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Riversonic – a dream studio

Riversonic is Henry Frampton's new studio venture in the breathtaking surroundings of Italy's Umbria. Dave Robinson takes in the stunning views.

If you’re going to up sticks and leave it all behind, then do it with rock ‘n’ roll style. Put the kit in the van and drive – see where the road takes you. Exactly what Henry Frampton did. Except for Henry, the van was a 16-wheeler and the kit is a world-class music studio.

After travelling to the hills of Umbria in 2008, Frampton began dreaming. Even better, he took action. The successful recording engineer, composer and studio fanatic packed up shop, left rainy London and headed for the continent in May 2009.

September 2010, and the dream is a reality.

The medieval estate of Monestevole forms Frampton’s new home and workspace. The studio itself has been built from the ground up for sound. Spacious, isolated and shining with an eye for modern comforts, acoustics and lighting, the studio has two personalities. Inside it is pure modernity, yet, from the exterior one might think it was designed by the architects of ancient Rome.

The studio has already seen the likes of Marti Pellow, Zucchero, Chris Difford (Squeeze) and Mike Lindup (Level 42) rehearse and write songs there. Now it is fitted out with Frampton’s microphones, mixers, Pro Tools hardware, synths and outboard gear.

“Most of my analogue synth collection was acquired scanning the old LOOT papers in the late ’80s for secondhand analogue synth racks: that time when the Yamaha DX7 kicked off the digital mania that nudged analogue out of favour!” he says.

Riversonic comprises two spacious ground floor live rooms with a control room above, leading onto a dedicated vocal room. All rooms have mountain views.

The centrepiece of Riversonic is an Otari Concept Elite+, imported from Technicolor Film Studios in Los Angeles. “It was the end piece of a massive 192-channel desk,” he exclaims. “I was looking for a console that was warmer than an SSL but not as coloured as a Neve. The Otari has fantastic image recall and automation and I do believe it is the only console ever made with two identical paths on each module, both lower and upper paths having their own four-band parametric EQ, 100mm touch/flying faders and any combination of the four available inputs per module. The central panel gives you instant visual feedback and yields a much less cluttered layout where module status is not hidden behind knobs.”

Frampton opted for original ATC SCM20 TASL, ADAM A7 and Yamaha NS10M monitors. Asked to highlight three favourite pieces of kit in his inventory, he plumps for the SoundField SPS422 stereo mic system, the Quantec QRS reverb/room simulator and the Ensoniq ESQ-M synth modules.

“If I had to pick one mic for all jobs it would definitely be the SoundField. It is so versatile. Not only is it infinitely steerable through all mic patterns from mono to stereo but it also has an amazing transparency which allows one to add ‘warmth’ later on in the recording chain if required.”

“The Quantec has a depth and musicality unlike any other,” he continues. “Its not a main reverb, more a wonderful rich colour that has the ability to add a beautiful depth to a track. I have often found simply placed on one instrument it can suddenly enhance the perspective of all the other components in a mix – like loosening a knot.”

Of his four eight-note polyphonic Ensoniq modules, he says: “I have owned these from new and they are my favourite analogue. They are actually eight-bit digital samples through analogue filters, a rare three-oscillator design with hard sync and versatile modulation capabilities. I wish I had four more!”

Who does he want to attract to this gorgeous mountain retreat? “Those artists seeking an inspirational environment to record/sleep and eat. Of course, this will appeal to the bands recording full albums or writing longer projects, but considering the size and feel of the expansive live rooms, it is also ideal for jazz and chamber work.”

Riversonic Studios is tucked away in the mountains above the Tiber valley and is 30 minutes from Perugia airport. The facility is divided into a handful of buildings, with stunning bedrooms, fireplaces, lounges and entertainment facilities.

“At Riversonic Studios clients can expect an inspirational recording experience, superb Italian cuisine and fresh mountain air,” says Frampton. “Most importantly, you can record, all at a price that begs the question, why not?”
 All rooms with mountain views, you say? Put the kettle on Henry, we’re on our way!