Dragonship Studios: A Hybrid Monster

After we spotted his 5060 Centerpiece, dual 5059 Satellite summing mixers, 542 Tape Emulators and Portico II MBP on Instagram, Curtis Plummer of Dragonship Studios in Virginia was kind enough to sit down with us for a quick email interview.

 

Hi Curtis! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Can you please give us some brief background info on your studio?

Well, not unlike a lot of other kids I was drawn to music at an early age. I did the band thing in middle school where I started out on the alto saxophone, but that was a fleeting endeavor. As soon as high school came around and they told me I’d have to wear a uniform and march around on the football field, my band days were over. I ditched the sax and got a Jackson Randy Rhodes model guitar and a rag top Mustang. Fast-forward a few years and I found myself at the now (in)famous recording school in Orlando around 2003 and have been trying to piece this monster together ever since.

Are there particular styles of music/recording/mixing you specialize in? What makes Dragonship a special place?

My personal love affair with heavy metal is probably a little absurd at this point and I have a lot of fun whenever I get to record and mix those projects. That said, I just really love the process all around, and work on all kinds of things from country to jazz and classical. I am fortunate enough to have a lovely Steinway B in my live room and have been doing a good bit of solo piano recording.

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So how did you hear about Rupert Neve Designs? What made you choose this particular combination?

This is like asking a newborn chick how it knew the hen was its mother as soon as it hatched. I dunno where I was when I first heard the name Rupert Neve, but my first experience with the new Rupert Neve Designs gear was when someone recommended that I try out the 542 Tape Emulators. Those little suckers really hooked me. I knew I wanted to be able to access the analog world with my mixes more than I was able to “in the box.”

Prior to the 5059 Satellite / 5060 Centerpiece rig I spent a couple of years with summing boxes made by Dangerous Music which were really good at bringing dimension to my mixes, but in the end I wanted more analog controls than a simple summing setup could provide. The 5059/5060 rig can do everything that the old setup could – which is quite a lot! – and a whole hell of a lot more. With the dual assignable stereo busses on the 5059s feeding the four main stereo pairs of the 5060 I can divide my mixes up into four groups, each with their own super-high-end analog fader. Combined with the fact that each individual channel on the 5059 has its own balanced insert, pan and level controls and the inserts on the four 5060 stereo channels, I can get gear to where I need it quickly and effectively via the patchbay without incurring more round-trips of digital conversion – which is a huge deal if you like to utilize outboard gear in the mixing process.

And sonically? How does the 5059/5060 combo sound in tandem like that?

This rig sounds however I want it to, and thats what sets it apart from a lot of other summing solutions and software emulations. From squeaky clean to full on transformer furriness, it’s all there and it’s all intuitively accessed by simply driving things harder at any of several different points in the signal flow – or engaging the silk channels. The most fun you can have in a studio that won’t get you fired is pushing the fader on a Rupert Neve-designed two buss past zero VU!

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So what’s feeding that two-buss? What other gear do you have around the summing pieces?

I am feeding the RND gear with forty channels of Apogee Symphony conversion, which is all managed by an AVID ProTools HD Native card. So each 5059 gets sixteen channels and the remaining eight show up on four of the 5060’s aux pairs. The 5059/5060 combo are really the heart of the studio come mix time. About half the time the 5060 two buss feeds a Portico II Master Buss Processor and the other half of the time I utilize a Dramastic Audio Obsidian as my main two buss comp – its a great unit as well. I also really enjoy mixing to 1/4” analog tape, and for that purpose I have a choice between my Mara-restored MCI JH110 deck with Dolby SR or my Sony APR-5003v.

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That’s some serious gear. Have there been any particularly exciting happenings in the studio lately?

At the time of this interview, it’s summertime here in Virginia – which means lots of audition stuff for kids hoping to get into various music programs and schools. My last rock project was for a really killer band out of Virginia Beach called The Record Collection and you can check their EP “Revolutions” on Bandcamp.

What are your plans for the future of the studio?

I just want to ride this thing out as long as people are willing to trust me with their art. I am always considering moving to a purpose-built facility when the time is right, but for now I’m pretty happy living in the middle of my studio.

I think we can all understand that. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I might have an extra cat around somewhere if y’all need one.

@dragonshipstudios on Instagram.