Los Angeles, CA – June 2017… He’s a Grammy-winning producer and engineer who has worked with such artists as Marilyn Manson, Jack Johnson, Los Lobos, Beck, and The Mars Volta. Not surprisingly, Robert Carranza has a firm grasp of the latest digital technology. In addition to his DAW, he employs a TASCAM DV-RA1000HD Master Recorder, and more recently he added a TASCAM DA-3000 Stereo Master Recorder/ADDA Converter to his studio.
But Carranza also records to good old analog tape, as he did for Johnson’s number-one-ranked album Sleep Through the Static (2008). It all goes back to the start of his career, which he credits to his TASCAM Ministudio Porta One.
“I credit the Porta One for starting my career because it helped me from the garage to the studio, where they handed me a mop and broom and told me to go clean up,” laughs Carranza. “My wife, then my girlfriend, bought the Porta One for me as a gift, and I used it to make our band demos. That four-track became any studio I wanted it to be, anywhere I wanted it to be. Everything I needed was in one little box.”
The Porta One, of course, was a classic ministudio, and Carranza is only one of many producers and engineers who got started with it. But there is a difference between the way Carranza thinks of the Porta One and the way most industry professionals think of it. “I’m still using it; I’ve been using it all these years,” he reveals. “It’s amazing: The technology still works, and it still sounds good. It has outlasted the case it was in and still looks like new. Sometimes when I want to keep it simple—say, when a singer/songwriter comes in—I use it to get a quick recording. We even used the Porta One to record Los Lobos tracks one time.”
After learning the basics on his Porta One, Carranza went on to work at a series of Los Angeles-area recording studios, starting around 1989 with Cherokee Studios in Hollywood. “Working at studios around town, I got a wealth of information,” he recalls. “I was sitting in the room with people who were making the records I loved.”
Today, Carranza and Jack Johnson co-own a recording studio that they built into a 100-year-old house in the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles, where they, in turn, make records people love. “The house is big enough for the record company, as well as the studio, and it’s all solar powered,” Carranza observes. “The cabling, the two tape machines, and some of the acoustic treatment are recycled from other studios. Instead of building from scratch, we built from recycled parts.” Recycled, that is, except for some key items, notably including his TASCAM Porta One, which is original equipment.
In the course of more than 27 years of professional recording and producing, Carranza has won four Grammy Awards. Naturally, he appreciates the honor. And yet, he insists, “not to put the Grammys down but the Porta One means more to me than the Grammys. It’s one of my most prized possessions. It got me into the business.”