Dishevelled strawberry blonde hair, a cigarette dangling perilously from the corner of her rosebud mouth, a voice that’s seduction personified. Dressed in ripped jeans, a white peasant top and sparkly silver Converse high tops, she’s taking fervent swigs from a Styrofoam cup, the contents of which I’m only presuming to be coffee. She gives me a wink and saunters back to what she calls her ‘lair’.
It’s way past the witching hour and I’m walking back to my hotel, the legendary Sunset Marquis, after a night out on LA’s notorious Sunset Strip just around the corner when, suddenly, there she is, practicing her scales while pacing up and down the pavement in front of our hotel, the Sunset Marquis.
Her name, I was to learn later, was Satine. And her lair was the hotel’s in-house recording studio, (aptly) named Nightbird. Satine, like many other musically gifted hopefuls, flocks nightly to this studio to record her demos in hopes of making it big one day.
Sunset Marquis is one of those ‘music’ hotels that have become synonymous with LA’s predilection for pop. It was here that Bad Girl of rock-n-roll Courtney Love scribbled her infamous suicide note in 1995. She later wrote a song titled ‘Sunset Marquis’ that was to be (but never featured) on her 2010 album, Nobody’s Daughter. Local legend has it that she even penned a second song, ‘How dirty girls get clean’, on the hotel’s stationary.
Besides Love, the studio has seen legends such as Madonna, Aerosmith, Phil Collins and Nelly Furtado record here.
But you don’t need to be a superstar or even a guest of the hotel to rent out the Nightbird Studio, designed by acoustician George Augsburger. Anyone with about $1,000 (about Rs 56,000) to spare can come in, book the studio for 12 hours, use its state-of-the-art audio and video equipment and cut a demo album — all in one night, if they so wish.
What’s more, the studio has its own entrance and exit, a 24-hour food-and-beverage service and even massage services for those exhausting gaps between recording sessions.
Intrigued by the concept of the music hotel, I decided to pop into The Mosser in San Francisco a few days later, as I drove up the California coast. Situated between ’Frisco’s shopping area of Union Square and the Moscone Convention Center, this 166-room boutique hotel also has its own recording studio, called Studio Paradiso and featuring everything from four tracking rooms and a control room to its own musical instruments and even a professional studio engineer to make sure you sound as good as you possibly can.
Bands such as Amber Asylum and Bonfire Madigan have used Studio Paradiso’s facilities over the years, at the relatively reasonable rate of $500 (about Rs 28,000) for 10 hours.
On America’s East Coast, in New York, the 12-year-old Tribeca Grand Hotel in Manhattan is fast earning a reputation as a great music hotel of a different sort. The Tribeca Grand does not have a recording studio, but its Church Bar is often the venue for diverse curated music programmes that feature cutting-edge selections, weekly DJs and an adjacent private lounge legendary for its live bands. The hotel also regularly plays host to new and up-and-coming bands, thereby encouraging fresh talent.
Speaking of which, if by any stroke of luck Satine does become another mononymic musical sensation, you know where you read about her first.