Fantasy Studios: a Renowned Multimedia Facility in Berkeley
May 23, 2017 | Mary Corbin
Years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, my brother’s ’80’s club band, Mojo, was recording a record. I was invited for a visit to the recording studio in Berkeley where they were set up for several weeks, unbeknownst to me at the time where I actually was headed. Upon entering and as I walked around the spacious facility looking for the boys, I realized quickly who else had walked these hallowed halls before me. The walls told a story. Framed gold and platinum records, photographs of performers and posters of blockbuster movies festooned the walls, revealing a wealth of history.
In this unassuming corner of West Berkeley, at 10th and Parker, resides Fantasy Studios, a world-renowned recording facility that provides services for the film, music, video and gaming communities. In 1967, Saul Zaentz and his partners acquired Fantasy Records and turned the tide of music, film producing and recording in the Bay Area. Bands such as Creedence Clearwater Revival and notable artists like Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner and Tony Bennett were among the flourish of artists to grace the space in the 1970’s.
In subsequent years, Fantasy Studios developed a diverse portfolio of clientele that included local musicians like Joe Satriani, Chris Isaak, Sammy Hagar, Journey, Santana, Counting Crows and Green Day. From the broader spectrum, artists such as Robert Cray, Bobby McFerrin, Aerosmith, Dave Matthews and Trombone Shorty put in their time here. Attesting to its brilliance in the pantheon of the industry, in 2000, Fantasy Studios was named Billboard magazine’s “#1 Recording Studio in America”. Wow, right here in our little ol’ backyard in Berkeley!
Zaentz, broadening his scope of influence, went on to become an Oscar-winning producer for such films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, The Mosquito Coast, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Right Stuff, Good Will Hunting and The English Patient. From 1980 – 2004, the Saul Zaentz Film Center provided production and post-production services for Bay Area filmmakers as one of three major film production facilities in Northern California. A friend, who waited tables at the nearby, upscale (and now defunct) Nadine’s, commonly waited on the likes of Harrison Ford, Miloš Forman and other luminaries of filmdom, in town for meetings at the studio.
The studio went through some growing pains in the 2000’s, sold by Zaentz, and partially closed for a period of time. In 2007, Fantasy rose from the ashes and reinvented itself, upgrading the facility with newer technology and continues to thrive today under the current guidance of Jeffrey Wood, Director, international music producer, engineer, composer, and label consultant who started as a producer with Fantasy in 1995, and Allison Gomer, Studio Manager since 2010. A team of engineers and two assistants round out the staff. The visionary Saul Zaentz passed away in 2014 at the age of 92.
My brother, Miles Corbin, years later invented his new band, The Aqua Velvets, and their first five CD’s were mastered and edited at Fantasy Studios. He reminisced, “Producers Roy Segal and Phil Kaffel signed me to a development deal to record my original songs and gave overall career advice. It was an honor and education working with Fantasy. They have the latest and best recording gear and fabulous people. During those earlier years I was introduced to film composers and sound engineers working on The Right Stuff and Amadeus, which inspired me to pursue writing and recording instrumental music that eventually would be in film scores. On the Aqua Velvets CDs, I worked with Mastering Engineer George Horn, a legend. Studio manager, Nina Bombardier, was also a joy to work with. I feel very thankful to Fantasy for the opportunity to record there over the years. It’s a true Bay Area music institution.”
For those in the know or in search of such state-of-the-art spaces, the website tells us “Fantasy continues to be one of the most requested recording studios on the West Coast with an extensive selection of microphones, outboard gear, instruments, and natural echo chambers. Our facility is comprised of three legendary recording and mixing rooms, all equipped with ProTools HDX. We also have two concert quality grand pianos. We offer services such as ISDN to link to studios worldwide, comprehensive media transfer work, editing and on-site mastering. We are available for film, video, photo shoots, live streaming, conferences, and special events.
Our amenities include two kitchens and three attached lounges for artist comfort and convenience. Zaentz Media Center is home to numerous film and media production companies and complete post-production services. There are also two professional screening theaters and two conference rooms available. As a secure complex, the Zaentz Media Center offers privacy for celebrity clientele. We also offer ample parking to accommodate large bands or film crews and our loading dock is street-accessible for load-ins of extensive tour or video lighting equipment.”
It goes to show, you just never know what fabulous things are happening behind closed doors in Berkeley, CA! If you’re in the industry, visit their FAQs page for more specifics on access to Fantasy Studios and all it has to offer.
Fantasy Studios At Zaentz Media Center, 2600 Tenth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, 510 486 2038, fantasystudios.com
*all photos courtesy of Fantasy Studios*