Q+A  :  GENERAL MUSIC  :  STUDIOS - the thin line / studios worldwide


We recorded an album at The Garden studios in London and I think you have worked there. Do you have any memories of the studio?

Not really - it's fairly non-descript all round. John Foxx (who owned it) seemed like a nice bloke though.

In your studio do you have all your instruments around you or are some put away? What is this about a James Bond-like floor panel that slides open to reveal an EII?

Working equipment is out in the main room and the crippled and lame are stored downstairs in the basement.

Which was the most creative studio you have worked in, and which was the worst.

The best: Hansa and Puk

The worst: Surrey Sound Studios in Leatherhead, where we mixed 'Unsound Methods'. What was wrong with it? How long you got.....?

Name 3 things in a studio which would make it a good and creative one.

Unusual atmosphere, no gold discs of Whitney Houston on the wall, assistants who can take abuse.

As a lifelong Irish fan of Depeche Mode/Recoil, I was very interested to see that the live tracks from the 'Songs Of Faith and Devotion' album were mixed in U2's Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin. Why did you pick the location, where and for how long did you stay in Dublin and what did you think of the city?

What did you think of Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin and how come DM waited nearly a decade before coming back here? Speaking of DM, someone must have spilt their/your Guinness in '93, because they've not been back since ;)

They were never there, me old mate - 'twas myself, Steve Lyon and Daryl Bamonte. I think the hotel was called St. Stephens Hall. I recall some quite good nights out in Dublin during that session actually......bumping into Lisa Stansfield in a club and Daryl singing her his extremely drunken version of "Been around the world and ai, yai, yai, yai, etc. " - she was not amused; I remember P.O.D. and something like The Blue (or could it be 'pink') Elephant? Actually I enjoyed Dublin very much but particularly liked getting out of the city and into the countryside. The studio was ok with a nice assistant called Rob, who we took the piss out of mercilessly.

Where are your drums and acoustic pianos located in your studio (no pictures of them in the gear section)?

The drum kit is in the basement of the studio in a separate drum booth (a converted water tank) and the pianos are in my main house, one in the bedroom, the other in the main hall / reception.

Did you buy new stuff for your studio (samplers, synths, effects) except your Yamaha 03D (numeric paradise!!!) and your ProTools station?

Yes, as well as the recent items you can read about in the December editorial, I've just purchased both a professional and a domestic CD burner, a new Novation Supanova synth, a rack-mount space echo and another drive for my Akai.

Have you / would you consider opening up The Thin Line studio to other artists in the future or does the thought of unknown musicians crashing around in your backyard frighten you? :-)

I doubt that I'll ever want to do this. I don't want any smelly rock 'n' rolls bands hanging around my gaff.

I saw the pictures of The Thin Line and I think it looks great. I was wondering how long it took you to plan and realise it exactly the way you wanted?

It took about a year to complete the renovation of the main house and studio. Check out the Report - editorial and Technical - thin line sections for exclusive pictures.

Is your studio a result of all the other ones you have been working in, where you have brought in the best features from each of the previous ones, or is it just because you like to be working close to home?

The criteria for the choice of Depeche Mode recording locations, was rarely to do with muscial requirements. For me personally, I have always preferred to record nearer to home rather than living in hotels for months on end. Certainly more than ever now, with a family and a website to run, it is much more convenient, not to mention cost-effective.

You have a nice and professional studio. Why do you do the mixing in other studios?

Until now, I haven't had the right equipment to mix in my own studio.

Is 'Thin Line' for rent? Can you send me prices?

I'm afraid not.

Is the 'Thin Line' name in reference to the (excellent) documentary/movie 'Thin Blue Line'?

Actually it's taken from a line Doug sang on one of the tracks I asked him to write some lyrics for - "You walk a thin line". And before one of you asks, no, it won't end up as a B-side...

Are you going to beef up your effects gear? From looking at the list, you must do most of the effects treatments at outside studios, would this be an accurate conclusion?

Up to now, most of the effects have been added at mix stage in another studio. My new set-up however, incorporates software-based, effects plug-ins designed to allow me to add most of the effects directly in the computer.

In 'Sound On Sound', the pictures of your studio show your gear on some cool looking stands, where did you get them?

They were built by a studio designer called Kevin Van Green. Go to Technical - thin line for more information.

Have you ever visited Peter Gabriel's 'Real World' studios?

Yes, I nearly mixed 'Unsound Methods' there. I had second option on the studio but unfortunately 'Black Grape' beat me to it. 'Real World's main studio is very impressive and I met Peter briefly when I went there to check it out.

I saw the pictures of your studio and I think it's beautiful - who designed it? Was it made prior to you leaving DM or after? Have other bands expressed an interest in working their and would you let them?

The studio was designed by myself in conjunction with a builder and a specialist studio engineer. It was constructed while I was still a member of DM and you can read all about its development by going to Technical - thinline. It is not available for commercial use.

I'm trying to get into a school for sound engineering.... Do you know of any good schools in England?

Personally I would get your training from real experience in a commercial studio rather than trying to 'learn' in a classroom. Working in this area of music entails so much more than simply twiddling knobs and knowing how to mic up a band. You'll have to start at the bottom - making the tea and being abused by producers - but you'll learn so much more than you would at any school.

When you were recording in Puk Studios, Denmark, what would you usually do in your spare time? I know there's nothing around for miles.

Puk's facilities included a swimming pool, gym and sauna which I used regularly, usually before starting work. We also hired a car and I sometimes went off for long drives in the Danish countryside when I needed to get away from everybody. Nightlife was fairly limited although on occasion we'd go into the nearest 'happening' town (which was about an hour away).

I watched a rock documentary with Bowie and Iggy Pop and they were both talking about the incredible atmosphere the Hansa studio in Berlin had in 1976. Do you agree? What effect did the atmosphere really have on the three 'Hansa records' - 'CTA', 'SGR' and 'BC'?

It's difficult to say what effect the studio had on the end results but Hansa definitely had an atmosphere about it - not only because of it's location in an almost derelict part of the city (right by the wall with East German guards in their towers) but more because of the great building and studio 2 with it's very special big recording room and staircase. It's all changed now - that whole part of Berlin has been completely rebuilt.


Q+A  :  GENERAL MUSIC  :  STUDIOS - the thin line / studios worldwide