James Maras had a vision. More than 20 years ago, he wanted to build a studio near his Glendale home so he could record his music.
In 2000, Pyramix Studios was born. With the tip of the pyramid protruding from his side yard, the full-service recording studio is set mostly underground in a secluded and gated private courtyard.
“I describe it as a hobby that went out of control,” James said.
“I have been a working musician for my entire adult life — but had an actual job to support my habit. It started with sound mixing with my own bands, then doing live sound for other bands, live recording, then home recording. This all evolved into a 1-acre secluded parcel with recording studio, workshop and mancave complex, separate from the home, starting about 25 years ago, which I designed and built in my ‘spare time’ as a so-called ‘retirement’ present to myself.”
The pyramid design allows for the flexible use of interior space, acoustics, structural integrity and esoteric properties (energy fields).
“But the main reason was that it’s just flippin’ cool,” James said. “Much attention was given to the proper proportions and alignment (as in the Great Pyramid) to enhance its performance. The pyramid was built to be a recording studio, so all the interior treatments were designed to that end while maintaining the home-like atmosphere. OK, there is a bit of neon, so it’s like a club, too.”
James joked that, although Pyramix Studios started as a private studio and party room, due to “mounting peer pressure,” they decided to offer it for public use.
“We put up a website and came out of hiding,” he said. “We are now a full-service studio with highly qualified in-house staff; some really high-quality gear; and the latest digital toys for recording, editing, mixing and mastering. We have a very extensive backline of mics, pre-amps, amps, guitars, keyboards, drums and other goodies to help facilitate our work. The studio is also available to freelance engineers and producers for their own projects. We also provide band rehearsal space and a venue for special events, such as release parties and video shoots.”
The studio is powered by a digital recording workstation, featuring Pro Tools Ultimate with HDX and a suite of plugins.
It has outboard gear from the likes of API, SSL, Neve and Universal Audio ready to be patched in.
At Pyramix Studios, artists come first — not egos. Lead engineer Duane Woods said he stresses to clients that he works for them, not the other way around.
“If they want to do another take, I tell them they don’t need to apologize,” Woods said. “They’re paying me by the hour to be there. I empower clients and let them dictate where they want to go.
“I stress that to our interns as well. When I was in engineering school in 1999, the image that was portrayed to me was the chef in the kitchen screaming at the staff, that cantankerous old audio engineer fit the mold. I disliked that idea. That culture stops at the door.”
Pyramix Studios also offers a homey environment with indoor and outdoor lounges for creative collaboration or rest. Lighting controls and personal headphone mixes give artists an ideal environment for their performances.
Woods said Pyramix Studios caters to all genres, bringing in a variety of artists ranging from Peoria rapper Dbait to the rock band Color of Chaos.
“The cool thing about being in a recording studio is we can record anything,” said Adam Maras, technical specialist.
“Besides music, we have recorded spoken word (performances), audiobooks, voiceovers for commercials. We’ve had live podcasts broadcast from here. That was a good experience as well.
“This is generally a good room for musicians to be in, if I don’t say so myself. We aimed for that versatility.”
Among its recent projects is a collaboration with local artists, including the Phoenix Children’s Chorus, who have donated their time and talent to produce recordings of 11 classic Christmas songs.
Once these songs are mixed and mastered, they’ll be submitted to a vinyl pressing service to have a limited run of records created. These albums will be donated to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, which will sell them directly and with the help of distribution partners.
“That’s been an amazing feeling,” Woods said.
Those wishing to donate to the cause can visit pyramixstudios.com/
Color of Chaos recorded “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” for the project, according to lead guitarist Steve Favela of North Phoenix. The act also recorded its first full-length album, “Hollywood,” at Pyramix Studios.
“From the beginning, they were so welcoming,” Favela said. “They were so appreciative. We had such a great rapport with them. The album came out great.”
Former East Valley singer-songwriter Jim Bachmann, who now lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said he relies on Woods to produce his quality sound.
“Duane’s just so cool,” Bachmann said. “He’s easy to work with, and he pulls the creativity out of you. He’s not afraid to suggest things if he feels the need. It’s like hanging out with a buddy in the living room jamming.”