Institute of sound

John Baccigaluppi’s The Hangar takes it up a notch

In the aisle, not yelling: John Baccigaluppi in the main hallway at The Hangar studios.

In the aisle, not yelling: John Baccigaluppi in the main hallway at The Hangar studios.

Photo By Nick Miller

Read Tape Ops’ new book, Tape Op: The Book about Creative Music Recording, Vol. II. You can purchase it at Time Tested Books.

In a world where any Sacramentan can go to Skip’s Music, throw down $1,000 and record their own rock album, there’s something to be said about professional audio engineers. And John Baccigaluppi knows as much about the sound of Sacramento as anyone. He owns The Hangar, the city’s pre-eminent recording studio, has been recording bands for more than 25 years, and likens this audio-technology revolution to the advent of Apple’s Macintosh: In the end, design comes down to the masses, and design will be better for it. “And everyone goes up a notch,” Baccigaluppi says.

These days, recording artists at The Hangar are at the top of their games.

The Hangar is a one-of-a-kind Sacramento institution. First of all, the rectangular main room is distinct—the dimensions, the sight-lines, the size. Its ceiling’s high enough for a basketball hoop and arcing jump shot—there’s even a skateboard ramp at the south end. Oh, and the sounds are pristine, pro and inimitable.

On a recent afternoon, Baccigaluppi’s chilling in the control room amid rigs, boards and other devices a layman has no business describing. His hair is scraggly, but he’s clean shaven, sporting a vintage Heckler T-shirt, a leftover from his days as publisher of the skateboarding and culture magazine. His studio, nestled between a park and warehouses on the north side of town, is one of the largest recording rooms remaining on the West Coast. Baccigaluppi would know: He travels the world visiting studios for he and Larry Crane’s recording-arts magazine, Tape Op, which is the second most popular magazine of its kind in the world. “We’re publishing the magazine for ourselves, and if anyone else happens to enjoy it, then good,” Baccigaluppi says, and it’s a mantra that’s done him well.

He began gigging at various studios and recording local acts starting in 1983, when he got back from college in Olympia, Wash. R&B was big back then, so a lot of his jobs consisted of “baby-sitting drum machines,” as he says of finessing soulful vocals and kick-snare backbeats. But that grew old, so he and partners started Enharmonik, which grew from his garage to his bedroom to his basement (“a great period for this studio”) to the Hangar’s current location. But the multipurpose, we-do-it-all recording-arts studio also grew old, so he closed it, too.

Since 1998, The Hangar has been a place where engineers record bands they want to collaborate with. When Baccigaluppi closed Enharmonik, he cut the rates in half and only allowed engineers to book the studio, which in time became a venerable refuge for local rock acts and the designers of their sound. As Baccigaluppi says, “It’s a place where there’s a lot of interaction between people coming and going, and they learn from each other—instead of just one guy recording everything.” Eric Broyhill masters bands’ work on the site. Other freelance regulars come and go. Local audio engineers like Eric Stenman, Shaun Lopez, Flossy and Chris Woodhouse have passed through the hallways.

But Baccigaluppi spends most his time managing the studio and publishing Tape Op. He gets around to producing an album a year—if he’s lucky. In the past few years, he worked on Ball-Point Birds’ album (Tim and Greg of Mother Hips) and helped out on !!!’s Myth Takes. Over the years, some of Sacramento’s best bands have frequented The Hangar: 7 Seconds, An Angle, Chelsea Wolfe, Christian Kiefer, Deathray, Deftones, Jackie Greene, Team Sleep, Two Sheds, Will Haven and the Yah Mos.

But now, most bands that pass through are from out of town. Rates are four-to-six times less than in Los Angeles, and The Hangar has a reputation as good as any California sound house. And with high-profile development plans in the works for north Mansion Flats area of downtown, The Hangar likely will be a go-to recording studio for years to come.

The owner of the building that houses The Hangar, developer Skip Rosenbloom and architect Ron Vrilakas are collaborating to renovate the buildings adjacent to the studio along C Street. Art galleries, retail, coffee, housing, The Hangar, and—the kicker—a mid-level sized live-music venue (à la San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill) are being considered.

“I’m optimistic this will happen,” Baccigaluppi says.