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Over the summer, W Hotels Worldwide launched W Sound Suites, private music studios for recording, mixing, and creative sessions at W Bali-Seminyak, W Hollywood, W Barcelona, and W Seattle. The project started in Bali in partnership with Coca-Cola in May, but in August Whitewall traveled to Seattle to get a tour of the soon-to-be-finished Sound Suite there with W’s North American Music Director, Paul Blair (also known as DJ White Shadow), the Chicago-based music producer known for his work with Lady Gaga. He told us about his dream for a soundproof space to make music while traveling and the design inspiration for the Seattle location—David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
WHITEWALL: Why is a sound studio within a hotel ideal?
PAUL BLAIR: I was on tour for like five years, nonstop, with Lady Gaga, and when we were on the road, you’d have only two choices if you were trying to make music: either to do it in a hotel room, where you worked from your headphones or from a speaker, where you got in immediate trouble—you’d have to buy out the rooms on the whole floor, trying to not have the sound go downstairs, which is expensive—or you find a studio outside the hotel, which is kind of pain, because you have to gather up twenty different people . . .
When I we met with the W team during a program we did for a DJ Lab in Ko Samui, and we talked about ways the W could engage people with music. I pitched some weird ideas, and the company was excited about doing something that was unique and innovative.
WW: Each W is unique to its location. Can you describe what’s special about the W Seattle Sound Suite?
PB: There are very few places in the world where you can sing a song and look at Mount Rainier at the same time. So I wanted to be able to have the vocal booth be in the part of the room so that visual inspiration was still there.
In one area I drew in a kind of Murphy bed for the sound equipment, so you could hide everything, or open it up. We wanted everything to have a purpose the way it was laid out.
Seattle is a great music city. As we continue to build these things out, we’re going to try and select places that are music hubs first, and let the rest fall in line as we go along.
WW: So how hard, design-wise, is it to soundproof the space?
PB: It’s a really special kind of process to soundproof, with insulation and special materials. Think of sound as water, because it’s made of waves, and the room as a fish tank. If you have one tiny crack in the fish tank, you’ve screwed it up and the water gets out. Sound is like liquid trying to seep through all the holes, so you try to stop it at every juncture, and there are a lot of specialized processes that help us with that. I’ve built a couple studios, one in my house and one for a friend. I learned all this stuff when I tried to do it on my own.
WW: For the Seattle suite, what kind of design aesthetic and environment did you want to create?
PB: I’ve been to Seattle tons of times, but when I was here last it had been years since I had gone out of the city and looked around. They shot Twin Peaks like 30 minutes from here, up the highway. And it’s beautiful out there. There’s this high waterfall and all this gorgeous timber. I had the idea to emulate part of the show in this space. There’s this black-and-white carpet and some of the red curtains that reference the Black Lodge in the show. I’m pretty psyched about that.
This article is published in Whitewall’s winter 2017 Luxury Issue.