Producer, arranger, songwriter and musician Neil Giraldo is most comfortable in his private production studio in the hills of Malibu, CA.
The writing, recording and mixing facililty is located in a two-story barn on the grounds of the estate Giraldo shares with his wife, Pat Benatar, and family.
Giraldo, who has lived in various homes in Malibu over the past couple of decades, have always maintained a home studio.
“I’ve had a studio at the house probably for the last 33 years,” he explains. “The new one’s kind of cool because it’s in a barn, and is about 25 by 25 feet. It’s got two stories to it; I use the upper part for administration and songwriting—and I’m working on a couple of books—and then downstairs is where all the gear is and where songs become recordings.”
“When we started to get successful and I finally had the money to be able to buy guitars, I bought studio gear instead of more guitars,” Neil recalls. “So in the early days I was buying Pultecs and Fairchilds and EMT 250’s. I was buying all this studio gear, because I felt like the studio was my home, and I felt really comfortable in it, and I wanted to have really good analog gear.”
Giraldo began his professional career in 1978 playing guitar and piano with Rick Derringer. He also arranged and played all of the guitars on Rick Springfield’s 1981 #1 hit, “Jessie’s Girl,” and has performed on multiple instruments on every one of Benatar’s records. However, he considers himself a producer and arranger first and foremost and a musician second.
“Now I have loaded my Argosy Dual 15 Workstation with a collection of contemporary and vintage recording equipment,” he adds. “I have a Manley Mic/EQ 500, a couple Pultecs, an SSL stereo compressor, a Neve stereo compressor and a Dangerous Audio 2-Bus.
“I’ve got an 1176 floating around in there, and I’ve got a patchbay. I also have a couple of the Argosy rolling rack units, which I’ve filled up with GML EQ and a bunch of other stuff plus a Neve sidecar and even more vintage gear.”
All of his essential studio equipment was previously on a large wooden table, he reports.
“But it took up so much room in the studio, and every time I’d have people come in they’d say, ‘Why don’t you just get studio furniture and make it easier?’ I liked having a table but it didn’t feel like a studio. I engineer and I play these instruments, and I like to have everything around me like a cockpit, a really good environment. I saw the Argosy stuff and thought I’d better try it—and it worked out!”
Barry Rudolph, a producer, engineer and industry trade publication journalist, recommended the Argosy furniture, Giraldo recalls. “Barry, who’s a really good friend of mine, I’ve known him forever, mentioned it first. I thought, yeah, I probably should have that, because it gets a little difficult when you don’t have everything where it should be.”
Giraldo is currently working on an album with songwriting partner Scott Kempner of the Del Lords and The Dictators.
“I’ve wanted to do a Christmas record forever. It’s more about what happens in people’s lives towards the end of the year, where things are going to end, and things are going to start new, a fresh new year,” he reveals. “Then, Patricia and I are working on some stuff together. It’ll be pretty adventurous, taking a lot of risks, and I think it’s going to be fun.”
Since the 1979 debut album, “In the Heat of the Night,” Benatar, with Giraldo as producer, arranger, guitarist, keyboardist and even drummer, has racked up 14 Top 40 singles, two Multi-Platinum, five Platinum and three Gold RIAA-certified albums, together with four Grammy Awards. Together they tour more than 100 days a year, with more shows to come in November.
But the new record project looks forward, not back, says Giraldo. “I’m not about that nostalgia thing. I love the fact that people still want to hear the songs, and I’m proud of what I did in the past, but I look forward. I looked forward back then—I was never in that moment of time. I always want to be somewhere else.”