Updated: Aug 19, 2020
Last night, I finally got around to watching the Rockfield Studios documentary that aired on the BBC about a month ago. Featuring interviews with the studio's founders, as well as the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Simple Minds, Robert Plant, Liam Gallagher and Coldplay who had all recorded there, it offered a fantastic insight into the history of the place.
But it did more than that. As many of these documentaries do (think Sound City), it looked at how the studio's vibe and atmosphere rubbed off on the artists. Whether it was Black Sabbath just having a whale of a time, having never been on a farm before, or the Gallaghers predictably having some fights whilst being forced to live together (the studios are residential), the location and character of Rockfield gave the bands extra inspiration for their music.
This is why we cannot let recording studios die.
In the modern age, more and more people - myself included - are simply making music in their bedrooms. It's quick, it can be cheap, and it's just simple and ideal for so many people. Whilst the pros of this method are clear to see, especially for solo artists, the cons are worth bringing up - especially in regards to non-electronic, instrument-based bands.
A band is a family. The members of that band are all there to make great music, to have fun, to create some magic. That comes from more than just being able to write strong songs; your surroundings and relationships all play a part as well. Making a record in your bedroom, whilst technically possible, does present a rather sterile environment to work in. It's hard to imagine a scuffle in a bedroom, or that dose of inspiration.
Coldplay's 'Yellow', for example, came from Chris Martin, who had spent the previous five years in London, looking at the breathtaking set of stars on display in the Welsh countryside at Rockfield. Without Sound City, Mick Fleetwood would never have met Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and Rumours would never have been made. Recording studios are sacred places in music, and can make that lightning-in-a-bottle scenario so easily possible.
There can be no doubt that great music can be forged in bedrooms. I may not be even close to being famous, but I like what I've done. More suitably, Feeder's latest album Tallulah was recorded in separate locations, one of them being Grant Nicholas' home garden studio, and that was a very good album indeed. Solo artists who like to work alone can obviously make it work, and there's no reason why they shouldn't.
But bands are different. Bands should be together, taking influence from the studio, its surroudings, fights and disagreements between members, hearing random practice riffs from the guitarists and making them into hits. That's what studios and their environments bring, and what simply cannot be recreated anywhere else. The naturally small space of a studio brings people together, and being purpose-built for music, encourages artists to work that little bit harder on their records as well. Due to their environment, recording studios allow bands to thrive.
Put simply, studios cannot be allowed to become things of the past. They are integral for bands to truly survive, a necessity in their careers. Without studios, bands will become husks, shadows of what they used to be, as they slave away on their own with no fire or inspiration coming from their all-too-familiar surroundings. Recording studios are nothing short of a requirement in the music industry.
But, due to modern technology, they are unfortunately at risk. If you are an artist, band or solo, and you do have some budget, find a local studio and use it. What you make in your bedroom may be good, but it won't be studio good. These days, this has nothing to do with audio quality; rather, it comes down to atmosphere, and studios bring an atmosphere that is seldom recreated elsewhere. Working in a studio can only be a good thing for a band, so let's ensure they're kept in place. Music would be a much, much worse art form without them.
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