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Mixing It!

Replicate or die

Article from The Mix, June 1995

Although many young dance-based sound studios are now venturing into other spheres, most do it cautiously. A management deal here, perhaps a publishing company there. Maybe an Indie dance label, if you're feeling particularly adventurous.

The duo running the Solon Corporation studios came from the opposite end, if you like. For thirtysomethings Anthony Whittaker and Chris Thomas are about to launch three record labels and their own music publishing business. And all this is happening within just three years of starting the Solon Digital Hard Disk Studio.

According to Anthony, The KLF's Bill Drummond was their fairy Godfather, turning up with £13,000 cash in a Sainsbury's carrier bag, and a whole heap of digital editing work! "It was exactly what we needed after we'd completed our courses", he explains.

The Solon Corporation are perhaps the perfect advert for music engineering education, since the two lads met whilst working their way through a technical recording course at Media Production Facilities in South London. With the help of the maverick KLF crew, plus some cash horn a Brazilian backer, the boys pitched in and started to assemble a sound system that would, in Chris's words, "be one of the future, not the past. Something that would be valid for years to come."

The Solon set-up certainly comes under that category, with a TAC Bullet desk giving 76 inputs on mixdown, a Digidesign Pro Tools 8 track system on Mac Quadra 650, with 1.5 hours stereo recording with Galaxy Plus Editors, and comparability with Atari, PC and Amiga sequencing platforms.

Chuck in a Fostex G16s multitrack, some classic synths (like an Oberheim Matrix 12), and more digital effects than you can shake a stick at, and you get a hint of how much hardware the Solon have squeezed in. It's the hard disk element that Chris is proudest of:

"With HD you can do perfect edits almost effortlessly. All editing is also non-destructive, so a vocalist can put down several takes, and we can then compile the finished vocal from various parts of these original takes. We can even tune out-of-tune notes! You can't do any of that on an analogue system. There just isn't that potential.

"All the KLF singles were edited for radio here, the Ministry of Sound Sessions Volume II was edited and mixed here by Paul Oakenfold. Labels such as Effective have recorded here, as well as DJs like Lawrence Nelson, Jay Strongman and Mrs Woods.

"Because we have a U-matic video recorder and a DAT with time code, we've been able to do fully synchronised sound-to-picture stuff. With this equipment we've worked with Philips Interactive, Virgin Interactive, Infogames and various computer games. We were on the Internet years ago — we came off in 1994 because it was so limited. Now things are hotting up a bit. I suppose we'll have to get back on. I'm convinced multi-media activities are going to be the way forward."

Andy concurs: "Oh yeah, we definitely see ourselves as a multimedia company, not just a recording studio or record label." As for starting the studio and the label, Anthony likens it to a school boy's dream.

"Having your own studio and label — well it was mine, anyway. Independence seemed the logical thing to aspire to, after being in various New Wave bands, as we both were."

The band legacy lives on, with Solon's 100' live room, Vox amps, and Vox foot-pedals, as well as a wide range of analogue synths. Most group recording situations can be handled at Solon, but recording, it turns out, wasn't the founding aim.

"The idea of the label came first, and the studio was just the means. We thought it was silly giving thousands of pounds to other studios without ever quite knowing what you were going to get back — why not have your own studio?"

Indeed, why not have your very own HD set-up (if you can get the required backing)? But what kind of sounds is the multi-media Solon Corp actually going to release?

"The Argentina record label is going to put a out a blend of Latin Afro-Cuba stuff that's been fused with House, a kind of world dance music label. The 303 Sound Manifesto will, despite being named after the classic bass synth that Madonna used in the 1980s, issue underground dance, the harder edge of House; while the third label, Solon, will be responsible for releasing commercial records, dance-pop with, we hope, a strong possibility of crossing over into the national charts."

To that end, the likes of Silvia Fox, a singer who's worked with chart busters Black Box, and singing fashion models Terry Tilly and Julienne Davis have recently been auditioned at Solon's Brixton premises.

Creating three labels successfully is a tall order, that even the Solon Corp gang might eventually find too much to handle — so why add the nightmare of song publishing to all this?

"We wanted the publishing so tracks that we, or our artists, generated would remain ours. It's the next logical step, if you want to retain control in the future."

And the future, as befits their Blade Runner-inspired name, is something the Solon Corporation seem to have something of a handle on.

The first releases on the Argentina, 303 and Solon labels are due in June 1995.

Let's get Massive

April's edition of THE MIX featured a Jungle special, in which we examined the various sampling and time-stretching tricks used by artists like More Rockers, Roni Size and Urban Shakedown. Now's your chance to check out the second wave of Junglemania, with the latest in the Jungle Massive compilation series. Labello Blanco have kindly given us a dozen copies of Volume 3 to give away. Simply tell us who recorded the original version of 'Some Justice 92'. Their vocals are featured on Urban Shakedown's 95 mix. Send your entries to: Jungle Massive Competition, THE MIX, (Contact Details).

The editor will place the correct entries in his funky hat and the first 12 drawn on June 30th will each receive a copy of the CD.

Notes of discord

April's Mixing It featured classical guitarist Richard Durrant, as did the Re:Mix CD, with what we described as a mandocello recital. Owing to a communication lapse, our CD compiler transferred the wrong track from Richard's DAT tape, occasioning him some embarrassment. We all thought it sounded fine, but Richard insists it was 'a very rough demo using a DX7 and a toy drum machine!'

Anyway, to set the CD straight, we have pleasure in featuring an excerpt from Richard's new album Sarabande, an eclectic collection of guitar sketches in the tradition of Django Reinhardt and Segovia. Encompassing Spanish, Indian and Japanese compositions, it also premieres a major new work by Howard Blake, composer of the famous score for Raymond Briggs' The Snowman. Sarabande is now available in record shops, through Direct Distribution, or direct from The Original Music Company, (Contact Details), price £12.99 inc P&P. Apologies to Richard, and good luck with the album!

From Sarabande comes 'Rooney's Lullabye', an original tune by Richard Durrant

Previous Article in this issue

Purple generation

Next article in this issue

Didgital recording

Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

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The Mix - Jun 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Mike Gorman

Mixing It!

Re:Mix #12 Tracklisting:

06 Richard Durrant - Rooney's Lullaby

This disk has been archived in full and disk images and further downloads are available at - Re:Mix #12.

Feature by Phil Strongman

Previous article in this issue:

> Purple generation

Next article in this issue:

> Didgital recording

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