Studio Of The Month
Trynka trucks up to Hull, and hears the sound of Angels. Odd boy.
These days as the cost of recording equipment becomes cheaper and cheaper it's fairly unusual to find a professional eight-track set-up. This is usually because by the time you've paid for a decent engineer and a decent location you might as well go the whole hog and persuade the bank manager to let you have the money to get a 24-track machine. Obviously this means you're going to be charging correspondingly higher rates; and for bands trying to do demos on the cheap it's getting harder to find a professional studio at a reasonable price. ('Professional' in this case meaning somewhere that has big microphones with German names, and such luxuries as a drum booth.) This is a shame, because for most people who make demos, 24 tracks can be overwhelming, and the discipline imposed by using only eight or sixteen tracks may actually help the song in question. There are also quite a lot of people lately who maintain that you can get better results on eight or sixteen tracks because of the wider tape widths involved (we're obviously not talking about 16 tracks on ½" here!).
Anyway, all this is by means of introduction to Angel Music, which is an eight-track studio in a purpose-built building complete with drum booth and big microphones with German names. That you can attain master quality using only eight tracks is attested to by the fact that the Red Guitars recorded their last single here, and not just because Richard Branson didn't have enough change from buying his boat to pay for anywhere bigger.
The studio is situated in sunny Hull, in a salubrious area just down the road from the high security prison. The studio is owned by Steve Larkman, who built the place more or less single-handed: the old story of someone who built a studio for their own use, but who got kind of diverted later on.
This place, however, is somewhat more ambitious than most; the control room is just over 350 square feet, and the main recording room is around 400 square feet. There's an acoustically dead vocal booth, and one other room which is fairly small, but left very live and is usually used as a drum booth. For a small room it doesn't sound at all boxy, and in conjunction with a couple of PZMs gives a very lively sound.
The multitrack is a Soundcraft, eight tracks on one inch used with dbx noise reduction, and the ubiquitous B77 for mastering. The mixing console is an RSD 20 into 8 and there is the usual selection of Drawmer gates and compressor/limiters. Effects include a Roland SRV 2000 reverb and a Bel BD80 DDL with the 4 second sampling upgrade. The main vocal microphone is a Neumann U87, with other microphones available from Sennheiser, AKG and Shure.
Main monitors are Tannoy Little Reds, in fairly nearfield position, with Auratones as a domestic reference. All in all, it's the kind of equipment you'd expect to see in a budget 24-track place, but with more spacious surroundings than many, especially these days where a lot of engineers expect drum kits to have jack plugs attached. There's direct access to the main recording room for bringing gear in, with no steps to hump things over. This main room is partially deadened acoustically, but isn't completely dry and is large enough for several members of a band to put down tracks at the same time. Compared with most small studios this gives much more scope for things like guitar recording, and helps to make demos sound much bigger than you'd expect. There's also various backline gear and synths knocking about, along with an SCI Drumtracks.
The control room is situated at one end of the building, with the large recording room in the middle and the two smaller booths at the back. Visibility is provided by a fairly large window from the control to the middle room, whilst visual contact with the other two booths is maintained by means of glass doors.
One other difference from the usual budget set-up is the notice required for bookings, which is a lot! Studio time is usually booked up for a month or two in advance, and Angel Music don't seem particularly bothered about touting for custom. Still, the acquisition of another engineer might reduce this time somewhat. There are no plans to cut down any waiting list by going 24-track.
What you don't get for your money is in-house catering (except for a coffee machine) or a separate relaxation area, unless you go and lie down in the car park. You don't get decorative personnel to answer the phone (unless you count the self-effacing Mr Larkman himself), but then you're not paying their wages either. As for the studio rates, they're £9 per hour at the moment, but will probably be going up to £10 later in the year.
For those prices it's surprising that the Red Guitars aren't doing their next album there, but it turns out that Steve, who's doing the production, talked them into going to the Townhouse. Why?
"If we go to the Townhouse, I won't have to change the toilet rolls!"
Angel Music (Contact Details)
Feature by Paul Trynka
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!