The Vault Recording Studios in Houston, Texas 713-722-8900
9135 Katy Freeway, Suite #1, Houston, TX 77024
The Opening of The Vault
by Walker Smith
In our own West Bank town of Marrero, just ten minutes from downtown New Orleans, strange and wonderful sounds are emanating from, of all places, the historic Bank of Marrero building. In the high-spending post-World War I days of the early 1920s, New Orleans area residents and businessmen entrusted their growing fortunes to the bank’s impervious vault, built and certified by The Mosler Safe Company in 1921. But today Mosler’s safe houses a different kind of treasure – original recordings of local musical talent by veteran producer, engineer and musician David Williams. Where a row of gilt tellers’ cages once stood, a soundproofed vocal booth now resides, fitted out with state of the art microphones. A grand piano now graces what was once a loan office; the original bank president’s office has been refashioned into The Vault’s Studio A; and his desk has been replaced by an analog/digital recording console with up to 128-track capability. As word of the new studio spreads, musicians have been drifting in. Now, with several projects already completed, the only remaining common link to the banking industry is the money The Vault’s record sales no doubt will generate.
But musical creativity is only one aspect of what goes on inside The Vault. David Williams and associate Trent Williams offer business services such as artist/label contract consultation and review, the drafting of publisher/songwriter agreements, coordination of radio promotion strategy, and shopping product to outside labels. From the beginning of each project, David Williams oversees its progress, providing as much or as little input as the client desires. Meantime, Trent Williams considers artists for possible addition to the studio’s in-house label, Vault Records. So musicians entering this recording studio should expect the full-service, kid-glove treatment – from initial paperwork to project completion, which includes mastering. One-stop shopping at its best.
Trent Williams, who was born and raised in New Orleans, started his musical career as a recording artist. After successfully traveling around the U.S. promoting his own talent, he eventually came home and started his own personal management enterprise. His years of experience as a singer have endowed him with an eye for talent, which is an essential element in his current position as President of Vault Records.
“We’re excited about the new talent we’ve produced and signed to the label,” Williams reports. “Right now we’re breaking three new acts on a compilation CD called The Heist on commercial radio. It features an artist who’s been getting attention here in New Orleans by the name of Eternal, and a young rapper named Joe Louis. This past November Joe did a live performance here in town of his single Round One and rocked the house! And if things keep going the way they are, we’ll have plenty more product to follow that.”
David Williams wears several hats in his capacity as owner, business consultant, and production guru at The Vault Studios. Williams arrived in the New Orleans area by way of Los Angeles, but his early musical education was acquired in the recording studios of New York. He has performed in bands with the upper echelon of popular music royalty; with a resume that reads like a nomination list at the Grammys: Hall & Oates, The O’Jays, Diana Ross, Bette Midler, Stanley Turrentine and Jean Carne, among others. Williams also spent several years producing radio and television jingles for such companies as Polaroid, Coca Cola, Volkswagen, Northern, the Miller Brewing Company and Hanes. During the 1980s and 90s, Williams worked for several major labels, including Capitol Records, RCA and MCA, in the capacity of production supervisor. His solo production credits include Tisha Campbell (Martin and My Wife and Kids), Blunts LLA (Priority Records), Eternal, Joe Louis, Iytrah, and local up and coming R&B singer Terrence Jones. Preparations are underway for rock metal band Lead Boot Marathon, which is traveling from Missouri to record at The Vault in early 2004.
When asked why, after working all over the world, he chose New Orleans to launch his recording enterprise, Williams replied, “The south is responsible for a lot of recent monetary success, and New Orleans is packed with musical talent. And that’s not just my personal opinion; the national record community is looking to the south for the next big thing. Artists, record labels, producers – it’s all happening here. Master P, No Limit Records, Cash Money Records, Britney Spears, Juvenile and Mystikal all came from this region. And believe me, in the short time I’ve been here, I’ve seen, and been fortunate to work with, a number of future stars that you’ll be hearing from soon. I’m most proud of an 70% plus rate of return business in my first year. If clients weren’t satisfied, they wouldn’t come back, so customer satisfaction is high on my list of priorities. I’m convinced I made the right move coming here. We’re about to explode in the same way Detroit did with Motown in the sixties.”
The parallel between the New Orleans/Williams/Vault venture and the Detroit/Gordy/ Motown dynasty is indeed thought provoking. Like The Vault, Motown started as a small, independent recording studio and record company that mined local musicians, many of whom went on to international stardom. Hitsville was nothing more than a modest Detroit residence, transformed by Berry Gordy into his own musical laboratory. And according to most Hitsville alumni, the warmth and bouncing rhythms of the records cut at the studio were a true reflection of the familial creativity going on within its walls.
There were a few good years in which more creative “house music” type studios and labels emerged. Stax and Revelot, for example, took their cue from Gordy’s success with Motown. But it didn’t take long for these small R&B, pop and rock labels to be swallowed up by the majors. Having acquired all of the talent on the horizon, the record industry soon slicked up into a money-making, robotic Hydra, with so many constantly regenerating heads that none of them knew or cared what the others were doing. For awhile, the “starmakers” talked young artists into abandoning their creative flow in favor of “formula” records, thus turning out an assembly line of one-hit wonders. The public bought the hype in fickle waves of enthusiasm until a new generation of grassroots poets began predicting a fall in a movement straight from the streets. Years of waste and greed, the treachery of inflated corporate egos, and the final blow of the payola scandal weakened the giant, rendering it vulnerable to attack. The independents made their move.
It didn’t take long for self-determination and ingenuity to reshape the process of hit-making. Artists such as Russell Simmons, Master P and Ludacris were quick to prove that platinum disks no longer required a major label, a back-room deal or a formula song. With more independents hitting the charts, it became possible for talent to shine for talent’s sake.
It was the concentration of talent in the south that drew David Williams here to mine it. Along with his partner Trent, David Williams and The Vault are poised for independent success in New Orleans. “Location and timing are everything,” he says with a confident smile. “The Vault is the place, and the time is now.”
more information, contact David Williams at