“You can feel the greatness in the air”: Biako’s LA studio once belonged to Earth, Wind & Fire

Revival studio was also used by Fleetwood Mac, Whitney Houston, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and many more

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Biako 2023

Image: Serumun Hagher

GRAMMY-nominated Biako, an artist, producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles, is known for his quality offerings of R&B, pop, jazz, and psych-soul. He most notably co-produced Foushee’s 2020 breakout hit Deep End, which topped TikTok and Shazam’s global charts and gained over 230 million streams on Spotify alone. Biako has also featured on the soundtrack for Netflix’s You and released his dazzling debut album, Feelings Happen, in April 2023.

Biako’s studio is as impressive as his music. Known as Revival, it’s part of a studio complex in West LA. It was built and used by Earth, Wind & Fire for rehearsals, experiments, and recordings during their ownership from around 1979 to 1985. Fleetwood Mac, Whitney Houston, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg have also worked in the studio. We were lucky enough to speak to Biako and find out about how he’s using the studio today.

Hey Biako. We’re hearing a rumour your studio was once used by Earth, Wind & Fire. Tell us more.

If only these walls could talk! It was not only used by Earth, Wind & Fire, but also built by them and conceived as a place where creatives from all walks of life can come together under one roof. They rehearsed for their tours here and experimented with all their stage props and visuals in the sound stages, and the recording studios were built by the famous studio builder Jack Edwards, who built Capitol Records. George Massenberg, EWF’s head engineer and builder of all the GML EQs and consoles (one of which was housed in studio B for many years) had his headquarters at the studio during those years that EWF owned and operated here (approx 1979 – 1985). Many artists in their heyday worked here, including Fleetwood Mac, Whitney Houston, Dr. Dre, and Snoop.

Biako studio 2023

Did you ever get to work with anyone from the band?

Verdine White came by a couple of times to reminisce about the good old days. I haven’t actually collaborated with any original members yet, but I feel Maurice White’s spirit in the walls for sure, so maybe we’ve collaborated in the astral realm somehow.

You can feel the greatness in the air, and it always brings out my best work and that of the artists I work with here. They did leave behind an impressive microphone collection, some rare outboard gear, and an EMT 250 plate reverb.

Biako studio 2023 keys

When did you decide to write your debut album, Feelings Happen?

The album, and being a recording artist, was something I stumbled upon by accident. For years I had been working as a touring musician for other artists and paying my dues as an engineer at studios around LA, mixing and eventually producing as I got deeper into the trade. So being an artist wasn’t really part of the grand scheme at the time, but I suffered a painful heartbreak as my last relationship came to an end toward the end of 2017.

Perhaps it was the amalgamation of all my skills as an instrumentalist, producer, and songwriter that finally gave me the ability to translate the emotions I was experiencing and put them into songs. The fact that I had the studio all to myself and the palpable feeling of being in such a legendary space to create also contributed to me rising to that occasion. But at the time, I saw it as a matter of life and death, to get these songs out of me. I know that sounds a bit dramatic but for me, it was true. I had that sense of urgency that artists get stricken with in the middle of doing their daily routine – everything happening around me didn’t matter so long as I could get my idea out of my head and into a song.

Biako studio 2023 mixing desk

Tell us a bit about the studio.

Revival is located inside the infamous Complex Studios in West LA (Culver City and Santa Monica adjacent). I’ve been working predominantly out of studio C, which I was told was Maurice’s favourite room.

Biako studio 2023 guitar

What atmosphere do you try to create in the studio, and how does the studio environment help you with your creativity?

The studio itself has a comfy, living room-type feel even though it has a state-of-the-art design. Maybe it’s because of how EWF and countless other legendary artists from the 70s and 80s helped to make the room feel so worn in. I try my best to fill those big shoes and provide that same ambience of elevated creativity combined with a certain warm hospitality that artists have come to know and love about the space.

Biako studio 2023 hammond organ

What’s your favourite piece of gear right now?

I just recently bought a Roland GR300 polyphonic guitar synthesizer from the 70s paired with a G808 guitar, and I’ve been loving how rich and fat the synth tones are on it.

Watkins Copicat
Watkins Copicat

What synth or effect can be heard the most on your album?

Definitely the Roland Juno 60 – I wore that thing out! But it’s honestly such a versatile and beautiful synth in all its simplicity. I find that the bass tones, atmospheric sounds, and pads I’m able to get from it are unmatched by other synths of its kind.

Biako studio 2023 drums

What do you love about collaborating?

What I love most about collaboration with other artists or producers is that the result is always surprising because the way they hear or think about music is different from the way I hear or think about music. So, the anomaly of combining ideas is always captivating and exciting for me. I also try to chase that high I get from collaboration with my own music, which I’ve done frequently throughout my album as well.

What’s been the biggest investment in your studio?

My Neve 1084s (vintage) mic preamp and EQ and my EMT 250 reverb.

Biako studio 2023

If you were left on a deserted island, what one item would you take with you to make music with forever?

I’d probably want to have a portable tape machine to capture all the sounds on the island to sample. You can always make instruments on the island by gathering materials like wood, gourds, and other materials to play with, but without having something to record them on, you’d never be able to capture the magic. And if one day someone stumbles upon the island, they’ll find the tapes and hopefully share them with the world.

What is your top piece of production advice?

Just because it’s your idea, doesn’t make it the best idea in the room. Listen and humble yourself to what is happening through you and others around you. You are not the creator – you’re the receiver of the idea from the ether, so make sure you can be a proper vessel for the idea to blossom. The song is king. Get out of your own way and allow it to fulfill its own destiny.

See more footage of Revival via the studio complex’s Instagram.


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