At Home in the Studio
H&SR takes a look at its first Australian studio. The locals couldn't give a Castleridgexxx for anything else.
This month H&SR goes down under for a look at an Australian 24-track studio; no upside down jokes, no kangaroos, just the facts.
Castleridge Studios officially opened in July 85, and was intended primarily for music production and recording. The studio represents the culmination of efforts of it's two partners Paul Brakenridge and Tony Cirillo with it's engineer Stan Evans and friends. Paul is an electronics engineer with Hewlett Packard, whilst Tony is a builder with his own construction company. Stan runs the Roadwork Exchange when he's not recording and has had a long career in music mixing with Mondo Rock, the Bushwackers and Wendy and the Rocketts, just to name a few.
The recorder that we decided on was the Soundcraft 24-track, the same model incidentally, Tony Visconti uses at home and claims no difference in sound quality between it and the higher priced industrial machines. The 2" tape runs at 30ips at a flux level of 320 nwb/m, which means it's directly compatible with the top 24-track studios in the world. Paul makes sure that the equipment is excellently maintained; this is regarded as being very important. Work done here may be mixed down on computerised automated desks elsewhere and with the cost of recording being so high today, it makes sense that the majority of the work be done at a smaller studio, then transferred to a top studio when everything is down pat. A lot of money is wasted in studios when artists and producers are experimenting, often only achieving a compromise when the budget finally does run out. Some artists do not realise that the recording costs are deducted from their royalties, and with increasing costs, you've just got to be smarter. Not that Castleridge cannot produce record quality masters. We may not be automated yet, but we can still do everything by hand.
The building has a Faraday shield incorporated into it's design with mains line conditioning to stop RF and line noise getting into the equipment. Acoustic consultant, Jim McLeod who was involved in the design of 10CC's studio and is currently with the Melbourne Concert Hall re-fit, has done an excellent job getting the frequency response to a modified Bonner curve in the control room. On the first analysis, we had a resonance at 66Hz as measured on a HP 3561A analyser. Jim designed a bass trap which was installed in the ceiling, then with a dual 31-band Yamaha graphic he equalised the room with the real time Klark Teknik analyser and pink noise.
In the main recording area, Tony installed a large wall length mirror, the reflections of which may be adjusted with a similar size curtain. Special acoustic double glazed glass, double doors and lead sheet isolate the sound. The dimensions of the main studio is 7.2 by 6.2 metres, the control room, 4 by 3 metres. Other rooms include separate bathroom, toilet and rest/games area.
Equipment for hire includes a Hammond B3 organ with Leslie speaker which was used by Billy Preston on the Rolling Stones tour some years ago. The sound from the organ is great, it's still very relevant today particularly with the comeback of the soul and R&B sound. A Yamaha CP80 electric piano and Oberheim DX drum machine with tape sync are also available.
Due to the declining Australian dollar, we have found it necessary to manufacture some equipment ourselves. For instance, our multi-DI box is active transformerless with extremely low noise and a frequency response flat from 10Hz to 100kHz. It also has 40dB of headroom and doubles as a keyboard mixer. Other items manufactured include noise gates, dynamic noise filters and psychoacoustic enhancers, the circuitry of which (some modified for +4dBu) was designed by Paul Williams of the British company, Tantek.
With our demo deal we always find ourselves going overtime without extra charge to the client, believing it's worthwhile to have as good a quality product as possible. Demos act as advertisements not only for the artist by for the studio and word of mouth is always the best kind of advertising. An excellent song will be easily recognisable by a record company, however it pays to spend that little extra in making it easier for the A&R man to realise the merit and worth of an artists work.
We have independent producers available for demo's at a set charge. They attend one rehearsal before the recording takes place giving advise on arrangements of the songs and then planning the pre-production necessary to maximise the use of the studio time.
On recording day, they supervise the session and mixdown taking the responsibility of managing the session away from the engineer and artist. Advice on presentation of tapes is given with contact names of the record companies. This service is especially beneficial to artists who have little or no knowledge of the workings of a recording studio.
With the advent of drum machines and sequencers, we find that many bands will hire the machines, program them at home and store the results on cassette. On the day of the session, they re-hire, load in their programs and are set to go. This saves considerable time usually wasted in setting up, miking and tuning a drum kit, and yields excellent results.
Currently, we are establishing our own publishing an recording company and investigating advertising production and supporting local talent contests.
For further information, contact: Castleridge Studios, (Contact Details).
Feature by Paul Brakenridge
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