Studio Of The Month
Richard Walmsley takes a ferry across the Thames to this Woolwich based eight-track facility.
Demoing on Fostex A8 format may seem like a good idea, but its biggest drawback is the fact that most A8 studios are situated in frontrooms or bedrooms, this not only causes inevitable acoustic problems, but added problem accessories like scabby cats and smelly socks. All of this is by no means conducive to artistic output.
Studio 99 in Woolwich, London, is in my experience an exception to this unsavoury tendency. Mike Westgaard, owner and main engineer in the studio, built it in the basement of his house, drawing on experience gained while helping to set up and build Sarm (East) studios. It's built as one main area, with no divides or aquarium-style windows. The mixing area is nearest the entrance and is raised above the main recording area giving a comfortable sense of separation without claustrophobia. The recording area has, wait for it, a five foot grand piano, and enough space besides to accommodate at least four musicians. To the left of this area is a 'live' room, with a tiled floor that is large enough for a couple of drum kits.
The walls are all either new brick, or hessian panels, giving the main studio a clean but not sterile sound. The overall atmosphere is of space, making it very comfortable for long sessions. Recording and outboard equipment is diverse but adequate, comparing favourably with many other A8 studios around town. Apart from the obvious Fostex A8 multitrack recorder, there is a Teac 32 2B ½ track, Dynacord digital reverb, Dynacord and Powertran digital delays, and the Ibanez HD 1000 delay, compressor/gates, monitoring by Quad and Rogers and mikes by AKG, Shure, Beyer, and Calrec, with built in PZMs in the live room.
Studio users can also benefit from the use of a range of instruments, including a Greengate DS3 sampling system — used a lot for drum programs — Roland JX3P, Premier five piece kit and Westone guitars.
In terms of value, Studio 99, which at present charges £7.50 per hour, is in line price-wise with the better class of A8 studios in London. However, what you get extra is the kind of space that makes recording an acoustic band a feasible proposition (many other A8 studios are really only usable as 'songwriting suites'). Having actually used the studio as a customer I found the atmosphere to be an appreciable bonus and gaining very satisfactory results, especially in the recording of vocals where the live room proved to be a valuable utility.
Additionally, the engineering was quicker than most, both in terms of setting up the sounds and getting to know the track so that overdubs and drop-ins could be done quicker.
It's just a bit off the beaten track if you're coming from a Northerly direction, although a No 53 bus will take you right there from the centre of town.
STUDIO 99 (Contact Details)
Feature by Richard Walmsley
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