Miami’s Hit Factory

(Originally published on MOLI 7/3/8)

The world champion DJ and now sought-after producer known as Infamous remembers the first time he visited the Hit Factory Criteria recording studio in Miami. “They gave us a walking tour,” says the man who subsequently helmed the boards for the hot Lil Wayne and Jay-Z collaboration “Mr. Carter” at Hit Factory Criteria. “The GA said, ‘Oh Eric Clapton recorded “Layla” there.’ As soon as I heard that I froze still and tried to inhale as much of the room as I could.”

Iggy Pop also remembers his first glimpse of the stucco building in a quiet warehouse district. The rock legend, who eventually recorded most of his album Skull Ring there, says that one of the first things he did when he moved to Miami in the early ’90s was drive by Criteria, just to see where songs like “Funky Nassau” were made. The punk pioneer, who recently returned to Hit Factory to record with the band Jet, and calls metal engineer Chris Carroll the studio’s “secret weapon,” was smitten with the two-story building’s funky Miami charm. “You don’t feel like you’re walking into some goombah’s armpit,” says Pop. “It’s still very Florida; you can still chill.”

For 50 years, the studio founded as Criteria then acquired by Hit Factory in 1999 has been host to a slew of recording legends: James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, Bob Marley, the Rolling Stones, the Bee Gees, Michael Jackson, Ricky Martin, Madonna – the list goes on. I recently spent a month talking to a number of the people who built this iconic space and have helped it stay alive (to coin a phrase) for an Associated Press story: You can read the whole thing here.

Criteria, and then Hit Factory, have drawn a dizzying array of artists together into one space. Founder Mack Emerman was a gear-head, and the rooms have been a haven for audiophiles ever since, from Tom Dowd and the Albert Brothers to Scott Storch and Timbaland. “It was the people behind the scenes who made the studios here,” says Robert Lanier, Hit Factory Criteria’s executive vice president and COO. “It was the engineers, the innovative individuals who were part of the growth of the recording industry. They came up with different sounds, new techniques.”

Eric Schilling is one of the many serious music heads who revere Hit Factory Criteria’s big rooms and state of the art consoles. The freelance engineer has relied heavily on Criteria since the ‘70s, twiddling the knobs on tracks for such artists as the Eagles, Gloria Estefan, Juan Luis Guerra, and Janet Jackson. “It’s the sound of the rooms that keeps me here,” he says. “They’re good spaces for recording live. They don’t make rooms like that anymore.”


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