The Village Recorder
A musician and entrepreneur with a technical mind and an eye for innovation, Geordie Hormel is also the epitome of low profile. As the owner and absentee guiding light of The Village recording studios in West Los Angeles, he has followed his own creative path and, in the process, helped The Village to achieve world-class status. He’s been a performer, composer, record company owner, equipment dealer, and always, ahead of his time. He takes little credit for his work. By his own rough guess, Hormel had cue music in about half of all the filmed television shows of the 1950s and ’60s, from Lassie and Ozzie & Harriet to The Fugitive and The Untouchables, yet he claims that his successes have always been a series of fortuitous accidents.
Hormel was a rebel from the start, pursuing a musical career in opposition to the wishes of his family, the wealthy owners of the Hormel meat-packing businesses, who refused to help him in his musical endeavors. It was the money from his music library and his own performances that, in 1968 enabled him to buy, for no money down and $125,000 the 22,000 square foot Masonic Temple that became The Village.
And it was his technical vision that opened the facility as one of the very first 24-track studios. “It was a little early,” he said, with characteristic dry humor, in a 1988 interview with Mix magazine. “Everybody still wanted 16-track.”
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Examiner/USC Libraries/Corbis via Getty Images
It’s always been that way with Hormel – he somehow has a sixth sense for what’s technologically next on the horizon. In the 1970s it was his interest in the products of Fairlight that brought that now ubiquitous name to America. Conversations Hormel had with fellow musical visionary Herbie Hancock had conjured up their idea of the perfect keyboard – one that could sample and use a computer. When Hormel read a Fairlight brochure, he knew he’d found that keyboard, and became the first U.S. dealer. Although for a while he found himself with a house full of unsold keyboards, today, of course, Fairlight technology has gone on to become a standard in the audio industry.
Hormel’s eclectic combination of technological and creative interests has always been reflected in the atmosphere of the studio that he owns. He created a comfortable, state-of-the-art place where musicians could do their thing, then he went away; he never intruded on their sessions. Personally, however, he’s been a friend to many of the clients who have worked at the facility, including Robbie Robertson and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, both of whom have maintained private studio/offices at The Village for many years. “Geordie has been tremendously supportive over the years,” Robertson.
Although now retired, Hormel continues to keep up with developments in entertainment technology and to apply his unique blend of pragmatism and futurist thinking to current issues. A recent phone conversation found him musing on the urgent necessity for standards and simplicity in the home computer delivery process for audio and video. “It’s something that manufacturers should be seriously concentrating on right now,” he says. “There has to be a standard like MIDI, because there are going to be so many options for the consumer. They’ll have so many choices that they must have simple, standardized and dedicated controls. The ease of operation is what’s going to make the process successful.”n has said. “He’s a great guy for coming to the rescue.”
July 17, 1928 – February 12, 2006
While recognizing that the challenges of starting a business are different today than when he opened The Village, Hormel continues to espouse the philosophies that have helped his studios stay on top for more than 30 years. “People have fewer options today and less freedom in how they do things. Today you have to follow a formula – you have to do things a certain way or you won’t be able to make money. It’s the same if you want to be a chanteuse or a basketball player or start a business. You have to follow the rules, and it’s all about how much money you can make.
“That’s hard for me to accept,” he continues, “because I’m not a person who likes to compromise. In every business I’ve had, the customer is always right. Today that’s a disappearing philosophy. Instead, the trend is that the customer is always wrong, and because nobody owns anything anymore, a lot of people don’t have pride in their work. I just don’t believe in that.”
Under Hormel’s guidance, and with his ongoing dedication to pride and performance, the recording studio he created continues to be one of the elite few to stay on top in today’s competitive environment. The Village, a last bastion of the philosophy “the customer comes first,” has managed to weather every trend in technology and music with grace and style.