Huntsville, Texas, July 8, 2021 — Professional musician Patrick Fitzgerald has worked in many cities, starting out in Philadelphia, working as a session keyboard player and vocalist in New York City, and then relocating to Seattle. He also lived on the road for a short time before putting down roots in the Piney Woods of eastern Texas, where he spent the pandemic building out a recording studio centered around a Solid State Logic ORIGIN analog inline mixing console.
“I worked as a session musician in New York to make money for years, just as a hired gun,” says Fitzgerald. He also had a prog-rock band, Monster Hands, whose other members were also session players. But when his recording studio in North Philadelphia was cleaned out in a burglary he moved to the Pacific Northwest, where he and the band recorded their debut album. “That’s where I became familiar with SSL products. I was trading session time with Gary Reynolds at Electrokitty Recording, who had a big 9000 J.”
After Fitzgerald met his wife in Seattle, they soon began shopping for a house in which they could build a studio but became disillusioned with the housing market after being beaten to a property by a speculator who made an all cash offer. “I got really depressed,” says Fitzgerald. “We moved into a van and traveled the country. We were nomads for a year and a half.”
Salvation came when his wife’s parents invited them down to their property in the Sam Houston National Forest in Texas, about an hour’s drive north of Houston. “They said, ‘If you’re going to spend money, why don’t you move here?’ We moved in about a year before Covid,” he says. “I filled up the house with all my instruments, so they took pity on my wife and built a giant building, and we took our house down payment and built out this studio. It was the perfect project for Covid.”
Matt Knobel, account manager at Westlake Audio’s Nashville office, supplied all the gear for Fitzgerald’s new facility. “Matt was incredibly helpful, given his experience with consoles. I never felt once like he was trying to put the hard sell on me. He threw a couple other consoles in the mix, but I felt that, for the money, the ORIGIN was a steal. For twice as much money I didn’t see that much more value” in those other console brands, says Fitzgerald.
Compared to the other console choices, ORIGIN allowed him to save money on features that he really didn’t need, he says. “I don’t really care to use automation, especially when tracking.” In any case, he says, “I dropped a UF8 into the middle of the console.” SSL’s advanced DAW controller provides eight motorized faders with 43 assignable keys that provide quick access to select functions in Pro Tools® and Logic Pro X®, both of which Fitzgerald uses. “I prefer Pro Tools but some of my buddies like Logic, so I try to be flexible.” He’s also seeing savings with ORIGIN’s running costs, he says. “I can’t believe how little power it uses. I haven’t even noticed a dent in my power bill.”
Ultimately, of course, it’s the sound of the console that matters most. “Now that I’ve had a chance to use this, it sounds absolutely incredible. I really like the Drive function; I think I like the PureDrive preamps on the ORIGIN better than the 9000. I feel like you can drive them a little bit harder. I plugged an AEA R88 ribbon mic into it and it didn’t have a problem with it, so that was impressive.”
Fitzgerald says that he prefers the sound of the ORIGIN’s E-Series EQ to the 9000 series console that he used previously in Seattle.
And like the 9000, he points out, he has dozens of identical mic preamps and EQs across the board with ORIGIN. “I liked mixing on the big 9000, because I could have 32 of the same preamps and the same EQs. Plus, I’ve got 16 500 series SSL dynamics modules in separate outboard racks.
Fitzgerald also appreciates ORIGIN’s design, which references and builds on SSL’s classic analog consoles of the 1970s and ‘80s. “It’s a throwback console, but it’s very forward thinking. The push-button routing is very cool,” he says of the central 16-bus assignment facilities. “And I love that it’s smaller, because I just don’t have the room.” He has installed the ORIGIN in a desk designed for the purpose by Sound Construction and Argosy Consoles.
Knobel and Westlake Audio curated an equipment list to suit Fitzgerald’s needs. “Matt did a great job of selling me the right pieces. We got a couple of 1176 compressors. I’ve got a couple of tasty pieces of tube gear, a couple of reverbs and a myMix Audio personal monitor mix system. And I got Burl converters; when you combine those with the SSL it’s almost like you’re recording onto an Ampex tape machine.”
Fitzgerald hired Vicoustics to provide an acoustic treatment package in order to get the best out of the room and his Focal Trio Be reference monitors. “I also got a Trinnov machine to help me analyze the room and fix as many of the foibles as I can, just by resituating things. We’ve gotten a pretty flat curve,” he reports.
Having grown up listening to prog-rockers like Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman and covering songs by King Crimson, it’s no surprise that Fitzgerald also has quite a collection of keyboards, including two Hammond organs. One belonged to his father, who was originally a concert pianist and was invited to study with Vladimir Horowitz. “That’s where it started,” says Fitzgerald, “with him egging on my bad habits.”