Jake Young goes down to one of the UK’s best-known recording spots to see all four of its studios.
With a selection of commercial studios, RAK Publishing and its rich back catalogue and four other companies in the St John’s Wood, London building that are renting space, RAK Studios has much to offer.
“A lot of deals that we do inside the publishing company are now predominantly involving the studios,” explains Andy Leese, general manager. “So we are essentially doing production deals using the studios we have rather than paying large advances and hoping that the record company does a great job.”
When legendary producer Mickie Most founded RAK in 1976 it consisted of Studio 1 and Studio 2. The other part of the building that now holds Studio 3 and Studio 4 was a schoolhouse, which he subsequently purchased.
Studio 1 and Studio 2 are virtually as they were; both rooms still contain the original API desks.
“The multitrack is still up and running and we still use it on occasions when demanded if we can ever find tape, which is very hard,” says Trisha Wegg, studio manager. “Obviously we’ve added elements like Pro Tools and various bits of outboard gear that have been bought over the years.”
The machine room houses multitracks and Pro Tools rigs for both Studio 2 and Studio 3. “Something that was quite great was getting the multitracks and the Pro Tools out,” Wegg continues. “Especially in 2 because it gives a nice area for bands and relaxation.”
Studio 3 was built in 1984, and now contains a Neve that came out of Abbey Road Studio Two. The Dynaudio Acoustics M3As get turned on occasionally to blast the place out, but people tend to monitor on the mids.
Keeping it Unique
Studio 4 was built more or less for in-house. “We’re looking at that room in terms of re-tweaking because there are six areas where there’s what they call ‘acoustic chaos’,” says Leese. “Albums have been mixed in there very successfully on nearfields. Gil Norton mixed a Gomez album in there. This room is ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. It’s not really a mix room, it’s not really a writing room, and it’s not really a tracking room. So we’re going to try to reconfigure it in certain respects.”
The SSL 4056 E desk is probably going to be replaced. “We even looked at an old API but it could be anything,” adds Leese. “The strength of RAK is the space itself and the things we have here that you just simply can’t get in a plug-in. It’s a unique experience and we want to keep to that tradition so whatever happens with this room it’s going to be something interesting and creative, and hopefully something better than you’re going to be able to get your hands on at home. Obviously, home studios are taking large amounts of business away from every commercial studio in the world. So you have to do something differently and I think this is what we’re focused on at RAK – giving our clients a special experience.”
RAK houses two additional writing rooms and another independent music publishing company Touch Tones Music, which works as consultants to help promote and market RAK Publishing’s catalogue. “They’re going after the syncs in the area of film, TV, games, advertisements, etc,” reports Leese. “So we work very closely with them.”
Highlights from the studios so far this year include Steve Fitzmaurice celebrating a number one with the Sam Smith album he recorded in Studio 1, and returning to RAK with Eliza and the Bear and Mary J Blige; along with Neil Cowley Trio’s album Touch and Flee and Labrinth recording forthcoming material.
Max Dingel has been at RAK for much of the year in Studio 4 with both Kate Boy and David Otero, following the success of the James album La Petite Mort he made in Studio 3 last year. Royal Blood went into Studio 3 with producer Tom Dalgety to finish the album released in August, while Jerry Boys has been in multiple times with Olivia Chaney, Toumani Diabete, and Ali Farka Touré.
Instrument-wise, the studios have purchased a Black Beauty snare drum and a 1969 Ludwig Hollywood kit, while RAK’s grand piano in Studio 1 has been for a complete overhaul with David Fry at Renner.