Part 3 - The Chicken and the Egg
Having found premises for our new studio that ticked all the right boxes, I needed to move quickly. With demand outstripping supply for studio spaces, it was essential to keep Snap under my hat until a new lease was duly signed, sealed and delivered. My first requirement, therefore, was a good solicitor.
Now, as those who know me well will attest, I know a lot about lawyers. Indeed, at one stage in a previous incarnation I acted as legal affairs advisor for a small but busy record label, and have been legal consultant for a number of clients over the years. Having been swindled by some of the best-known lawyers in the music business two decades ago, I learnt the hard way to recognise the difference between a good solicitor and a dodgy legal-weasel.
I therefore count myself lucky to enjoy the services of Robert Coyle, senior partner of Colman Coyle in Islington and one of the leading property experts in the country. So here is my first golden rule of any business venture;
Employ the services of a top rate, honest, lawyer. Although expensive, the costs may well be repaid many times over in time.
Snap is owned by a firm of property developers who purchased half the street in happier times with a view to making multi-millions from developing the site. The current credit crunch and problems with planning have put their ambitions on hold indefinitely, hence their willingness to let out the property short term at a below-market rental charge. However, my plans require extensive rebuilding, acoustics and upgrading of the studio to say nothing of expensive installation and subsequent marketing. Including contingency, my cashflow suggests these various costs will amount to £60,000 – a modest amount bearing in mind the ambitious nature of the build. Nevertheless, it was fundamental to the project that I have a minimum of seven year secure tenancy over which to (hopefully) recoup my outlay.
Having worked with Robert Coyle for ten years, I knew I could trust him to negotiate a favourable lease, and this is exactly what he did, in double quick time. A month to negotiate a lease may not seem quick to those unused to the process, but believe me it is but the flicker of a legal eyelid in relation to the time usually taken to complete such matters, particularly as Robert and I discussed a string of favourable terms we wanted and he hung out doggedly until we secured each and every point including the minimum term, the right to sublet, the right to assign and a ‘parachute’ in my favour after three years to coincide with the rent review, meaning I could walk away if the project failed or if my interest waned rather than being tied to the lease.
While Robert negotiated with the landlords, I put the foundations in place for the rebuild.
My plans required several major changes in the existing layout. Both the live area and control room would be extended, a machine room built, a private lounge added and office/maintenance incorporated. In addition to the building work, major changes in mains supply and layout were required (see below) and, of course, extensive additional soundproofing and acoustic treatment would need to be addressed.
I knew the team I wanted on board, and a few phone calls later I was delighted to have them provisionally locked in place. But key to the build would be to bring in an efficient and hard working project manager to oversee the work.
Last year I had the privilege of getting to know a talented young engineer/producer from Bradford, Marco Pasquariello. Marco wandered into Funky one day looking for a microphone with which to record a talented young friend of his, Laura Groves. I have a strange instinct for people, and there was something about Marco and Laura that interested me. To cut a long story short, I suggested they buy a rather sweet Neumann M269 tube mic and then lent them one of my vintage Neve preamp/eq’s and a compressor to assist what was the ultimate in budget albums. Four months later, the album done, we cut a deal with Marco for mixing time in my current studio – London Sound Laboratory – in exchange for trading the mic back. The two weeks allocated turned into three and then four, but by this time everyone at Funky was impressed both by Marco’s application and production talent.
When the album was finally finished, the record company (XL) raved about the results, an enthusiasm shared by press and radio, That album – Blue Roses – has been one of the best received of the year to date. That it was done with a paltry budget of a few grand is testament to Laura’s prodigious talent and Marco’s skill, hard work and abilities.
So I stayed in touch with Marco, initially suggesting he relocate from Yorkshire to reorganise and relaunch LSL. But the moment Snap appeared on the radar, I contacted him with the offer of a gig as project manager for the build and then studio manager and in-house producer/engineer for the finished facility.
Quite apart from Marco’s energy and enthusiasm, he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the contemporary music scene and represents a new generation of musicians and producers that I find inspiring. And it’s fundamental to my concept of Snap that it provides a base for this new generation who often find traditional studios intimidating and stale. I want Snap to project a young, vibrant vibe, free of musical categorisation, snobbery or elitism. I want the place to feel like home to a new generation of musicians who are mixing, matching and kicking up a different storm from the moribund hype propagated by the traditional industry.
If my experience, gear and resources can offer opportunities for up and coming musicians and producers, I’ll be happy to stand back and give Marco, Adam, Mattia and the other young Turks at Funky their head to provide a home for the stimulating music being forged by their generation. And my greatest satisfaction will come if we can offer opportunities for a new wave of great British talent. It needs a home and I’m prepared to take risks to create something different, something that reflects what’s happening on the street rather than the manufactured pap that has for so long blighted the UK music business.
But enough of the idealism. On with the plot…