Producer Steve Ornest Brings a Musician’s Ear to a Notable Redondo Beach Studio
On the record.
- Written & photographed byKat Monk
At Peninsula High School in Palos Verdes, Steve Ornest was the long-haired guy always with a guitar. Infatuated with music from an early age, he started playing piano at 6, transitioning to guitar in his teen years.
Steve was playing music while sitting on the bleachers when a fellow student told him he should meet her dad, Wyn Davis, a local music producer. Wyn owned the state-of-the-art recording facility Total Access Recording in Redondo Beach. That moment would forever change Steve’s trajectory.
“I went home and looked him up,” Steve remembers. “He had produced all these amazing records I grew up listening to like Guns N’ Roses and Dio.”
Wyn and his daughter soon went to see Steve’s band play a gig at Sacred Grounds in San Pedro. Impressed, Wyn invited Steve to come by his studio, and Steve started playing on recordings with guys almost twice his age.
About 15 years old at the time, Steve relied on his mom to drive him to and from the music studio. Subsequently, Steve’s mom and Wyn met, fell in love and got married. Although they were only married for several years, Wyn remained a pivotal role in Steve’s life—not just musically but as a father figure.
After spending a couple years touring and playing with established artists around the world, Wyn suggested that Steve should attend Berklee College of Music. While attending Berklee, Steve intended to continue touring, recording for artists and playing as a “hired guitarist.”
“It is easy to go from being the hero in your zip code to just another musician amidst a sea of talent,” he explains. A musician first, Steve distinguished himself from other students because of his ability to record music in his dorm. He lived off-campus with some roommates—choosing the attic as his room so he could record music there.
Upon finishing his first year of college, he submitted an original composition to a professor, who was convinced the piece was recorded at a recording studio. It was at that moment that Steve realized he might have more to bring to the table than just playing guitar.
Steve graduated from Berklee with a degree in contemporary writing and production. Fast-forward to the present, and he is now running Total Access Recording with Wyn. Steve also met his wife, Michelle, at the studio when she came to record there.
“What I love about my job is getting to act as a conduit for an artist’s creative vision.”
He has years of experience playing in all sorts of bands. “I’ve been on tour in a van playing to half-empty rooms, as well as sold-out festivals and arenas,” he shares.
Steve speaks the language of music and, in turn, helps his clients as a writer, player, arranger and someone who has been there before. “Part of what I love about my job is getting to act as a conduit for an artist’s creative vision,” he shares. “Whether I’m capturing their performance in the most honest way possible or coming up with production elements that serve as ear candy—it’s all about making the song the best it can possibly be.”
Bands such as Black Flag, No Doubt, Guns N’ Roses and Foreigner have recorded at this little gem of a studio. “Amazing tracks have been produced in that studio over the years—from Pennywise to Sublime,” shares Kat Corbett, DJ at KROQ. “But it’s great to hear the next generation of artists getting their time inside those walls, like Funkraum.”
Steve’s colleagues recognize his invaluable contributions to the studio. “He has the ability to listen and think like a musician and as a fan,” explains Mike Sutherland, production manager for Sublime With Rome and Gwen Stefani. “Most producers aren’t able to go back and forth like that.”