Studio Of The Month
The Music Works
Patrick Hunt gives Music Works the once over
In the wild wastes of North London lies a veritable haven of refuge for those musicians who dream of the days when making records consisted of performance and inspiration and not simply 'control room creations'. In an age when 'state of art' recording implies fine tuning click tracks and punching out the flobs it is refreshing to find a studio where the atmosphere actually encourages musicians to play 'live'.
Equally refreshing is the attitude of 'Music Works' mentor-owner-engineer-producer-musician Joe Julian. Joe came to England from the USA in the mid 70's having been a much respected bass player with the Don Ellis orchestra, a line up which also featured keyboard innovator Tom Oberheim. On arrival in England he became involved with, amongst other, Brian Eno, taking part in Eno's 'obscure' series of albums Joe's professional background and no-nonsense business style (typically American) is reflected in the layout of the studio complex - complex being the operative word - as the Music Works comprises; two main studios, TV lounge, kitchen and a dining room.
Number One studio has a great feel to it - spacious without making you feel you were in an aircraft hanger. As you face the control room you will find the separation room to your left, the bass trap behind you to your right, a door connecting studio to control room with adjoining areas, and finally an exit door immediately too your left. The studio measures some 22 feet square and features a 'natural' 20 feet high ceiling. This is coupled with a separate live area of 22x16 feet, again with a high ceiling. Separation is created by two huge glass sliding doors. The live area must be one of the best in England, matched only by the drum room at The Manor. Altogether a simply brilliant room for drums (big sounds without the Linn), brass and woodwind and, of course, grand piano - in this case an ebony black Kawai model. Communication problems are reduced to an absolute minimum as all playing areas are visible from the control room.
Yet another bonus is the facility of natural daylight to the studio via soundproofed windows in the separation room. The original Haircut 100 drummer once told me how good it felt to be laying down a backing track at 5.30 am and watching the sun come up as he played; said it made the all night sessions worthwhile!
The control room measures 20 by 18 feet with an adjoining room behind measuring 22 x 10 feet. This additional relaxation room being handy for those who, with their jobs completed, wish to keep an eye on proceedings without offending the engineers, producer, etc.
A clearer picture of the size and versatility of Number One may be gained from the fact that King Sunny and his African Beats recorded their first album for Island Records here, with all 17 musicians (drummers, guitarists, vocalists, percussionists) playing at once. In addition, the music for the Two Ronnies stage show was cut here, with the musicians and Messrs Barker and Corbett performing together in the studio while the chorus girls danced their routines in the control room to create that 'ole stage show' feel!
Number Two studio (newly opened in '84) was designed by Andy Munro. The playing area is 26 x 11 feet, divided into a dead area of 11 x 9 feet and a live section of 17 x 11 feet. The control room may seem a bit on the large side, being some 320 feet square, but the design of this room is that no matter where you stand the sounds emanating from the monitors stay the same - no change in bass or treble response - therefore providing excellent mix-down facilities. You could, however, be forgiven for thinking that you were on the bridge of some 'Star Wars' spacecraft.
Although essentially a 24 track facility, both studios are inter-linked giving a maximum of 48 tracks, ably assisted by Amek desks, Eastlake TM3 JBL/TAD monitors, Tannoy Golds, Auratones, Lyrec 24 track machines, MCI two tracks, Otari two tracks, Sony F1 Digital and Aiwa 3800 cassettes. In the echo, reverberation and delay department we have; Lexicon 224, EMT Goldfoil, Analogue delays, a Deltalab Acoustic Computer with four extended memory cards and AMS delays. The outboard gear reads like a Who's Who guide to recording: AMS DMX 15-80s Dual Harmoniser and Digital Audio Processor, Lexicon 224, Eventide Harmoniser, Drawmer and Roger Meyer Noise Gates, Rebis Parametric Eq, Urei 1178, DBS 160, Audio and Design compressor limiters, A & D MIC mix, AMS Phaser/Flangers and a Lexicon PCM 42, the whole course being topped off with Neumann, Shure, Sennheiser, Calrec, PZM, Electrovoice and AKG Valve microphones.
Supplementing all this is an elongated 'untreated' area running from number one. This has the same 20 feet ceiling and is basically concrete and brick throughout, part of which is used as a casual store area for flight cases, knackered road crew etc, but its hard reflective surfaces have been put to good use; indeed, while I was there, Marilyn's guitarist had his amplification mounted on said flight cases and I'm still recovering from the shock!
So, how much will this facility take from your cosy recording/publishing advance? Well, surprisingly little considering what's on offer, and quite frankly I feel that this place is worth checking out, even if you're a semi-pro band on the way up. I say this because I find so many bands spend huge sums of money in 'cheap' studios trying to get things 'right' and they inevitably go well over budget, whereas a 12 hour shift here should, if you're on the ball, take care of business.
For full details contact Faye Samuels on (Contact Details).
The Music Works, (Contact Details)
Feature by Patrick Hunt
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