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Royal Recorders, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Old 7th April 2006
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
Royal Recorders, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Michael Wagener,

I have been reading a lot of liner notes for some great rock recordings that had been recorded at Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I saw your name on a few as well so I thought I would toss out this question...

So what was the big deal / history with this place and did it go under or loose its flavor? Any stories for us?

Thanks,

Jason
Old 7th April 2006
  #2
Lives for gear
 
jomo1234's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Royal Recorders was a wonderful studio....sadly it is now defunct. I never got to record there, but I got to take a studio tour a few years before they closed up shop. Lake Geneva is such a nice town as well.

I'm sure that Michael will have some great stories about it.
Old 8th April 2006 | Show parent
  #3
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stealthbalance's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
not michael but....

i mixed a band there a long time ago. nice studio , ssl 4 or 6K , designed by i think eastlake or lakeside or? ??? that hotel used to be the old playboy hotel - and it had a beautiful golf course. studio had airport pickup for me via their rolls royce limo. the rooms were cool for a hotel and it was nice being in that enviornment. driving a ferrari around that lake was an experience i will always remember. i think at the very end of the greens was an airport ...cool
is the studio actually torn out now?? is the hotel still there ..or golf course??? what a shame that would be, if it was all no longer.

s
Old 8th April 2006 | Show parent
  #4
BT_
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
It is now called "The Abby resort and spa".

BT
Old 8th April 2006 | Show parent
  #5
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mwagener's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Well, I have mixed experiences with Royal Recorders.

The first album I did there was the first SkidRow record. That was/is one of my favourite projects, we were all young (well they were) and crazy (now that includes me) and we had a great time up there. It was in the Summer and I got introduced to jetskies on Lake Geneva. The hotel was the old Playboy resort and the bands manager used to stay in Hugh Hefners room. There is a big venue nearby calle Alpine Valley (SRV got killed there later) and during the time we did the record there was a great Rock show every weekend (AC/DC, Judas Priest, Whilte Lion, Guns And Roses etc.) and the hotel was one of two in the area, so all the bands would stay at "our" hotel and all the kids would hang out in the parking lot, needless to say we had an amazing time. The reason I picked the studio in the first place was that they had a monsterously big convention center right next door to the studio. I found out by a tip from Roy Thomas Baker, who had done T-Pau there. We recorded the drums in a room that had 120 cars for an auction in it the night before we started.

The studio was very well equipped (I think 5 ELAM 251s and 9 C12s amongst many others) and the whole environment was just ideal for a Rock album. They even had a stretched RollsRoyce lime for studio guests to use.

The next album I did there took place at the beginning of winter (don't want to mention the artist). The hotel had just changed hands and they found Asbestos during some remodeling, so the hotel was closed except for 3 or 4 rooms, it was DEAD up there. My "old room" was all moldy and had rats in it. The town was dead too at that time of the year, it just started snowing. The studio was still fully functioning and as good as before, but the convention center was under water and the cool environment around the studio was not there anymore.

By now the studio is no more, not sure what happened to the gear. I know Richard Ely, then the studio's tech is now here at BlackBird Studio.

Last edited by mwagener; 8th April 2006 at 05:23 AM..
Old 8th April 2006 | Show parent
  #6
BT_
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
Now that I think about it I think Mr Wagner worked with Skid Row and others at Royal but I could be wrong.Lake Geneva in the 80's was kind of a hair band hang.(I see Mr Wagner was posting along with mine)

There where lots of chicks with white lace bobbie socks,tons of blow,the whole 80's thing.

Guns & Roses use to like Lake Geneva but I don't know if the worked at Royal.One of my good friends was the tech there until they closed,so I heard about more than I saw.

I can say this the studio was very,very nice indeed.
Old 8th April 2006 | Show parent
  #7
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mwagener's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BT_
It is now called "The Abby resort and spa".

BT
Is it still a studio?
Old 8th April 2006 | Show parent
  #8
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mwagener's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BT_
. . . tons of blow. . .
... no blow on my sessions ...
Old 8th April 2006 | Show parent
  #9
BT_
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
Nope Ron (don't want to post his last name) sold out.It is now just one big resort.

Alot of the gear ended up in Chicago.

As far as the Blow I mean in general around the Lake Geneva scene.We use to call it the land of White punks on dope........
Old 8th April 2006 | Show parent
  #10
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Paul Vnuk Jr.'s Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
...didn't Royal become Adrian Belew's "Music Head" for a few years ???



On the Royal tip a friend of mine worked there for a few years and assitant engineered Live's "Throwing Copper" and NIN's "Broken" there.

PV
Old 8th April 2006 | Show parent
  #11
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ddageek's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Royal became music head, Irember driving down from Madison and makeing tape deliveries! God I mis the pair of M49s Most of the key staff ended up wrking for Narada out of the Milwaukee area! Oh the memories!
Last I heard the rooms wher now the best sounding daycare! and the ssl was a 4k!
Old 8th April 2006 | Show parent
  #12
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Mike Tholen's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I did a couple of records there, a very nice joint...I was working for Ministry when the gear became for sale. Ministry bought the gear, we stripped the studio of EVERYTHING including the glass, but NOT the 2 Mitsubishi 32 trk digital ****boxes.
We trucked it all down to the new Ministry camp outside of Austin Texas, installed it into Al's house and started to make Filth Pig...to shorten a VERY long story, the gear ended up at Chicago Trax after they moved to Larrabee St. NOt the Halsted location. R. Kelley ended up buyin the studio and changed the name to The Chocolate Factoryfuuck ...and now I have now flippin' idea where that gear is.
Old 9th April 2006 | Show parent
  #13
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Gravity8058's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Hey Mike, I might have the final chapter. One of R Kelly's engineers stopped by the studio looking for work the other day. He said the Bigger SSL (from AL) ended up in R Kelly's basement where they had been working for a few years.

....... talk about a sinking ship.........




wow, from majestic Lake Geneva to R Kelly's basement......
Old 9th April 2006 | Show parent
  #14
Gear Guru
 
elambo's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BT_
It is now called "The Abby resort and spa".

BT
Actually the Abbey is a different resort. The Abbey is right on Lake Geneva. The old Playboy club, and hence Royal Recorders, is now called The Grand Geneva, but is not on the lake. I've been going up to the Lake Geneva every summer since I was born. It's a great area. I've heard quite a bit about Royal but never had a chance to make it in before it closed.
Old 9th April 2006 | Show parent
  #15
BT_
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:

Actually the Abbey is a different resort. The Abbey is right on Lake Geneva. The old Playboy club, and hence Royal Recorders, is now called The Grand Geneva, but is not on the lake. I've been going up to the Lake Geneva every summer since I was born. It's a great area. I've heard quite a bit about Royal but never had a chance to make it in before it closed.


Yes you are correct The Grand Geneva.We use to have a condo in William's bay back in the day and the old man was a member at the Playboy club,

I use to love to go to lunch with him!!!
Old 9th April 2006 | Show parent
  #16
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elambo's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BT_
Quote:

Actually the Abbey is a different resort. The Abbey is right on Lake Geneva. The old Playboy club, and hence Royal Recorders, is now called The Grand Geneva, but is not on the lake. I've been going up to the Lake Geneva every summer since I was born. It's a great area. I've heard quite a bit about Royal but never had a chance to make it in before it closed.


Yes you are correct The Grand Geneva.We use to have a condo in William's bay back in the day and the old man was a member at the Playboy club,

I use to love to go to lunch with him!!!
Where was your condo? Which side of the lake? My family had a place for 100+ years just west of Conference Point, but now we're on the west and south side of Williams Bay. My old man has a decent share of stories from the club as well. Unfortunately, I never got to go.
Old 10th April 2006 | Show parent
  #17
BT_
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
I am not sure what side but when I crossed the street to the lake the Abby was on my right but back around in a bay, which by water you had to go under a bridge.

I have not been there in years my second home is now 5 hours north of there near St Germain Wisconsin.
Old 14th April 2006 | Show parent
  #18
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Mike Tholen's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gravity8058
Hey Mike, I might have the final chapter. One of R Kelly's engineers stopped by the studio looking for work the other day. He said the Bigger SSL (from AL) ended up in R Kelly's basement where they had been working for a few years.

....... talk about a sinking ship.........




wow, from majestic Lake Geneva to R Kelly's basement......
OMG...how rediculous a ship it must be over there in that smelly basement!!!
I heard that the faders on the SSL were starting to get STICKY!
Old 14th April 2006 | Show parent
  #19
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Gravity8058's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Tholen
OMG...how rediculous a ship it must be over there in that smelly basement!!!
I heard that the faders on the SSL were starting to get STICKY!
I don't believe anyone is Flyin over there these days.......
Old 15th April 2006 | Show parent
  #20
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elambo's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
BT - that sounds like Fontana. You must have spent some time at Chuck's then, right on the water just East of the Abbey
Old 15th April 2006 | Show parent
  #21
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Mike Tholen's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gravity8058
I don't believe anyone is Flyin over there these days.......
but they still think they can!!!
Old 20th October 2009
  #22
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
I recorded at Royal

Royal rocked, I recorded there the whole summer of 1986 with my band The Ultraviolet, Adrian Belew and Jim Bartz produced. The speakers were custom made Westlakes by the way and the whole place was designed by Carl Yancher. The vibe was perfect, we were the first to use the SSL and recorded right to a Mitsubishi digital 32 track!!!! The other cool part was that it was right in the hotel. If you wanted a drink or food, it was right there and the even cooler part was it's close proximity to the Alpine Valley concert venue. Boy do I have stories. On any given night while doing my guitar tracks, I'd turn around and on the studio couch would be, The Beach Boys, Jefferson Starship, Mr. Mister...........you name it. They all stayed at the hotel there which was called The Americana Inn then. The best was when Ozzy Osbourne and band came by after their show..................with about 50 girls in tow...........needless to say, there was no recording that night!!!!!
Bob
Old 28th October 2009 | Show parent
  #23
Gear Addict
 
🎧 15 years
wow you guys bring back some memories...

I never recorded at Royal, but my most vivid music memory from Lake Geneva, was the Top Deck, a rock club on the "top deck" of an old 20's style marina on Lake Geneva...I played there in one of the **** bands I was in the early 70's, and the list of who played there from the mid 60's on for the next twenty or so years is a who's who of the creme de la creme of vintage Chi-town groups...Cryan Shames, Buckinghams, Shadows of Knight, Ides of March, Styx, the Flock, you name it.

my parents bought a house on Lake Como, which is a subsidiary of Lake Geneva in the mid 50's for $5 K, with no running water, no plumbing...the value of that house is now off the charts....a lot of that area was built up from the 20's by Hobart Hermanson, a bootlegger than ran a mob hangout and hotel/speakeasy (right down the road from the family summer home) which hosted the likes of Bugs Moran and Baby Face Nelson, and probably even Capone himself on occasion. The old Hermanson's laid vacant for about 30 or so years before it was reopened back in the 90's as the French Country Inn, an upscale getaway

a lot of the area around Lake Geneva was built as summer homes for the wealthy, like PK Wrigley, Borden family, Vicks family, Morton Salt family, but what the truth really is, is that Lake Geneva was heavy duty mob and bootleg activity in the 20's, and even into the 30's...Al Capone' brother built a house on Lake Geneva.

Axl Rose actually owned property on Lake Geneva, and supposedly the Playboy Club inspired "Paradise City".... the Playboy Club opened in the late 60's until the early 80's....beside the recording studio, it had a ski lift, a heliport and I believe a small airport to land light craft.

The Abbey was built in the 60's...it's on the far west end of Lake Geneva and is in a little town called Fontana....it was hurting for a lot of years an almost went vacant before it was bought up my Hostmark
Old 28th October 2009 | Show parent
  #24
Gear Maniac
 
roscoenyc's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
If you need a Lake Geneva fix Gordy's in Fontana has a 24 hour webcam
pointed at their pier and the lake. Gordy's is 4 doors down from Chucks (the bar mentioned above).

Gordy's Live Web Cam - Fontana, WI
Old 28th October 2009 | Show parent
  #25
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JamesV's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Prior to Royal Recorders the studio was Shade Tree. First Neve console I ever saw in person, don't remember which one.
Old 18th November 2009 | Show parent
  #26
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
Royal Recorders

I worked at Royal Recorders for a short stint as a second engineer. I was there from Summer of 1989 until May 1990. As I recall, at the time the Bush1 Recession was setting. That coupled with a shift to smaller/better/cheaper digital options made a special place like Royal harder to book. But, it was great to be part of it. I worked there with Dave Kent and Dan Harjung - both great engineers. While I was there, Adrian Belew was recording Young Lions - which was amaizng to witness.
Old 17th December 2013
  #27
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
I actually was a part of a investment company that was going to take over the lease in 1994 from Ron, however the property manager would not agree to a lease to go past 5 years, which ended in 1999, so the deal to take the studio over made no sense to the investors, so we had to walk. Al from Minestry bought the SSL and last I heard around the late 90's was Al had it at Chicago Trax after shipping to Texas and back...
Old 21st October 2016
  #28
Here for the gear
 
Hello everyone!

I actually work at the Grand Geneva resort right now with PSAV on their A/V team. I had remembered hearing about the studio before I got the job and when I came to check the place out before my interview I headed directly down to where the studio was formerly located. It's currently the resorts engineering office. Sadly it's fallen into some disrepair and the inside is jammed full of hardware and tools. I was able to walk through it after I was hired and you can still tell by the layout of the rooms that it was formerly a studio. I'm trying to get some good pictures of it but the engineering guys are kinda anal about people going through there. Plenty of pictures of the current layout of the resort if anyone is interested. I've been delving more and more into the history of the place since I started and I've come to the conclusion I was born in the wrong decade. The list of bands and artists that had been through the studio is so epic. If anyone has anymore stories or pictures of the recording studio from back in the day I would love to hear about them! It's kinda depressing to have missed something like that. Dan Harjung who used to engineer there was actually a teacher of mine at Madison Media Institute, along with Chris Vrenna, the drummer from NIN who also did work at that studio. I have an itch now to email Vrenna and see if he knows anything about the gear as I think he's been down to the Chocolate Factory....

Thanks for all the great nostalgia everyone!
Old 22nd October 2016
  #29
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Gigged at the Playboy Club there, stayed at the hotel a couple times (when it was the Americana), as well as skied there a couple times but unfortunely never made it into the studio.

uranium_jones, maybe you could bend the ear of management to consider bringing back the studio in some fashion as a tour money generator, much as others did with Sun records in Memphis and Motown. Given that hotel and studio's history with celebs, being able to offer some type of tour with stories should be able to sell some tickets. If they are trying to sell the image of a wholesome family resort it will probably be a lost cause though.

General Lake Geneva story to share . . . I used to play the boats that would cruise the lake that put out of the main pier in town. They had several boats of different sizes and it wouldn't be uncommon with a couple of the small ones to load in the band at the pier and pickup the passengers right from someone's lakeside estate, cruise around the lake for a couple hours and then drop them back off. This story however centers around the very large "Belle of the lake" boat which could hold a couple hundred people. It was typical back then for someone to book a gig for X amount of players and use whoever was available out of a pool of known guys around Chicago to throw together a band for the job. Whoever booked the gig usually got an extra share of the money and called the tunes, the rest of the musicians were good enough to play anything. It was a common practice that kept the guys very booked on the weekends and usually was a fun way to play with many excellent musicians. We even typically made more over a weekend then the guys doing a week long gig as a house band. This particular gig there was an old timer keyboard player and as we set off on the lake the weather picked up quite a bit. Lake Geneva is a large lake and if the weather gets bad you can be in trouble on a boat however with a boat as large as the Belle, she just did a lot of rolling. Well as the night wore on the keyboard player was showing signs of distress and wasn't happy he was stuck on that boat. By the last set he had no color in his face, was shaking, and needed a towel for the sweat. He was still playing good but about halfway into that last set a woman came up to him with a song request. I don't remember the song title she wanted but this story would be even better if she asked for "By the Sea". Without hesitation the keyboard player replied in a loud tone "Jesus lady, were all going to die in five minutes". She backed away slowly in horror and we finished the set just as the boat pulled into the pier. The keyboard player then immediately ran (I mean really ran) off the boat and I ended up packing up his gear and hauling it ashore as he refused to step back on the Belle, let alone the pier. I was amazed that inspite of a large, very long panic attact, he still played some wonderfully interesting parts. That's showbiz.
Old 10th April 2017 | Show parent
  #30
Here for the gear
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mike tholen ➑️
i did a couple of records there, a very nice joint...i was working for ministry when the gear became for sale. Ministry bought the gear, we stripped the studio of everything including the glass, but not the 2 mitsubishi 32 trk digital ****boxes.
We trucked it all down to the new ministry camp outside of austin texas, installed it into al's house and started to make filth pig...to shorten a very long story, the gear ended up at chicago trax after they moved to larrabee st. Not the halsted location. R. Kelley ended up buyin the studio and changed the name to the chocolate factoryfuuck ...and now i have now flippin' idea where that gear is.
where there any master tapes left there when the studio was stripped down, and if there where do you know there location now.
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