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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 studio.

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 type.

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 recorder.

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 are completed.

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 completed?

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 with Steve.

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 be pre-solved.

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 one project?

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 we met.

Samuel: So meeting Steve must have been an extremely significant experience for you?

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 well.

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 us…………

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 like.

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 done.

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……………….