LOUISVILLE -- Hugo Diaz, a Miami-based music producer who helped Pitbull rise to fame, will open a multi-million dollar recording studio at 520 Fourth St. downtown.
Huge Music Recording Studios will be state of the art, Diaz said, filling a 5,000-square-foot space in the Marmaduke Building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It will be designed for music, post-production film work, and potentially as a gathering place for music-related conferences.
Renovations began a week ago and work is expected to continue throughout 2017. An opening date has not been set.
"I am attempting to build probably the most amazing studio that Louisville has ever seen in hopes that I can help the city unite musically, and actually use it as a springboard so all these artists can have a chance in this music business," Diaz said.
Diaz and his brother, Lu, helped bring Pitbull to international fame by producing his 2004 debut album, "M.I.A.M.I.," which reached No. 14 on the Billboard 200 pop charts, No. 2 on the rap charts, and No. 7 on the R& B charts. One or both also worked on four of Pitbull's first five records as producers or engineers.
Lu Diaz has been more focused on mixing and engineering, working on albums that have garnered three Grammy Awards. Hugo Diaz has been producing and running another studio in Miami, also called Huge Music, since 2010.
Alison Brotzge-Elder, communications director for Greater Louisville Inc., said that members recent trip to Austin, Texas, to study that city's growth impressed upon them the need for more "downtown density." She said that Huge Music would be a positive move toward that goal.
"Any time a business decides to start or relocate or open in our 15-county region we're excited about it because it brings new opportunities, not just for business owners but for workers and the people who might use the services," she said.
Huge Music arrives in Louisville via Floyds Knobs, Ind., where Diaz lives several months out of the year with his wife, Carla Humphries, a Louisville native. Diaz and Humphries, who also have a home in Miami, have lived in Indiana since 2013 and Diaz said that Louisville's music scene has impressed him.
"I've been getting my feet wet in Kentucky and realizing that there's a lot of talent here," said Diaz, 44. "I was going to go back to Miami and rebuild my studio, and expand it, but I had a great opportunity open up (in Louisville).
"We're walking on cloud nine because everything has been falling together so nicely," Diaz said. "This year is all about building the facility. It's a huge undertaking."
Diaz plans to retain original architectural elements whenever possible while converting the space into three rooms. He is investing in top-of-the-line gear, including a six-figure Solid State Logic Duality production board and a Genelec monitor system. The smaller rooms will be outfitted with Pro-Tools and, possibly, Raven touch screen production boards. The main room will also have a movie screen for mixing film sound.
"It's a big laundry list and it's going to be growing," he said. "Right now we're just more interested in building the actual walls and getting everything soundproofed and detailed before moving any equipment in there. This is like the fifth studio I've built in my career and you always say, 'Oh, I can do this in six months,' but studios are always an ongoing thing."
Louisville has its share of recording studios, most of which are smaller in scale than what Diaz is planning. Kevin Ratterman, owner of the popular La La Land studio, was intrigued by Huge Music. "If they're doing postproduction film work, there can be huge money in that, but if he wants to tap into the local music market there's not a lot of money in it," Ratterman said.
"Louisville is mostly people doing weird stuff and they don't have a lot of money. But it's fun!"
"Recording at the right studio is key for any artist, especially the artists who take their craft seriously and are trying to get to the next level," said Louisville hip-hop musician James Lindsey.
Diaz is participating in a Coast 2 Coast LIVE artist showcase April 26 at Louisville's Haymarket Whiskey Bar, at which aspiring artists will perform in front of industry veterans. He said that building connections between Louisville artists and the music industry via similar conferences is a priority.
"We're going to be doing a lot more of those just to bring awareness to the city and get everybody networking," he said, "because the dream only works if the team works."