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100 studios a piece of Cake for Langdale’s Bill Ward

Langdale Technical founder and MD Bill Ward looks back over his remarkable career and over 100 studio room installs

Producer/songwriter Steve Booker’s new Cake Sounds studio opened its doors last summer summer following the installation, by Langdale Technical Consulting, of a 48-channel SSL Duality equipped control room (see SSL, Van Damme cabling for birthday at Cake) – an install that marked the 100th control room design and build for Langdale Technical Consulting MD Bill Ward.

In a career that encompasses working for 12 years with Trevor Horn as head of technical at the Sarm group of studios and setting up installation design and build company NFK (the brand which morphed into Langdale Technical), Ward has, unsurprisingly, seen a number of major changes over a century of installations. He’s also seen diversification into sectors as varied and unexpected as some of the largest mega-yachts afloat on the seas today to medical and educational facilities throughout the UK. However, Ward freely admits he is still always happiest working at the top end of the pro-audio market.

Along the way to the 100th install, top-end music studio installs in Britain have moved from being huge commercial builds to almost exclusively private affairs. Ward was responsible for all the studio builds at Sarm, with some of the rooms being done more than once in his time there – such was the pace of investment. “It’s something I’m still incredibly proud of – it was just the perfect place and the perfect time to be there,” he says. “The technical team was responsible for some amazing builds, including the first SSL J Series and Euphonix console installs in the UK; we also had fantastic fun with builds at Sarm Hook End, Sarm West Coast in LA and even a couple of rooms out in Ireland.”

However, nowadays it’s notable that most Langdale commercial studio work is based abroad, although a strong private sector still keeps Langdale busy in the UK.

Since leaving Sarm, Ward (pictured right) has been responsible for builds in Russia, France, Iceland, Egypt, Norway and a host of other foreign locations, but, despite this, the majority of the work is still UK-based. This is mainly due to a very active post-production market, which has complemented the private studio market. Langdale has been responsible for multi-room installations at a host of Soho facilities, including 750mph, Factory, Jungle and Wave. Both 750mph and Factory have relationships with Langdale that go back well over 12 years.

Ward admits it’s nigh-on impossible to choose favourite rooms, although some of the big music rooms and multi-room post-production complexes have been particularly rewarding (see box). From a music point of view, the rooms at Sarm West became great technical and creative benchmarks, and it’s been pleasantly surprising that a number of clients over the years have matched those rooms. “They are the designs you love because they tend not to be limited by such tight budgets, which means you can be let off the creative leash a little more,” Ward comments. However, at the other end of the spectrum, Ward also admits to still being surprised by the number of enquires that go something along the lines of: “Err, hello, I wonder if you can help. We’ve spent our entire budget on equipment already, we need to be open in five days time and we need someone to install everything quickly for us…. can you come and sort everything out, please?” Sometimes, it’s very much a case of education first.

Over the years, there have of course been a number of more unusual situations, including a live area in a (thankfully empty) swimming pool, still complete with tiles, ladders and sloping floor; the newly installed SSL room that was promptly flooded up to the faders by the adjacent river having its second-highest flood in 100 years; and the installation stopped by a political revolution.

Although Ward admits that Langdale lives slightly more under the radar than it probably should do, this year has so far been one of the busiest to date. UK builds include an educational facility at the University of West London and the private SSL Duality build for Steve Booker, both of which are already signed off, and an order book with post-production work in Soho that will take things well into next year.

(Chris Hook)