North London’s Snap Studios is independent from its very core. Aiming to keep recording costs down while offering a truly bespoke experience, the Finsbury Park facility has welcomed a dazzling clientele of artists to its rooms including Kate Bush, Stormzy, FKA Twigs and Liam Gallagher, who recorded his No.1 debut album here.
Started in 2010 by the team behind supplier Funky Junk, Snap Studios aims to make its rooms affordable during a time where many studios are under threat from development.
We spoke to studio manager Marco Pasquariello to find out more about how this studio came to be, the challenges it’s faced, and some of the vintage equipment you can find inside...
When was the studio established and why?
We opened Snap in January 2010 after a year-long build and installation.
At a time when so many other London studios were closing down, we wanted to build somewhere that offered uncompromising quality and facilities, but with traditional values and a unique, creative vibe, all at an affordable price.
Funky Junk's Mark [Thompson] already had a great collection of some of the best vintage gear imaginable, and we wanted to give it a home in a space that was accessible and within people’s (rapidly shrinking!) budgets.
There wasn’t really anywhere like that in London at the time, and as we’ve evolved over the past eight or so years, we’re proud to have stuck to those values.
Who have been some of your key clients over the years?
We’ve had some amazing clients, and some incredible records made with us over the years.
Some of the better known names would be Kate Bush, Stormzy, Craig David, Clean Bandit, FKA Twigs and Liam Gallagher. Liam’s album was his debut record, and it went straight in at Number 1! We were really proud of that one.
The great thing for us is that we have artists and producers that keep returning to work here. We’ve made friends and built great relationships with our clients, and it’s really pleasing to see them wanting to return to work at the studio with us.
What is your equipment set up, and why did you choose this?
The studio is centred around an ultra rare vintage Neve 5316 analogue console from the early 70s, which we modified to have moving fader automation.
Our 53 series is a really special recording version of the better-known broadcast desks and has 28 inputs, eight aux, sixteen groups and sixteen monitor returns - all in a compact format.
The console is definitely one of the biggest drawing points of the studio. The mic pre/EQ modules are based on the legendary 1081, and are considered by many to be one of the finest modules that Neve ever made. It has a really smooth and musical EQ, which just sounds fantastic. People love what they get from it.
We use ATC SCM25 monitors, alongside NS10’s and Eastlake JM3T’s which are all fed by a Grace Designs monitor controller, which is incredibly transparent and also has excellent headphone amps.
We have a gorgeous Bosendorfer 225 grand piano, plus Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond C3 and some nice vintage synths. Also a few great drum kits like our 80s Sonorlite and 1971 Ludwig Super Classic.
We’ve got a good collection of backline and amps too including a 60s Fender Vibrolux and Champ’s, Vox AC30, Fender Pro Reverb.
Our mic collection has all the usual suspects and more, but some of the more desirable ones worth mentioning would be our vintage Neumann/Telefunken U47/U67/U87s, KM56s, AKG C12, Sony C800G, Coles 4038s, RCA 44BXs, and lesser known mics like our pair of BBC Marconi AXBTs, which sound phenomenal.
We’ve also got loads of top outboard including Urei 1176s, LA2A, EAR 660, Pultec, Lang and Decca EQs, Decca limiters, Roland Tape Echoes as well as EMT plates and a unique tile room echo chamber.
We run Pro Tools HDX with Prism ADA8 conversion, but also offer analogue recording with our Studer 24/16 track two inch tape machine.
The whole studio is powered by a sophisticated balanced mains supply which provides an ultra-low noise floor for all the gear. But gear aside, the main thing about Snap for us and many of our clients is the environment and vibe.
The rooms feel comfortable to work in, and sound great. We’ve taken a lot of care with the decor and lighting, and the space is really conducive to working creatively and efficiently.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in recent years?
Some of our biggest challenges are simply keeping up with the rising prices of running a facility like ours while budgets from our clients remain the same.
Running a studio involves a lot more than just the recording. There’s maintenance, upgrades, and general upkeep to consider too. Snap was never intended to be a money making venture at all, but money always has to be considered, of course.
We’ve always wanted to keep Snap affordable, but with the competition out there from some of the non-independent facilities, this has been a challenge at times. Luckily for us, people come to us because we offer something different from a lot of other places.
We’ve always wanted to provide the best possible service we can, and a huge part of that is the care and attention that we’ve tried to keep in the place. It’s definitely a labour of love!
In an increasingly corporate, money-driven music business, Snap certainly proves that a small, independent venture can succeed by virtue of the skills of those involved and their belief and passion rather than money and marketing muscle, and that’s something we’re really proud of.
What about the industry climate? Has this affected you and if so how?
I feel like the industry climate is quite healthy at the moment.
When we first opened the studio, there wasn’t as much of a call for the kind of recording that a facility like ours offered it seemed. Lots of studios had closed or were closing down. Budgets were small and the labels hadn’t really got to grips with streaming and illegal downloading by this point.
It was also at a time that was on the back of a huge wave of bedroom production, and I think musically lots of the bigger records focussed less on real instrumentation - possibly in response to the lack of budget in many ways.
I think a lot of the newer producers in that time came to realise that there are some things which can only be done right with good spaces, and the right equipment/environment/skilled engineers to capture those sounds.
There’s certainly been a revival for more traditional recording over the past few years, and we fit in perfectly for that.
What are your hopes and plans for the studio in the future?
I’ve always wanted Snap to evolve in response to the needs and feedback of the artists, producers and engineers that we work with.
We have always tried to improve wherever we’ve needed to - from adding gear, or reshuffling the outboard or layout of things - but have always striven to stick to our core values that we set out when we built the studio to offer uncompromising quality and facilities along with traditional values, and a distinctively creative vibe.
There has already been so many great records that have come out of the studio, and we want that to continue for as long as possible!
It would be great for us to be able look back in years to come, knowing that Snap has played its role in the making of great records that stand the test of time.
We will remain committed to offering those who care about their craft the opportunity to enjoy one of the best recording facilities in the UK at a price that hopefully helps them expand their talents to the limit.