Jake Young pays a visit to an MPG Award-winning recording space in Chiswick, west London that has installed a brand-new 32-channel 1608 from API.
Looking into the control room at Kore, only a fraction of what you see was here when the studio started 10 years ago. At that time, producer/engineer George Apsion, who runs Kore, could see tracking projects sustaining income going forward. “It was obvious that the days of the big SSL room, and people booking two weeks to mix, and recalls were on the way out,” he says. “It felt like to stay current and useful to people the best thing to do would be to put together a fantastic tracking space.” The initial investment went on mics and decent mic preamps and compressors. The studio had an Audient ASP8024 console that was just the monitor path, so the outboard racks were the first things everything would hit.
Now, Kore has an API 1608 console that has stepped things up a gear. Apsion: “The desk is now much more the centrepiece of the studio. It’s fantastic. We’ve still got the great outboard but also the desk is pulling its weight a lot more because it’s on the recording side of things.”
Installing the API was a combined effort between Source Distribution, acoustic and technical designers White Mark, and retailer Funky Junk. “The guys at Funky Junk were fantastic,” says Apsion. “There were some custom mods that we asked for on this console and a few things that had to be adapted to fit into our wiring situation and the way we work, and that was all just really effortless. They were really helpful with all of that.”
The studio offers a lot of the equipment that seasoned engineers and producers would expect to see, and then there’s the Fairchild 670mkII, which was custom-built for Kore by a tech called Pierre-Olivier Margerand. It has custom core modifications, so it is not like a normal Fairchild.
The studio’s live room is really flexible in terms of live band recording. Apsion: “With drums you can get a nice, airy, fat sound in here. It’s not explosively ambient. It’s quite controlled. But if you want that mega ambience thing you can open up the doors and do the mic in the corridor trick. We do a big mixture of stuff in the room. It’s mainly guitar band stuff, but we can get 16 string players in here, and we’ve done children’s choirs, jazz, filming, playbacks, parties, and all sorts!”
For tighter, dryer drum sounds the kit can be set up in one of Kore’s two booths, which have double-glazed screens for isolation and Formula Sound’s Que-8 mixer systems for artists to get their own balance. The studio has a custom-built patchbay and there are patch lines all over the building, which came in handy when somebody wanted to record the sound of a tap in the sink!
A pre-WW2 Chappell upright piano was recently restrung. Apsion: “A lot of uprights can be quite plinky and bright and this one has a very thick, mellow tone which works really well for recording.” Apsion tries to avoid headphones if possible and thinks using a PA system helps performance a lot. “With drums we throw the kick and the snare out into the room through the PA,” he says. “If you’re compressing room mics a lot of the time, the thing that they can bring out more is cymbals, and you might not necessarily want that. It gets too splashy, and what you really want them to be squashing is the kick and the snare. So if you pump more of the kick and the snare into the room so that they’re overtaking the cymbals you can get a better quality on your smash room miking.”
When Kore moved into the space it was just a warehouse, and the studio is now completely floating because there is a printing press on one side that has big, heavy embossing machines. Apsion: “We took initial measurements when we first got the keys, and we left some microphones up testing ambient noise so we’d get a good idea of what the situation was. That stuff makes a lot of noise so we had to really go for it with the soundproofing, which I’m really glad we did because it’s just pin drop quiet in here.”
The guys from White Mark also dealt with the architecture, the acoustics, and the wiring. “They’ve just been fantastic,” adds Apsion. “The great thing about them is it’s all under one roof. It’s really well co-ordinated. I sat down with them and we hammered it all out for about three or four months, designing the idea of it. And then once they got in here it went up in about three months, which was really quick. They’re perhaps more expensive than a lot of the other people out there, but running a commercial studio everything has to work. We’ve always had a reputation for good maintenance and things appearing where they should, and a huge part of that is down to White Mark doing a great job at the beginning with the wiring.”
There is an additional private suite on an upper floor that can be made available if there is overspill, but the room belongs to Apsion, who composes a lot of library music and increasingly felt the need for his own workspace. Apsion: “That is more of an absorbers off the internet slapped to the wall kind of space. It’s got an old vintage Tweed console, which is great because it’s got that Neve flavour, and it’s great to be able to offer the two different things. The API is superfast, and transient, and clean; and then the Tweed upstairs has got that thick, gooey Neve thing. So it’s nice to be able to record something down here and then mix it out through there.”