It feels like ages ago now that I made my first recording and rather than writing about it I want to get back in there and make more and do more. It was so much fun. I learnt so much and am feeling insanely lucky to be surrounded by such great and talented people.
I’ve known Jason for 4 years. He’s a sound man. A radio DJ. A guitarist. A drummer… He has a recording studio. He records bands. Why it’s taken me this long to ask him for help I don’t know… I guess I was terrified. I was even more terrified once I started watching him work. I was beyond impressed. Here is a guy who has arranged every tile on the ceiling in his studio at a specific angle so it sounds ‘just so’. His attention to detail borders ocd but you know what? It pays off.
His studio, Old School Studios, is in an old nuclear bunker built towards the end of The Cold War. I had no idea this place even existed. At the back of a carpark, almost lost under grass, behind a governmental building. It’s insane. As Jason lifted the massive creaky iron latch on the elephant sized door and we headed into the bunker, I was slightly apprehensive. There are no windows. No phone signal. An emergency escape hatch. There are even food stores! Give me a call if there’s a nuclear war. I know where the hideout is.
The studio itself looks like Austin Powers designed it and as he records mainly analogue, it’s like a museum of music equipment. He has selected everything so perfectly and understands exactly what each piece of vintage equipment does and how to get the best from it. He has kept making and recording music as a mastered art form.
Most of the equipment we used dates from the 1940s/50s but we (Jason) managed to create a really slick, commercial sounding pop song. The majority of music that inspired me to sing in the first place dates from this period so it felt kind of special and apt that we would record this way. The instruments were all recorded one at a time live. There was no auto tune. Or retakes. The drums were recorded with one mic. If it didn’t sound right, we moved another sound board covered in 70s fabric over. We didn’t have headphones. I sang into an RCA varacoustic ribbon mic in the control room taking breaks to cut up limes for my beer with my swiss army knife. We recorded a backing vocal. Layered it on. Another. Layered it on. Another! Layered it on. Recorded it through an Ampex 601 tube preamp. 6 hours later we left with a finished track.
My favourite thing about recording this way is that you get to hear what you ACTUALLY sound like. If you don’t like it, the only thing you can do is improve. Or press the ‘super nice’ button. Im sure that’s not technically true. But that’s how I want to do things. I want everything to be and feel homemade. I want to see it being made so I can feel it too. I am still amazed that equipment this old and recording this simply can produce such a great finish.
If you missed it the other day, here’s the link to our track. There will be more coming soon! Get in touch if you have any requests.
The other great thing is Jason wants to record some more.
Excellent Smithers X
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Old School Studios is based in Norwich, UK and owned by Jason. For more info check out his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/oldschoolstudiosnorwich