I’ve been calling studios music hospitals for years,” jokes Dan Swift, producer at high-end recording and rehearsal complex Brighton Electric. “There has been a huge expectation that editing will occur. I’m pleased to report that attitude is fading. In my view, it’s not what studios are for at all! The bands we meet at Brighton Electric want to keep their uniqueness intact and we are very happy to help.”
Our visit to the studio coincided with The Great Escape music festival and although the studio didn’t have anyone in on the day the building was buzzing with music as the complex prepared for the parties it hosted throughout the festival. Transmission rates between the more than 17 rooms are very good; however, in the corridor you can hear all the bands crashing away.
Music video site The Crypt Sessions were in the day before to do six filmed sessions. “It was just a little collaboration as our engineers were out for TGE, the space was free, and the Crypt put out fantastic filmed sessions,” says Jimi Wheelwright, who looks after the complex. “It seemed a great way to help each other out.”
Brighton Electric attracts quite a rich group of legacy bands and recently boasted The Cure in preparation for their Teenage Cancer Trust show at the Royal Albert Hall. The group took over half of the building for their production rehearsal.
Royal Blood are another of the studio’s bigger clients. They use the complex for rehearsal and store all their backline here. The group often locks the complex out, and Tom Dalgety, their producer, has been down a few times for demoing sessions.
The rich history of the studio extends further though, and the first Foals and The Macabees records were written in here while Blood Red Shoes are still residents. “It’s got that appeal, this mystique. It’s not just recording or rehearsal – it’s a community really. I don’t think there’s anyone in Brighton who’s not aware of this place if they’re involved in music. Because of the parties and because of the recording studio it certainly feels like a base for everything,” says Wheelwright.
The complex offers a wide range of rental stock as well including studio outboard and microphones, splitter tour busses, and PA and backline. Wheelwright: “If you’ve got your first gig we can do your backline for £60 or if you’re a touring band and you need a couple of cages, a proper nine-seater tour bus, and a tour manager then we can do that too. It’s basically trying to meet whatever demand there is. It’s all happened very organically.”
The amp collection at Brighton Electric
At the heart of the building is the studio, with a Neve 5316 at its heart. “We’ve gone back in time to a point where desks had simpler functionality,” says Swift. “Pro Tools has taken on so much of burden that large format consoles were built to cater for, like cue mixing for instance. I find this desk and others like it from the eight-track era conspicuously and effortlessly harmonious. The 33115 strips are so natural I sometimes forget there is a desk between the band and myself. The mentality forty plus years ago was to unify the disparate signals, where as by the eighties maintaining separation had become an obsession. It’s a very different attitude coming through in the electronics. Amazing! You get an authentic, coherent sound right off the bat - proper music!”
The studio has got an industry standard set of outboard including a Universal Audio LA-2A, a pair of Universal Audio 1176LNs, a lovely old dbx 162, the modern dbx 162SL, a pair of Dave Hill Designs Titans that link together, the Smart Research C2, and a pair of Empirical Labs Distressors.
Monitoring-wise, the facility is running ATC SCM50 ASLs with extra sub units. The monitor section is run with a Crane Song Avocet. Swift: “It’s a little bit over the top just as a control room monitor knob; however, I find it extremely useful to be able to bang between different versions of things, so for instance if I’m farting around with compression on the main bus I can parallel the signal and toggle between outcomes seamlessly and without being mislead by seductive jumps in gain, rather in the way mastering engineers do.” The studio uses a hear back monitoring system that all runs digitally from channels 25 to 32. It’s a 32 in-out system.
If you want something else the studio can source it or you can bring it in. “The idea is to remain manageable and affordable to the clients. We’re not buried under gear that we rarely use. If we had eight Neumann U87s it would be nice but on most sessions unnecessary. We’ve paired our spec back so that everything is in proportion to demand while remaining high end,” comments Swift. “For me it works very well – it’s a highly effective setup.”
The live room remains available as a rehearsal space simply for economic reasons and has become a favoured space due to its nice acoustics and space. The studio has an isolation booth where people naturally end up doing vocals and other small-scale overdubs but a bass rig and a couple of guitar amps can be dragged in here. “It’s a good space and it really is perfectly isolated. I come in here to make phone calls, because I know you can’t hear through these doors at all.”
In July a studio will be built upstairs and the fledgling production rehearsal space will be knocked through and improved. The complex is putting a mobile rig together as well so it can do pop-up recording in the rehearsal rooms or elsewhere.