I've spent ten days at the wonderful RAK Studios in London over the past month laying down the music for my new album - the follow-up to 2013's Hendra. It is a great space to record in. Built by Mickie Most in the mid-seventies, much of the original equipment is still in use, and is looked after by a team of dedicated technicians. The place has a relaxed family vibe. We used one of the old API consoles in Studio 2 (pictured) and the recording room has an instant warm immediate sound, punchy and clean. The room design - soft wood panelling, narrow fluorescent strips, mirrors, curtains - reminds of the great LA studios like Oceanway and Sunset Sound where I worked in 1989.
Working with Bruno Ellingham as engineer, we tried to lay down as much of the album as we could in one go, with the band - me on guitar or piano, Bernard Butler on electric guitar, Rex Horan on double bass and Martin Ditcham on drums - all performing together. The room is compact. Sounds can be isolated up to a point but some inevitably bleeds and leaks onto microphones intended for other purposes, but as the sound of the room - the natural reverberation of the space - is so nice it all acts like a kind of glue.
The room overlooks the street at ground level. With the curtains slightly open you can watch people going by, deliveries, dog-walkers. The effect is oddly relaxing and stopped the atmosphere from getting too hermitic. I sang one lead vocal watching evening rain come down, headlights approaching, no one on the pavements.
Upstairs in the control room, the music comes back through the console with a real immediacy. It feels like a short signal chain from instrument to ears.
Bernard played a lot of the album on his new Gibson ES-295, the guitar made famous by Scotty Moore. I moved between electrics (1959 Gretsch Single Anniversary, 1972 Fender Thinline) and my acoustics (1973 Guild F50, 1993 Guild D4 12-string). I also played my metal 2009 National Reso-phonic. We also used the studio’s own Yamaha grand piano and my Wurlitzer EP200a electric piano. This week Jim Watson dropped by and we sneaked into Studio 3 for an hour and recorded him playing the room’s Hammond organ on a couple of tracks, and last weekend I used my own place (Northern Heights) to programme and lay down some extra atmospheric textural synth stuff using my old Juno 106.
I’ve got a few days off now while Bruno gathers all the recordings together ready for mixing, which will take place at his own studio down in Bristol. We also have a few last overdubs to do in London. Exciting times. The album is set for a spring 2016 release. More soon.