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The Ironworks tests its mettle

Brighton gets another top-line commercial studio, says Jim Evans. Producer/engineer Mike Pelanconihas opened his new recording facility in the North Laines area of the city.

The south coast resort of Brighton continues to thrive as a live music Mecca, arguably boasting more bands per square foot than anywhere else in the country. Another successful Brighton Festival and the recent Great Escape – billed as Europe’s leading festival for new music – have added to the vibrancy of the ‘city by the sea’. On the venue front, the Hanbury Ballrooms are to undergo a £300,000 (€362,000) renovation, while songwriter/producer David Courtney has announced The Brighton Music Awards – an initiative to celebrate the city’s emerging talent.

Interestingly, though, until comparatively recently, Brighton has not been populated with top-line commercial recording studios. Being just an hour from London might have something to do with this. However, 2008 saw the opening of Brighton Electric Studio 1, a fully-fledged commercial recording studio designed by Mike Gardner, which is flourishing. And now another top-line facility has opened for business.

Step forward producer/engineer Mike Pelanconi and The Ironworks – his new recording studio located in the North Laines area of the city. It is, in fact, on the first floor of the warehouse complex that is home to Loopmasters, the operation that distributes Pelanconi’s Drumdrops sample library.

The studio’s live room measures 5sqm. Surrounding the large central floor space is a drum riser and a collection of vintage keyboards, guitars and amps. The sonic design of the room has been masterminded by ex-Olympic and Chalk Farm Studios technician Mike Craig.

The control room (pictured) boasts a custom 28-channel vintage BBC Class A console dating back to the late ’70s. It is accompanied by Tannoy Golds and Yamaha NS10s.The outboard racks contain a load of great sonic toys while recording is done on the Ampex M1200 16-track 2”.

Why Brighton? “I am from Brighton, so it made it sense. London was getting hectic and expensive,” says Pelanconi. “I had ambitions to build a bigger studio than I had previously. It took me several years to locate the right premises. Brighton is possibly the best place for creativity, low stress and low maintenance. I wanted to create an environment to stimulate musicians, and to facilitate the sound possibilities I had in my head. I wanted a blend of professionalism and informality that puts musicians and producers at ease and inspires the best out of them.”

He continues: “I like to record everybody together as much as possible so it’s crucial to have a well-balanced live room. Mike [Craig] started at Olympic in the ’60s and has witnessed the studio build evolution from the days of valves and mono to the present day. We have worked together for a long time, so he understood what I wanted.”

And the control room? “The best control rooms that I have worked in are in LA. New York or London control rooms tend to be smaller. The design and dimensions of the control room were inspired by Capitol Studio B and the old Hollywood Sound Recorders where Parliament and many cool ’70s artists recorded.”

The Ironworks is the latest addition to the Miloco portfolio, the London-based operation that now handles bookings for 17 studios, including Fisher Lane in Surrey, London’s Engine Room, El Cortijo on the Costa del Sol and Black Rock on the island of Santorini.

“The Ironworks suits the Miloco model,” says director Nick Young. “While it is primarily for Mike’s own musical projects, it is also available on a commercial basis as a high-end recording studio and it will be of interest to those who wish to avail themselves of Mike’s skills. It sounds great and its vintage gear will appeal to analogue fans.”