, but also for ACT, Label Bleu and... have a look here below for an impressive list, candidly told me and remembered when he got a loan from his dad to buy some car-worth costing studio equipments, namely Tascam's gears,with a promise - i.e. if you will not be able to make your living on these gears after one year, you'll find a job, or something...
A job vs. a mission... something which is hard work, looooong hours of attention to details, patience, but, also a skill which is more of an artisan than a technician or an electronic clerk of some sort.
ArteSuono... all is in these words, the name of Stefano's own studio and record label... Arte, art of course, which is music and good taste, a broad sense of aesthetic, from what sounds good to a listener ears to the pleasure of handling a nice disk jewel box and Suono, sound... because music played in an anechoic room doesn't contain all its information, harmonics, decay and infinite fractalities which can make also a glass crashing on the floor a musical event... when properly captured on a proper storage media.
Chatting in front of the huge OTARI Elite Plus 78 channels (39 stereo) analog mixer, with large Genelec speakers and a screen monitor for Pro-Tool, was such a pleasure, as mr. Amerio is a nice conversator and his memory lane is so full of interesting and amusing short tales and stories: the first time that Enrico Rava entered the studio door... bemused by the place - a small studio, as it was a few years ago - before expanding to the actual three large rooms.
Yet, Rava, in his Electric Five period, introduced by Glauco Venier to Stefano, gave a chance to the young Tonmeister; Stefano still vividly remember when Enrico himself, while soloing on his horn in the studio and getting the monitor sound at his earspeakers, loudly esclamed his sincere appreciation with his very own, unique voice... for the premium monitoring he was getting.
From this first sessions, ArteSuono studio got more and more into jazz and related territories - Stefano's very first jazz recording was Glauco Venier's "L'Insium" (the dream) - without forgetting classical works... untired and always enthusiast, Stefano Amerio, a renowned pro since 1990, recorded and recorded and recorded and mastered and mixed and...
He travelled to Capodistria to record on a Steinway piano, years ago not so common... now he has a Fazioli F 278 grand piano in his studio...
When he began to record, he had a AKG 414, then a Neumann U 87... now he owns and uses the very best mikes... Stefano, who call himself "crazy for mikes", loves B & K and DPA 4006 and 4011's, but also SM and USM-69 by Neumann's... and Schoeps'... never without'em, he told me... just look over the Fazioli's!
He still looks for good mikes on Ebay, like myself and many others... what - as a pro - he gets more than the average amateur recordist is premiuim capsules matching at Neumann's or DPA or AKG, where he also got some original C-12 sputtered-gold diaphragms for his The Tube's mikes... jealous!
... and Manley's and... and...
Visiting the studio, Stefano was humbly saying that it's like a garage for cars... where cars are fixed or tuned to better perform... ArteSuono is not a stardom place, yet, you can find Manfred Eicher or Steve Lake producing this or that ECM's musician... but Anouar Brahem, Enrico Rava, Stefano Bollani, Paolo Fresu, Ralph Towner, Bobo Stenson, Norma Winstone, Evan Parker and many, many, many more are - simply and totally - after music, like Stefano Amerio is.
Here are some names, artists and labels, Stefano worked with:
ECM / DREYFUS / VERVE / UNIVERSAL / CAMJAZZ / BMG / EMI / LABEL BLEU / BLUE NOTE / ACT / Skip Records / El Gallo Rojo Records / Splasc(h) / Auand / Caligola / Abeat / Enrico Rava / Aldo Romano / Joe La Barbera / Doug Yowell / Paolo Fresu / Omar Sosa / Rosario Giuliani / Francesco Cafiso / Kenny Wheeler / Fred Hersch / Ralph Towner / Jonh Taylor / Bobo Stenson / Vigleik Storaas / Fontaine Burnett / Kevin Bents / Martin Tingvall / Edward Simon / Amina Alaoui / Iva Bittova / Carla Bley / Norma Winstone / Lee Konitz / Mark Copeland / Huw Warren / Sam Most / Mark Helias / John Zorn / Evan Parker / Luca Aquino / Tomasz Stanko / Tor Yttredal / Roscoe Mitchell / Joey Barron / Han Bennik / Steve Swallow / Miroslav Vitous / Raffaello Pareti / Furio Di Castri / Jormin Anders / Marc Ribot / Paul McCandless / Marilyn Crispell / John Parricelli / Phil Markowitz / Stan Sulzmann / Nikki Iles / Thomas Morgan / Kevin Bents / Fontaine Burnett / Ari Hest /Misha Alperin / Anouar Brahem / Dominique Pifarély / Dino Saluzzi / Anja Lechner / Susanna Wallumrod / Giovanna Pessi / Yang Jing / Pierre Favre / Gianluigi Trovesi / Rudy Valente / Elisabetta Antonini / Maria Pia De Vito / Eivind Aarset / Jason Rebello / John Abercrombie / Jonathan Gee / Frank Harrison / Louis Stewart / Peter King / Jeremy Brown / Anke Helfrich / Stephen Keogh / Eric Vloeimans / Christian Muthspiel / Martin France / Michael Godard / Swinger Singers / John Law / David Shea / Tamara Obrovac / Benedikt Janel / Antonio Miguel / Owen Howard/ Emanuel Bex / Johnny Neel / Klaus Gesing / Danilo Gallo / Francesco Bearzatti / Giovanni Mazzarino / Nico Morelli / Paolino Dalla Porta / Eugenio Macchia / U.T. Gandhi / Giovanni Maier / Roberto Gatto / Michele Rabbia / Zeno De Rossi / Gianlivio Liberti / Michele Salgarello / Stefano Bagnoli / Gianluca Petrella / Dado Moroni / Daniele Di Bonaventura / Furio Di Castri / Enzo Favata / Xavier Girotto / Giovanni Guidi / Giovanni Mazzarino / Andrea Pozza / Paolo Birro / Umberto Petrin / Fabrizio Puglisi / Stefano Battaglia / Stefano Bollani / Glauco Venier / Rosario Bonaccorso / Marco Tamburini / Simone Guiducci / Ettore Fioravanti / Achille Succi / David Boato / Marcello Allulli / Giorgio Pacorig / Gaetano Valli / Nevio Zaninotto / Daniele D'Agaro / Domenico Caliri / Roberto Cecchetto / Pietro e Marcello Tonolo / Danilo Rea / Maurizio Giammarco / Piero Leveratto / Ares Tavolazzi / Fabrizio Sferra / Saverio Tasca / Vinicio Capossela / EVA / Elisa / Bruno Lauzi / Sergio Endrigo / Rossana Casale / Simply Red / Pooh / Milva / Antonella Ruggiero / Adriano Celentano / 883 / Ultranaté / 99 Posse / Roy Paci / Robert Miles / Tenores di Bitti / Clobeda's / Nosisà / Zuf de Zur / Gigi Maieron / Strepitz / Furclap / Dario Zampa / FLK / Lino Straulino / Aldo Giavitto / BTK / Crash / W.i.n.d. / Link / Bandelia / Cuinon / Arbe Garbe / Remo Anzovino and more...
Impressive list, doesn't it?
Yet, no sexy, tall ladies named Philippa or Portia to welcome and open the door or make a coffee as I found in some London's studio... Stefano's mom tried to put a phone call through while Stefano and myself were chatting... his dad was mowing the lawn, in the nearby garden of the Amerio's family house.
Easy: normal people making extraordinaire things.
I'm sure NOT downsizing the studio facility describing it as "normal"... yet, it's so normal with its out-board gears and monitors, and mikes and sliding glass doors, as a studio isn't a temple without its priest... aehm, the Tonmeister, Stefano Amerio, was able to tailor with his quiet and no-frills approach, both a technical and human place where, strange enough, there is not the usual glass window which makes playing and recording musicians to see and look at the sound engineer and vice-versa.
Musicians are sure able to see each others, of course... this alone, in my opinion, makes ArteSuono studio someway and more a one-of-a-kind studio.
No intimidating people looking at knobs while playing and recording.
ECM... mmmhhh... beside already being a successful studio owner, Stefano admits he had goose-bumps when, via Enrico Rava and Glauco Venier and Anouar Brahem, Manfred Eicher entered the studio... and he realized something was changing for him... in better, of course.
They got more and more reciprocal confidence, made of empathy and serious, hard work, recording both in Cavalicco and at RSI - Radio Svizzera Italiana studio in Lugano with its superb Studer Vista 8 digital mixer and then remixing the audio files at ArteSuono and some tales where told to yours truly on the matter by mr. Amerio, during our chatting.
Life and music, music and life... and dedication and commitment to the final result.
Further, a few silly questions were answered by a patient, always smart, smiling and gentle Stefano, here in random order: miking patterns used are... XY, ORTF, Blumlein, multi... everything needed and depending on the mood and necessity, without strongly advocating this or that; some Lexicon's reverberation is used, no EMT "gold leaf", but also natural reverberation is nicely used in studio.
Stefano's desert island disc? Dark Side of the Moon, which changed his life... a disk copy on Original Master Recordings was on mixer, by chance, and an autographed vinyl cover - by Pink Floyd full original members - of this seminal masterpiece is cherished by Stefano, as well.
His sound engineer of choice, his master? James Farber and his Avatar studios in NYC.
The recording he's prouder... not a sharp, single reply... yet, he's very, VERY proud of final, overall result about Giovanna Pessi's "If Grief Could Wait" on ECM 2226.
Italian province, narrow country roads, where slow driving is a must... nearby hills, where also Fazioli grand pianos are hand made, three per month, not hurrying up... in Sacile, only few miles from Amerio's place.
Quality, human-sized and managed activities... food, wine, music... this is Friuli, the italian province where Art and Sound blends with Nature... and Music blossoms from Stefano Amerio's hands.
Simply... like being compared to Jan Erik Kongshaug, Martin Wieland and James Farber.
Thanking Stefano Amerio for his time, hosting and patience and for making our three hours long meeting like a ten minutes chat.