Samuel Madill: I’m here today on the phone with Rick Bench of
the Steakhouse Studio’s as it’s Steve’s Birthday and
Rick had indicated that a story about Luke’s involvement at the
Studio was something that the Steakhouse would like to acknowledge as
part of the celebration. Rick, how did the relationship between you and
Steve come about?
Rick Bench: First Sam, I’d like to wish Steve Lukather
on behalf of the entire Steakhouse Family a “Happy Birthday”.
Luke really means a lot to
us at the Steakhouse, probably, if not for Steve, the studio still would
be in the process of development. As I recall Steve and I actually met
in the fall of 1995 . My partner Aaron Reiff had a friend named Bill
Smith who worked with him at Capitol records and the two of them had
been discussing the possibility of “Yes” recording at the
Bill knew Tom Fletcher who knew Steve, apparently they had been
looking for a facility to produce records out of for sometime and so
it was a case of three degrees of separation which led to Steve coming
down to the studio.
Samuel: So originally you met Steve due to Aaron and Bill’s
desire to record “Yes” which led to meeting Tom Fletcher
who introduced you to Steve due to the studio possibly recording “Yes”?
Rick: I’m not positive, Tom was the engineer that
had a relationship with “Yes” which was the reason that Bill
brought Tom into the project.
When Tom arrived he had probably been discussing recording “Yes” with
Bill. I believe he changed directions and decided to bring Steve on board
as there was an opportunity for all of us to attempt to create a broader
relationship than recording a case specific band.
The studio was built in terms of superstructure and infrastructure
but there was a substantial amount of work which was incomplete. Studios
are hard to appraise in terms of what constitutes completion because
they are a complex undertaking.
We were fortunate that Tom and Steve the potential of the facility
as the heavy development had been for the most part finished. The portion
which was incomplete in terms of construction was striking to the eye.
The portion that was incomplete in terms of equipment was of every imaginable
The timing of our meeting could not have been better from our
point of view because the parameters which required the input of architects
and contractors was nearing completion.
There is no place you can “buy” the information as
to what defines a “completed studio” and consequently the
information Steve and Tom provided us with was invaluable.
This was a lot of help to us. Large facilities can simply purchase
anything and everything. We didn’t have that option and Steve and
Tom were able to simplify this for us immensely. They knew specifically
what they needed to make records with.
This ability to reduce the shopping list to equipment proprietary
to their requirements helped make opening the studio possible.
That they wanted the studio to succeed was what allowed it to.
They could have easily increased the scope of their requirement beyond
our capacity to fulfill and still have been working with less equipment
than they traditionally did.
Samuel: So the room was almost done but it needed equipment?
Rick: I don’t think you could say that the room
was done. Steve and Tom had a specific set of needs that we were able
to fulfill and consequently we were able to declare it finished even
if it wasn’t by traditional standards.
The walls did not have all of the scrims up; the interface ran
along the floor; the window was not completed; there wasn’t any
carpet; some of the walls didn’t have drywall and most of the gear
was not present.
We had a Klark Technique AMR 24 console, a few pieces of outboard
gear and an MM1200 tape recorder. We actually never did use the tape
Sam: How did you guys manage to finish everything
in time for recording Jeff Beck’s record in addition to Luke 4
the following year?
Rick: We really didn’t manage to finish the development
in a traditional sense. This is an area where it’s easy to get
things confused, so probably this is a good opportunity to clear up some
questions that have come up over the years.
There is a difference between a commercial studio which has to
compete with other commercial studio’s in order to obtain clients
as compared with a production facility. There is an even greater advantage
if you are a production facility which already has clients before you
Today the studio is a commercial facility and a person walking
into the room in 2005 is not walking into the situation that Steve and
Tom walked into in the fall of 1996.
Steve has a friendship with Jeff Beck and so all the studio had
to do was achieve a standard which would allow Tom and Steve to record
Jeff. That was the reason we were able to record Jeff Beck because if
we were to have tried to acquire a contract for recording with Deuce
Records at that time I don’t think it would have happened.
I’m certain that if Steve wasn’t a partner in the
studio he would not have “hired” the studio commercially.
The types of rooms that Luke usually works out of is the sort of room
we have become.
Steve usually works in rooms which help him record, he does not
usually help a recording studio become capable of recording him.
That is the reason we’ve always had so much gratitude regarding
Steve. There are not a lot of people in this world who stop to help others
the way that Steve helped us and this is part of what makes him such
a special person.
Lot’s of people know that Luke’s a great guitar player.
That he is also a great friend is something people Hollywood know as
well. We wanted to take out a moment on his Birthday and tell people
who might not have gotten to know Luke personally that he is not just
a great guitarist. He’s a really good person and he helped us a
lot when he didn’t have to.
Sam: So this was an undertaking for the
purposes of recording Jeff Beck and Luke 4?
The intention at that time was to go on to produce other records
with each project thereafter structured under a case by case arrangement.
Some would include Steve but others would involve primarily Tom due to
the fact that Steve tours quite often as a solo artist, with other artist
and then with Toto as well.
Since Steve was a friend of Jeff’s they wanted to record
together at the studio due to their relationship. I don’t think
Jeff would have wanted to fly out from England to record in an incomplete
room if it hadn’t been that the room was one his friend Steve had
an interest in.
Since the intention was to create a sustaining relationship, Steve
spent more money recording Luke 4 then it would have cost him to have
simply rented a better studio elsewhere.
Sam: So Steve got involved in the room intending to create an ongoing
relationship with the studio so that he and Tom would have a facility
to create records from?
Rick: That would be a fair statement in my opinion. Some
of why Steve chose to get involved with us we would have to ask Steve.
I’m positive that the intention was not to do two records. Several
times we both discussed how the results would not justify the efforts
if we were to never do more than that.
Sam: So Steve assisted you with advice regarding how to complete the
studio and allowed you to begin recording before the room was really
Rick: There were other things that Steve became involved
in as well. For example I know that he worked really hard at promoting
the facility. We were the cover story of E.Q. in N.A.M.M. that January,
as well as featured in Mix. I’m not aware of an unknown facility
opening to that type of publicity before or since.
Probably Jeff realized he was helping to promote the room as well
by recording at the studio. I’m sure this had to do with his friendship
The two of them, by this I mean Tom and Steve, knew a lot of people
who helped out with the missing equipment through endorsements, reduced
sales prices or rentals.
Steve purchased a Studer an A827. We went from being an unknown
facility to a profile studio over the course of a couple of months. Usually
this takes a lot longer to achieve.
Sam: So after the group of you met in 1996 you managed to put together
the components necessary to record Jeff Beck and Steve’s next record?
Rick: If by that you mean could we have competed with
Record One and hoped to have gotten a contract to record Jeff Beck and
Steve’s record by the time of “down beat”. On the Jeff
Beck project the answer would be - no!
As I’ve mentioned this particular subject is the area where
there is at times confusion and so I want to try to be as specific as
I can. Remember that it was some time ago and I didn’t keep a journal.
The way I remember it was Tom was the engineer for both records.
So, if Tom Fletcher was satisfied that there was enough of whatever defined
an adequate studio in his mind at that time to do the recording then
the engineer was happy.
Steve was the producer and so if Steve was happy to produce in
the facility then the situation was cool.
Jeff and Steve wanted to work together anyway and if the studio
was able to record them in a way where the sound was not compromised
they were willing to overlook a lot of things that probably they wouldn’t
have if this had been a recording session somewhere else. In fact, let’s
take probably out of this discussion.
Sam: Why do you think that Steve initially went looking for a facility
to record Jeff and himself. There were already a lot of places that recorded?
I think that there was a greater priority for Steve and Tom to
have a place that they could work on music in an environment which they
were able to control the “Vibe” which was more important
to them than every last creature comfort.
When you have a group of guys who have been making records for
a long time there are a lot of advantages that can happen.
There was no uncertainty as to “How” they were going
to record. This is often not the case. Bands that have come through since
then, who are sometimes in the process of self-discovery are not aware
of “How” they want to record.
They also had self confidence regarding their own ability to solve
problems as they developed. Usually the client doesn’t pre-plan
how to solve the problems that could come up regarding the recording
studio. That’s what the recording studio does.
Since Steve is a partner in the studio he was willing to pre-plan
solutions. Since we had no experience with records at this altitude some
of the solutions were for problems we didn’t know could happen.
This also meant that every imaginable problem did not have to
The management of commercial clients are often on a fault finding
mission when they review a studio. The more problems they can discover,
real or imagined, the more they can beat you up on the rental rate.
This wasn’t how it was when Steve helped us open the studio.
There was a spirit of trying to find a way to make recording at the studio
possible as opposed to an investigation into why it was impossible. Frankly
the party most convinced it was impossible was ourselves.
Samuel: If you don’t mind my asking, why was the studio this
far away from being ready? You guys had been building it for quite awhile
before you met Steve hadn’t you?
Rick: That’s actually going to be addressed in the “How
to create a commercial recording facility” section of this website.
For the purposes of your question probably the easiest answer
is that we had been trying to build it for so long that we had become
convinced we that it wasn‘t possible.
The intention we had regarding the studio at that time was to
resume the effort around 2007. There were other priorities within our
family at that time.
My brother Lee, Rex and I played music ourselves and for a whole
lot of reasons we had just hit a point where we were not working on finishing
the place anytime soon anymore.
When we met Aaron he wanted to help out and get the place running,
which was great of Aaron and that’s why we became partners.
The nature of the situation between Aaron and me was structured
in a fashion where if it could help Aaron without hurting me then I didn’t
mind Aaron using the facility.
Aaron didn’t want to just help himself and so he started
to drum up larger projects in order to create an environment which would
cause us to begin to take an interest in our own facility again.
Samuel: So when Aaron found “Yes” this was when you became
re-involved in the development of the studio?
Rick: In a fashion, but not in the way that I did after Steve
dropped by the studio.
Samuel: So you became more involved in the studio because Steve and
Tom had a more ongoing interest in creating a facility then simply recording
Rick: No. If Aaron had recorded “Yes” with Bill, I
was aware that if they were able to bring “Yes” into the
studio, especially in the condition it was in at that time, then there
would probably be other projects after “Yes.”
I was not intending to fly out to Los Angeles from Hawaii because
I figured that “Yes” had been making records for awhile.
Aaron and Bill had been working up at Capitol Records as engineers. If
they wanted to do a recording I was pretty confident that between these
two engineers and “Yes” they would have been able to.
Samuel: So what caused you to decide to fly out to L.A.
Rick: Specifically it was Steve Lukather. When Steve became involved
this was personally significant to me. Steve was a huge regarding my
own guitar playing. I’m sure a lot of guitar players feel that
way, I was just lucky enough to have a reason to meet him.
I had intended to leave Hawaii and head out to L.A. when I was
20 years old. I was a sort of local hometown star regarding guitar. My
father encouraged me to try to check into how talented players in Los
Angeles were before I left home.
At that time Toto was known in Hawaii but the media had not evolved
to the point where Steve’s personal reputation as one of the worlds
most fantastic guitarists was widely known in Hawaii at that time.
I was aware that Steve was a session player in addition to being
in Toto so I went to the concert both as a fan and as a guitarist.
Steve was so fantastic in Honolulu that it just blew me away.
I delayed moving to Los Angeles for 3 years based upon the performance
he gave on guitar that night.
Later when I was supplementing my income while living in Los Angeles
by giving guitar lessons the only instructional tape I ever purchased
was the Steve Lukather video which I think was available by a company
called Star Licks at that time, but I can’t be sure.
It was the only one I needed and it was a well created instructional
video and so it reduced my work load as an instructor of guitar students.
I guess Steve had been helping me get things done quicker even before
Samuel: So meeting Steve must have been an extremely significant experience
Rick: The whole thing by that time was out of proportion for all
of us. Remember that I saw Luke perform in Hawaii where Toto has a very
strong following. When I met Lukather my brother and I had lived in L.A.
for a lot of years and Toto also has a very strong following there as
Also, we were not building a “Performance Venue” but
a recording studio and Toto is the most recorded band in the history
of our genre of music.
This meant that we were all huge Toto fans and listened to their
music all of the time in the car, at home and while doing construction
at the studio.
Rex is also a partner in the studio and a big Toto fan. Particularly
the synthesizer work of Pocaro on tracks like Rosanna.
There’s actually a amusing incident where shortly after
meeting Luke he came by the place and we were listening to some Toto
music. He remarked that we were “setting him up for the schmooze.” Actually
we were just doing what we had been doing for years which was working
on the studio while listening to Toto.
Sam: So it was specifically your interest in Steve Lukather that caused
you to fly out to help with the project?
Rick: I ended up being help in the sense
that we created a larger commitment to supporting the project. Remember
that originally it was supposed to be I was trying to help my friend
Aaron, who ended up helping me by introducing all of us to Steve.
I wouldn’t say I flew out to “Help Tom and Steve” create
a recordings as like “Yes” I was aware that they would already
know how to do that. I flew out because I wanted to meet Steve.
Originally I didn’t even know that we would become partners
and create a friendship. Steve is a multiple Grammy winner so that just
wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind as possible.
When you know Steve it’s easy to see how becoming friends
is possible. There aren’t a lot of people with Steve’s accomplishments
that are like Steve so it just wouldn’t have been a logical thought
prior to meeting him.
When it comes to actually working with Steve in the Studio my
brother Lee has done all of the tracking sessions with Steve as he’s
the Chief Engineer of the studio.
Sam: So was your admiration for Steve’s guitar playing the reason
that you wanted to “Partner Up” with him and Tom.
Rick: That’s a good question and a difficult one to answer.
Probably any other guitar player and I could say definitively no because
I’m usually really conservative regarding investments.
Steve was someone I was a fan of when I flew out. Steve was someone
I was a friend of when I flew back home. The friendship we all developed
with Steve is the reason I wanted a relationship with Steve and it wasn’t
just myself because everyone loved Steve, my brother Lee, Rex, all of
Sam: What is the relationship between Steve and the studio today?
Rick: I think that the best description I could come up with is
that of a metaphor where I compared it to an “Open Marriage.”
There isn’t a case specific agenda where we are committed
to doing this or that specifically together, however, there is always
the desire to create something appropriate to do together.
Lately Steve’s son Trevor has been recording and is in and
out of the studio a lot. Trevor’s really talented and the crew
really enjoys having Luke’s son around. That’s the nature
of sustaining relationships, they go beyond just yourselves specifically.
I’m sure that sometime when everything falls into place
the Studio and Steve will find some project that we desire to pursue
jointly. I’d certainly want Steve to record his next solo record
at the studio, but, that would have to be because it was right for Steve.
There’s anyone of a thousand reasons why we could be family but
the situation might call for him to record elsewhere. When Steve records
places besides the Steakhouse that isn’t an indication of how close
we are. That’s just the nature of the music business.
Steve always has an interest in the studio. Were there to be an
opportunity to develop a larger agenda certainly Steve would be involved.
The two of us still speak of alternative futures where we undertake a
project of some type but friendship doesn’t require a defined agenda.
That we have already agreed to try to agree on some future project
is pretty much widely known. That we would both try to assist one another
in anyway we could is pretty much equally known.
Probably the fact that Steve could call the studio and say, “Hey,
there’s this project I think would be good for all of us to pursue” and
that he would already have the support of the studio for whatever it
was he had in mind gives a good indication of what our relationship is
Steve doesn’t have to record at the studio, there’s
a lot of places that would love to have him record there and we’re
aware of that.
What Steve wanted in the first place was a facility where the “Vibe” was
something he enjoyed. That he knows that he’s always welcome; the “Vibe” of
any case specific project is his to define; that a project wouldn’t
have to be budgeted if he wanted it done as we’d just do it because
he has an interest in the studio and so he could just say he wanted it
All of these things are part of the components that are in a fashion
a narrow slice of a large mosaic of what constitutes the friendship or
partnership between Steve and the Steakhouse.
He’s busy with Toto and tours a lot these days. It’s
important to us that the studio feels like a second home to him and that
he knows that he’s always welcome. He knows that he doesn’t
need a reason to be there other than he just feels like it.
If it wasn’t for Steve I think our original plan to open
was to renew our construction efforts in about two more years. I wouldn’t
know how to thank Steve enough. He changed just about everything for
us concerning the studio.
Sam: Any last thing you’d like to say today Rick?
Rick: Yeah, “Happy Birthday Bro, from all of us at the Steakhouse,
your part of the family.”
Always Will Be……………….