A decade ago if you'd asked me what makes a 'good studio', I'd probably have said: a Neve desk.
Then, no cool band worth their indiesalt would have considered making an album on anything less but the old Neve Master, and recording on a digital SSL would have been akin to supersonic suicide.
How things have changed. These days the snobby distinction between digital and analogue has blurred, and I confess, I no longer have any retro hang-ups.
The record company would argue that a good studio is one that delivers the album on time and on budget. Fair do's.
But from experience, having had the opportunity to record at a variety of different places, and under very different budgets, the best studios are the ones where the band feels at home, has a decent live room and good vibe, and above all, a sympathetic engineer who understands what you're trying to achieve.
As studio time draws nearer, a few fans have contacted me, expressing their concern that we might end up over-producing ourselves, that the album needs to capture the same 'intimate, warm feeling' of my homemade demos - and so forth. I agree.
But let's kill the debate between digital and analogue once and for all: those 'warm, fuzzy, intimate demos' have all been recorded d.i.g.i.t.a.l.l.y:
from my Roland Vs-16 digital station, via dodgy-sellotaped lead into the PC, into a pirated copy of FruityLoops, edited on freebie Audacity, then, finally compressed and converted into an MP3 on a torrented copy of Media-Converter-Pro - ufff... some journey.The reason why it still manages to sound warm and intimate, it's to do with the performance, the way it was delivered, with feeling.
For me, that's where it's at, and whether or not it was recorded on a retrodesk it's totally irrelevant, really.
I've spent the last month researching studios, and the thing I was dreading the most was to end up at a place, in the middle of trendy Hoxton square, where they churn out indie bands all day long, with a grumpy engineer, who can't wait for your session to end, so they can get down and mix their own music.
I desperately wanted to find somewhere a bit special, which is quite a challenge when you're restricted by a small budget.
But, seek and you shall find - and out of pure chance, I came across this great little studio, set on an island on the Thames - right at the edge of west London, where the boundary between city and countryside fades, and all our daily worries can be safely left behind.
It's a non-commercial studio, run by a very cool guy, who's engineered, produced and worked with some very big names (he joked that he only works with 'tall people'...), like Paul McCartney/The Cure/Depeche etc - and it has a decent mix of both digital and analogue gear.
I love the fact that it's totally out of the way, there's absolutely nothing on the island, except for a few beautifully derelict boathouses, and getting there every day is gonna be a mini-adventure in itself.
We're gonna have to make the effort - I believe it will be worth it.
The studio is booked.