I wasn’t looking for a studio. Indeed, it was pretty much the last thing on my mind. After all, who plants seed in a draught? And the recent string of studio closures offers testament to the dire straights of the UK recording industry. So when Anthony Marshall rang to say he planned to move to the States to sign a major production deal and was therefore looking to assign the lease of his studio premises in North London, my interest was purely academic.
Funky Junk receives half a dozen calls a week from musicians and producers seeking studio premises and I always promise to pass on details of anything I bump into so I asked Anthony to send through details in case I knew anyone who might be interested.
When Anthony’s email arrived, my eyebrows tickled, then rose and rose again before staying up, suspended like two incredulous hairy caterpillars on the carpet of my brow.
Having spent a working life in and around recording studios in a variety of capacities, I have a pretty good idea of what makes a decent facility. Over and above any technical or acoustic factors, there is a list of essential boxes to tick, including;
It is important that a studio be accessible by public transport and situated in a pleasant, relaxed part of town. Ideally, there should be good pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops within easy walking distance.
Top of the list of requirements is a need to be able to load and unload equipment quickly, efficiently and with a minimum of hassle, irrespective of the time of day (or night).
Clients, record companies and staff tend to travel by car, so a decent amount of secure, dedicated parking is a prerequisite.
As with any business, it is crucial that overheads should be as low as possible. Whether freehold or leasehold, the economics of the music business dictate that rent, rates and other outgoings be kept in check.
A professional studio needs to be self-contained with tight security and no close residential neighbours.
My definition of a recording studio seems to be at odds with current thinking. Whereas there is now a trend to shoehorn gear into small rooms with the most basic of overdub booths, I have always believed that great sounding records need space – a large live room to track, a good sized control room to allow a decent distance between desk and main monitors and adequate storage for the inevitable overflow of studio gear, ancillary keyboards and ‘floating’ equipment, client’s flightcases, unused backline and instruments and suchlike. A professional studio needs lounges, showers, kitchens and associated office, reception, workshop and rest areas. And of course there must be machine rooms, tape stores, mic cupboards and a host of associated storage and technical facilities.
But of course, we world-weary travellers through the vale of audio realities know that such ideals are unobtainable. Which is why, as I scanned through details of Anthony’s studio, my aforementioned eyebrows rose spontaneously, millimetre by millimetre as
one by one, I ticked box after box after box. The place looked ideal.
That afternoon, my longsuffering Funky co-director, Claire McKone, and I visited the studio.
An anonymous door bearing the ‘Snap’ moniker was all that betrayed the existence of a recording studio in an otherwise nondescript residential street.
Anthony was his usual friendly self and showed us around. With every passing minute, my realisation grew that this studio complex offered the perfect raw material for my ideal studio – a home for my treasured collection of instruments and recording equipment.
Anthony had arranged the ground floor building to suit his personal production needs but with a bit of work, the space could be adapted to suit my purposes. Sure, it would need some alterations in the basic layout, a lot of acoustic treatment and a bunch of reorganisation, but as a starting point, it was perfect. Load-in for backline and instruments could not be easier.
There was covered private parking for three cars and dedicated on-street parking for another two or three plus plenty of short term metered space nearby. Moving one wall would create a spacious, fifty-five square meter live room – the perfect home for my beautiful Bosendorfer grand piano, Hammond C3, Pearl vibes and smattering of vintage Ampeg and Fender backline. At forty-five square meters, the adjoining control room would easily house my Neve console and collection of outboard – Pultecs, Neve and Focusrite eq’s, blah, blah, blah – and studio two would be the perfect home for my collection of vintage synths and keyboards.
The icing on the cake was sufficient additional space to create a private lounge and office for studio one and large, shared lounge and kitchen for the complex. Immediately to the right, behind the large garage, was a spacious store room with masses of space for a couple of EMT plates and even an existing tile room, easily adapted to provide the most natural of all reverberation facilities.
Before the day was out, a deal was sealed with a handshake. Anthony was happy to assign his lease and see his facility passed on to reliable, friendly hands.
And so the madness commenced.