Inside the control room at Mountain Studios, visitors to Queen - The Studio Experience can mix on the reproduction console or stand in the spot where Freddie Mercury recorded his last vocals, marked by a circular plaque in the floor. Photo: Richard Gray/Q:TSE
The Montreux Jazz Festival has long been a key tourist attraction for the Swiss city on the shores of Lake Geneva, but now it’s not the only musical one. Queen – The Studio Experience has opened within Mountain Studios, the recording facility that was owned by the classic rock act from 1979 to 1993. During that time, the band best-known for songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” and “One Vision,” recorded seven albums inside the Tom Hidley-designed space, and now visitors can tour it, seeing where some of their favorite music was created.
While Queen, which sold more than 300 million albums worldwide during its reign, is most often associated with Mountain Studios, it was hardly the first. Mountain began as a traditional destination recording facility; in the years before Queen purchased the building, acts such as Yes, Led Zeppelin, Bryan Ferry, Stan Getz, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and AC/DC put songs to tape there. Queen’s association with the studio began in 1978 when it arrived to record the album Jazz; it wasn’t long before the band purchased the studios outright.
On the attraction’s website, resident producer/engineer David Richards recalls, "The very first time I met them was when they came to make the Jazz album here. They were working with their whole crew and they had Roy Thomas Baker engineering; I just met them very briefly. That was when they decided to buy the studio as well, so I suddenly became under new employment. I had new bosses: Queen."
Visitors of the attraction will find that the small studio is tucked away behind the Casino Barrière de Montreux; once they pass through the graffiti-covered doors into the facility, fans can wander around the control room, which still contains much of the original recording gear from Queen’s tenure. Sadly, the Neve console used back in the day is long gone, but in its place is “a reproduction of the original” (that’s the studio’s term, not ours), which is set up to allow visitors to try their hand at mixing various Queen tracks recorded in the space.
The Made In Heaven Room, named after the band's final album, features memorabilia from throughout the group's career. Photo: Richard Gray/Q:TSE
For memorabilia fans, there’s plenty of original handwritten lyric sheets, instruments, stage outfits and other paraphernalia around, provided by surviving bandmembers, who are reportedly deeply involved in the project. Admission to Queen – The Studio Experience is free, but visitors are asked to make donations to the Mercury Phoenix Trust, a charity created in honor of singer Freddie Mercury after he died of complications caused by AIDS in 1991.
Would you travel to Montreux to see Queen's recording studio? What classic facility do you wish would open to the public, and why? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!