Studio Diary – Spring 2023
Well who would have thought? A whole year has slipped away since I last updated, and I’m buggered if I know where the time went. The album that Mark and I started working on way back in early 2021, seems to have taken on a life of its own, morphing and changing in ways we could never have predicted. It’s crazy how time flies when you’re engrossed, and it feels like our first band sessions for this album were a century ago. Back then we were as cautious as two cats circling each other to ensure nothing jeopardised the month, but everything went off without a hitch. After each session, we would retreat to our makeshift bar/pub/restaurant, upstairs at British Grove which was well stocked with provisions from the Griffin brewery, just a hop, skip, and a jump away. When the month was up and the guys headed home, Mark and I re-appointed ourselves in Studio 2 and continued working on overdubs and comping (selecting the best bits from multiple takes).
Then, in November of 2022, the band rolled back into town, ready to record yet more songs. Mark simply couldn’t wait to start the next batch off on their new lives, and we set up shop in British Grove once again. This time around, though, we weren’t confined to our quarters. No, the Cross Keys was calling our name. We spent a few post-session evenings there, quaffing Fullers’ finest. It was good to be back (again) in the swing of things with the lads regaling stories of tours and sessions gone by. It is worth noting that the musical, and comedic prowess of this band extends far beyond technical proficiency. A treasure trove of anecdotes and humorous stories that continue to abound.
Now, here’s the thing: our new band member, Greg Leisz, was supposed to be with us, but he got stuck in LA and couldn’t fly out, we missed him terribly. The thing about Greg is that his introduction to the band was like a limp handshake. No hullabaloo or fanfare, just like he’d been there since the dawn of time. But all was not lost, we’ve got a remote session lined up with him, so he’ll feature on the whole shebang. It’s a brave new world, folks, the Jetsons meets Mississippi Fred McDowell.
I suppose it was inevitable with myriad projects happening simultaneously that Mark and I haven’t been able to hunker down and finish the album in one fell swoop. But every time we resume, like a train intermittently halting and beginning anew, we experience the invigorating sensation of fresh ears.. It’s akin to the experience of inhaling the glorious bouquet of tape when entering a studio. I firmly maintain that these intervals will benefit the album. Since the band sessions in November, we have had several sessions with guest musicians and singers most notably Tamsin and Emma Topolski. Ed Cervenka came in and added some Cimbalom, an intriguing instrument and Seána Davey played Harp on a song.
At the time of writing we are entering the mixing stage. Our control room has been joined by a fleet of Ampex ATR100 Stereo tape machines, each one a true masterpiece of engineering prowess and sonic wonder. As any seasoned recording engineer will attest, these machines are things of beauty and complexity, harkening back to the golden age of analogue recording in the 1980s. And, in keeping with our tradition for previous albums, we’ll be mixing our tracks to a range of analogue tape formats, from the 1-inch to the 1/2-inch and 1/4-inch, as well as exploring the digital realm. As we have found in the past, what works for one song doesn’t necessarily work for others.
As I look back on the many years I’ve spent making music, I am acutely aware of the unrivaled magnificence of this studio. I cherish with deep gratitude our extraordinary fortune and remain ever-mindful of its blessedness. Mark often responds to the question ‘Have you had a good day?’ with his characteristic reply: ‘Every day is a good day at British Grove.’
In the aftermath of a global pandemic, the closure of one of the world’s most iconic drinking establishments, The Mawson Arms, represents a loss not only to its local community but to the cultural identity of Britain as a whole. Alas, this comes as no surprise in a world where multinational corporations view heritage and tradition as mere stumbling blocks to their bottom line. The Fullers brewery, now under Japanese ownership, has deemed The Mawson Arms surplus to requirements, a soulless calculation for the sake of profit margins that has left a bitter taste in the mouths of all who have had the privilege of imbibing within its walls. The Mawson Arms will forever be sorely missed, but its memory will live on as a testament to the enduring importance of community and tradition in an ever-changing world. Little known fact – the pub was a favourite haunt of the famous British comedian, Tommy Cooper.