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Storied Sacramento Studio Closing Its Doors

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

(Listen to Hangar owner John Baccigaluppi interviewed by Beth Ruyak on Tuesday's Insight)

The Hangar is actually an 11,000 square foot, two-story, converted warehouse. It's a fairly rundown, ordinary-looking building located in the Alkali Flat neighborhood. On a recent weekday morning owner John Baccigaluppi gave us one last tour of the storied facility.

"Come on in you guys. You want to go into the back?" beckons Baccigaluppi as he guides me and Capital Public Radio photographer Andrew Nixon through a grungy lobby with faded plaid upholstered couches and dusty end tables. 

He opens the door to a huge room with a hodgepodge of microphones, cables and instruments.  

"This is the main tracking room here - 3,000 square feet. [And] this was the original control room, the mixer booth was there, we had a little iso booth in there." 

Sacramento musician Dave Jensen is inside the studio's current control room, sitting at a console with dozens of knobs and faders, listening back to a drum track he recorded. 

"You can get a really cool tone out of the live room," says Jenson.  "It's got a really great vibe. All the gear is really cool, a lot of vintage stuff."

Jensen is part of a long list of musicians who have made records here.  It's a virtual "who's who," including singer/songwriter Jackie Greene, jazz guitarist Henry Robinett, alternative metal band The Deftones, and oh yeah…Kanye West.

The famous rapper recorded here about five years ago. He was performing in town and needed a place to cut vocals. 

"And we have this just ratty old Lazy-Boy chair that Kanye was kind of kick-back in," says Baccigaluppi.  "And we always referred to that as the Kanye chair after that."
But West was just a footnote in the history of the Hangar. He only recorded there for a few days. Baccigaluppi is much more interested in talking about The Hangar's role in recording sessions that lasted for months by bands like the folk-rock group Sea of Bees, indie pop band Little Wings and jazz saxophonist John Tchicai.  

"That's sort of like what's fun is just being there," he explains. "Watching or listening to it go down and like hearing…being in the room when like…'whoah that was amazing.' And then that is immortalized."  

For some 30 years Baccigaluppi has been a fixture on the local music scene. He's engineered at other recording studios, published magazines and started a record label.

As a kid he played in bands and had visions of rock stardom, but he realized fairly quickly that his future wasn't to be in the spotlight.

"I was good at arranging and what's called producing, I later learned... and good at the technical side of things." 


Another thing The Hangar is renowned for is its huge stockpile of musical instruments.  Baccigaluppi points to his supply of timpanis, pianos, marimbas and vibraphones. There's also a vintage pump organ and just about every kind of stringed instrument you can imagine.

Baccigaluppi says he was inspired to bolster his instrument collection in part by the Beatles' albums made at the famous Abbey Road studios.

"That's what I always thought makes those Beatles records so cool is the arrangements are so amazing," he explains. "And a lot of that's because Abbey Road had a bunch of cool instruments floating around the building." 

With the advances in digital technology these days when musicians can record just about anywhere, Baccigaluppi says huge recording studios like Abbey Road and The Hangar are becoming extinct. There are just a few such studios left.

"On the West Coast there's Skywalker Sound and Capitol Studios and for another month this place. And you know it's going to be kind of sad when it goes," says Baccigaluppi.

The Hangar is going, Baccigaluppi explains, because this converted warehouse is falling apart. The owners plan to renovate. But Baccigaluppi says he wouldn't be able to afford the higher rent. Fortunately he found an affordable spot in Marin County and plans to move a smaller version of his operation there.

So how does he feel about closing The Hangar doors?

"I hate to see it go. It's been such a great space," says Baccigaluppi.  "I mean I'm really excited for what's next but I'll always miss this place. I'm resigned to what's happening…you know, making the best of the last few weeks and trying to move forward."

Baccigaluppi isn't cutting his ties to the Sacramento music scene. He plans to help a colleague open a smaller studio a few blocks away from The Hangar.



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