London, UK (February 22, 2016)—Built inside a 100-year-old Dutch barge, Grand Cru Studio is an unusual recording studio, to say the least. First built in the 1970s as Oceanic Studios, commissioned by The Who’s Pete Townshend as part of his Eel Pie Studios, the 110-foot vessel is now a fully commercial facility, complete with an SSL AWS 948 hybrid console.
Over the last five years, it has been brought back to its former glory and equipped to deal with a flurry of Townshend projects, including the Classic Quadrophenia project. At the helm is Myles Clarke, an engineer and producer who has worked closely with Townshend over many years. "I am running this as a traditional commercial studio," he says. "...A production space for hire. When you arrive, the desk is zeroed; everything is clean and tidy. I want it to be like the studios I assisted in and learned in—a fresh blank canvas for producers and engineers to come and do their thing in. I've been to lots of so-called commercial studios that are actually very much a Producer's own studio—things are broken or labelled badly, and so on... I've spent the last few months making sure that this place is perfect."
The studio includes a large control room, plus live area and smaller machine room/booth. The rooms remain true to the original Keith Slaughter designs (Abbey Road, Ridge Farm, Air), even though some of it had to be reinstated: "When I came to the studio, lots of the bolt-on wooden panels had been removed and it sounded awful" Clarke explains. "Pete remembered the panels. We actually found them all in a warehouse, covered in dust, so we cleaned them off and screwed them into exactly the same spots. We knew which went where because the screw holes lined up. Suddenly it diffused the room, stopped some of the standing waves... It was just like magic."
The studio has been gradually re-equipped over the last five years, but "The SSL is the thing that brings it all together," says Clarke. "The SuperAnalogue Mix Bus sounds great, just amazing, and the compressor is clean and transparent. The way it's set out, the way that it sounds—you just know you can push a bit more, cut a bit more, and you can do that dramatically. Pete's always talked about shaping the sounds on an SSL and I agree; you can really 'build' a sound with an SSL.”
Even though the AWS 948 is a 48 channel console with full 5.1 monitoring, it has a footprint of less than 1.5 meters wide. This suits Grand Cru well, giving a high input count without taking up too much space. "If I had a 48-channel console with a 48-channel footprint, people would struggle to get past it," notes Clarke. "The AWS has a very suitable footprint for this kind of studio."
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