Gunter Wagner  
The man behind A.R.T. STUDIOS Gunter Wagner
Musician, sound engineering and studio designer.
How much is important his contribute in the Enigma's music?
Who really is?
A friendly interview with Gunter Wagner reveal us the "mistery".
 
First of all, the ears of the Enigma and Sandra's fans would thank you.
For the higher digital audio quality hearing on their CD's.

1. How many years you are involved in studio design?
From 1975 I worked as "Tonmeister" (Sound engineer) in one of the big Studios in Munich (Union Studios). Nevertheless, like most Studios during the 70'ies, the Studio was far from being perfect although its size, so I became interested in the technical and acoustical side to improve it. This turned out to be much more challenging than pushing buttons and moving faders during the "Disco"-era in Munich and after I designed and installed the brand-new Studio 3 at Union with everything in it money could buy at the time, I did not feel like going back behind the console again. From 1980 I started my own business specializing in studio design, installation and consulting.
 
2. How many time requires a digital studio installation?
This obviously depends on the size and the technical complexity of the studio. If we leave the room and monitoring design away, there are four major steps for the technical installation:
- Definition of target and budget proposals, technical research, latest developments.
- Technical design, plans and wiring lists. Equipment procurement.
- Technical installation, wiring.
- Setup, Software installation, final test, documentation.
For a big studio all in all about six months. The pure installation itself takes about two months.
 
3. Could you describe the latest studio of Michael Cretu, installed into the new residence?
Any technical details... ?
Room Design:
The control room was designed between my partner Bernd Steber and myself. It is the most unusual design I have ever done in 20 years. Especially the control room is totally unconventional and looks absolutely different from how a studio appears normally.
Bernd came up with the idea of hiding all acoustical trapping behind a full-size piece of canvas which could be stretched from one side of the room to the other and painted like a picture, so we asked a young German set painter & artist to do this for us. He (the artist) painted us a beautiful and magic night sky with thousands of stars and some very close star nebulas, similar as seen on images taken from the Hubble Space Telescope.
The walls are built with blocks of open porous sandstone and they seem to break in an irregular line just under the ceiling. The big monitor speakers and the outboard equipment racks are built into these sandstone walls and the entrance into the room is through two big Arabic sandstone arcs in the back.
The floor is covered with a wall-to-wall carpet which we had especially printed with a reproduction of the moon's surface.
All this leads to the impression of standing in an old ruin somewhere in space, maybe on another planet. Especially at night (the time when Michael likes to work), the illusion is truly breathtaking.
During the day you can see through a huge arc-shaped window in the front of the room down the hill to the sea.

Technical details:
Basically we had tried the complete setup already in Michael's old Studio at his old house.
The idea was to make sure that everything works perfectly together in the new studio and so over the last three years we installed all new components step by step into the old studio so we did not have to take the risk of delays with unpleasant surprises.
All external equipment is wired to a large digital mixing console which we had custom built by AMEK and the German Company Mega Audio according to Michael's preferred working procedures. This console is physically small but it has 160 inputs to collect most signals coming from any midi source, computer or microphone without the need of any patch bay.
This was possible because all active components are located outside in some huge racks the machine room. This keeps all noise and unnecessary heat out of the control room and reduces physical size. All you see in the control room is the control surface, like a big remote control with some moving faders and touch screens. What you don't see is cables. (In Michael's old studio I was always proud to say that the only cable you can see in the control room is the cable to the mouse. Now, since even computer keyboards and mice are wireless, we got rid even of these…)
All recording is done on a large Protools system hardware and EMAGIC's latest version of Logic Audio Platinum software. Software samplers as Samplecell, Steinberg's Halion and the PC-based StudioSampler are all linked and sync-ed together on demand. As you would expect, there are several racks full of external Midi modules and hardware samplers as well as a selection of reverb systems as the Lexicon 480 and 960 as well as some more exotic reverbs like the vintage Yamaha REV1, REV7 and REV9, the Eventide DRP9000 and the Dynacord DRP20. Again integrated is Michael's old Waveframe 1000. This was the machine that made Enigma happening in the first place in 1990. It was the first real fully professional digital "Studio-in-a-box". Now, although 15 years old, it still has some absolute unique features. Its constant sampling rate system is brilliant and the sample editing and archiving feature is still unmatched.
Another important item in the Control room is the monitoring system. Like in Michael's old Studio, it was especially designed and built by Quested Acoustics.
 
4. How many improvements you have bring to the Cretu's studio in the years?
Countless. Michael's studio is designed as a very flexible setup which is upgraded constantly. The idea is that Michael can quickly and easily incorporate new outboard equipment to the system, even when I am not in Ibiza to assist him. Certainly we carry out big changes or upgrades every now and then which cannot be done as quick. Usually I upgrade the complete system about once a year and try to make all possible improvements.
The AMEK digital console is the third console Michael uses since he is in Ibiza, after a large analogue console custom build by German manufacturer ESTEC, followed by a Euphonix mixing console. Also we went from a 32-track digital recorder (Otari DTR900) in 1989 to record into the Waveframe 1000 and now in the third generation of Protools.
 
5. I read on Internet you have several experiences in my country, here in Italy. Could you tell us something?
Several experiences is a bit too much... In the early 80ies, during the "Disco Area" I designed and installed a quite big studio in Via Timavo in Milano. After this followed a few smaller project studios. Most involvement in Italy was as a design consultant because my knowledge of the Italian language is - umm, "molto difettoso".
 
6. How important is the opinion of a musician in the final design?
Building a studio for a particular musician is always a very personal and tailor-made project. Although being musician and sound engineer myself, it is impossible to design the perfect private studio without the influence of the client.
To design, build and install a tailor-made music studio I have to understand the client's music and his preferred way to produce it. Like a good architect who has to work with (and according to) the demand of his client, the studio designer has to listen to the client to understand what he needs. He is the link between the artist and his recording tools.
 
7. You are the studio designer of other important musicians, aren't you? Could you indicate someone?
Often big are not owned by musicians but by the people or companies in the background, like producers, record companies, recording facilities. A few names I have worked for are (in Germany) Peter Maffay, Ralph Siegel, Giorgio Moroder, Sarah Brightman, Frank Farian, Nena, Frank Duval, Klaus Doldinger, (in Australia) Jimmy Barnes, Human Nature, INXS, AC/DC, just to name a few.
 
8. Have you visited the LSD show in Hamburg or Munich? Your impressions...
Unfortunately this was the time when I was very busy with Michael's new Studio in Ibiza, so I was unable to come with Michael and Sandra to see the show myself, so I can't really comment on this.
 
9. What's the future of "Enigma" sound, considering the latest advanced technologies?
Although technologies have been the tools in the toolbox to make Enigma working, they actually do not create the sound. It will be up to Michael to take advantage of the latest technologies, so you have to ask him about this…(grin..)
 
10. Most of the new albums released everywhere are available on DVD Audio. The new standard supports Dolby Digital audio. Is the Cretu's studio ready for a similar concept?
The new Studio is designed flexible enough to go in any of these new media directions. Although the current monitoring system is set for stereo at the moment, it can be quickly upgraded should there be demand for Dolby digital or multichannel mixdown.
 
11. For a beginner musician. What are the principal equipment he needs?
First of all certainly his instrument and his creativity (grin). But seriously, things have changed a lot over the last few years. Recording equipment is much more affordable but also technically more complex. For the keyboard player many things can be done with a fast PC, a good soundcard, a few computer programs (like EMAGIC's Logic Audio or Steinberg's Cubase VST), Midi keyboard and some hardware or software sound modules and samplers. To record vocals and acoustical instruments, high quality microphones are more essential then ever, to catch on against the technical character of digital and artificial sounds. Nevertheless important to know that the international music industry has changed their demand and many record companies prefer a musical act if it can be presented live, compared to the more "studio-orientated" music in the 90ies.
 
12. Who desires following your footprints ... any suggestion?
 
Hmm… interesting question. When I started working in the recording industry, I was a bit of an outsider, because usually people worked either on the music side or they were technicians. Communications between the two groups was difficult and often biased. I had one foot in the musician's camp and the other with the technicians which made me a negotiator for both sides.
Today most musicians are more familiar with the technical process and there seem to be much more tolerance between the artist and the tech. Productions like ENIGMA where only possible because of the close cooperation between music and technology which again inspired several people to become interested in what I would call "creative studio technology". Nevertheless we see ourselves confronted with a much more complicated studio technology which is sometimes very discouraging for the creative musician, so this is where I still see the biggest chance for the future studio designer: To create an easy-to-work, still flexible setup in an inspiring environment to support the musician's creativity.
 
13. A funny question: do you like Enigma music?
I certainly do. I spent days and weeks with Michael in the Studio, especially with the first and second Enigma Album and so I know every bar and every detail in most of the tracks. Nevertheless I have a few favorites. Recently I was sitting in the Airport Lounge in Bangkok waiting for my connection flight. Somewhere in the background I heard "Return to Innocence" and I realized again that I really like it….
 
14. We don't want to violate your privacy, but, who is Gunter Wagner in the private life?
Since 1985 I live in Australia on the coast, 30 minutes north of Sydney with my wife Sybille and my 13 year old son Max. Because I grew up in Munich far away from the sea, I enjoy the proximity of the ocean and I spend lots of time on my boat on the water.
 
15. And now the last question ... The moment for a personal question
I like taking the best sound from Sandra and Enigma's music with digital headphones.
I'm using a Sony MDR V-700 (sorry for the advertising), is it the right choice?
My personal favorite is very close to that, I use the old Sony professional MDR V6 which was later re-issued as MDR 7506. To my understanding the MDR V-700 uses nearly the same system.
 
Thank you very much Gunter Wagner for have answered our questions. The best for you!
Many thanks for your interest in someone "behind the scene".
Best regards.
 
 
Virtual tour into the past and present A.R.T. Studios, click here
 
© 2003 SON OF THE CRETU MACHINE - Sandra/Cretu/Enigma/T.A.A.W. Virtual Fan Club