To celebrate the launch of our #inthestudio competition, here's a look at the home recording studios of the stars, from the past and present... enjoy!
Many classic albums were made in big recording studios which are now legendary, such as Abbey Road, Sun Records, Gold Star and Muscle Shoals. But musicians always loved the idea of recording at home for the sake of convenience, whenever inspiration strikes.
Home recording has been popular since the sixties, when equipment slowly started to become increasingly cheaper and more compact. At first, it was the first wave of rich and creative rock stars who jumped into the opportunity to set-up their own home studios. Today, you don't have to be filthy rich to afford a basic home recording setup, perhaps one with more versatility than most studios of the past - after all, even The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper' was recorded on just 4-tracks!
Here's a look of at some home recording studios from the stars over the years, from the sixties to the present:
Legendary record producer Joe Meek was one of the pioneers in home recording. He turned his flat on Holloway Road in London into a professional recording studio, and would even record artists in his toilet!
One of the most notable artists to first set up his own home studio was Pete Townshend. His creativity knew no boundaries in the sixties, and he felt he needed the space and the time to be on his own to construct musical pieces such as the rock-opera Tommy, and experiment with synthesizers, which led to the creation of songs such as 'Won't Get Fooled Again'.
Any musician today looking at these pics of Townshend's studio will recognize that typical, cluttered vibe of so many home studios...
John Lennon also had a more basic recording setup at home, with piano, organ, jukebox and guitar, and though he wasn't technically minded he produced rough demos which would become classic Beatles songs, and also recorded his Two Virgins album at home, with Yoko Ono.
McCartney bought a farm in Campbeltown, Scotland, in 1966 and built his own studio there, where he recorded many songs which featured in his solo records, from his first 'McCartney' album on to later hits.
George Harrison was the first Beatle to have his own home studio, and also the most complete, after he moved to his Friar Park mansion. His professionally set-up studio, which was called "F.P.S.H.O.T." (for "Friar Park Studio, Henley-on-Thames"). Recordings there included most of his own solo albums, from 1973's Living in the Material World onwards.
Guitar legend Les Paul was much more than a great guitarist - he was a recording pioneer, who invented the double-tracking technique. So it's not surprising to know he also had a home studio!
This photo is very interesting because it shows Jeff Beck during his Yardbirds years, with one of the first portable multi-track recorders, which finally allowed musicians to record at home!
Great pic of Sly Stone at home in Bel Air, 1971. Here's a very interesting fact: he recorded Sly & The Family Stone's 'Family Affair' there. It was the first ever #1 hit song to feature a drum-machine!
Besides him and his drum-machine, the song only other features were his sister's backing vocals and Billy Preston's keyboards - the perfect embodiment of the simplicity of home recordings, and proof you could still produce a hit this way!
The Rolling Stones
Perhaps the most famous (or should we say infamous!) home recording sessions ever: The Rolling Stones' 'Exile On Main St.' album sessions. Keith Richards was living for a while in a villa in the south of France, Nellcote, and the band decided to turn his basement into a makeshift recording studio.
The result was one of the greatest rock albums ever...
Jimmy Page could, of course, afford paying for any recording studio in the world, but like so many creative musicians, found that having his own space at home was the best way to explore his creativity. He was one of the first musicians to use the ARP Odyssey, and also to branch out to film soundtracks, such as Death Wish II, which saw him experimenting with a guitar synthesizer and Roland TR808 drum-machine. Musicians can only have this kind of creative freedom when working in their own time, at their home studios!
Though, in the case of Page, being the millionaire rock star that he was by the late seventies, there was another option: instead of just having a home studio, he also bought a proper one, The Sol, where the aforementioned soundtrack was recorded...
Lee Perry's Black Ark studios could also be considered as a "home studio", since it was built behind his family home in Kingston, Jamaica, and was much more lo-fi than a professional recording studio, with dated gear and unusual arrangements such as chicken wire surrounding the drum booth.
But Perry made the most out of the little he had: by putting to good use his Roland Space Echo (now resurrected in the form of the Boss RE-20 pedal); doing lots of overdubs on his 4-track; and by using creative recording techniques - such as burying microphones by a palm tree then thumping on top, to create powerful bass drum sounds. Classic "home studio" mindset - of pushing your creativity with whatever little gear you may own!
What does a top producer such as Brian Eno (Bowie, U2, Coldplay) do when he's back at home? Probably spending more time working on recordings, in his studio!
Having a great home studio is pretty much essential for electronic music artists, as this and the next few pics will show. After all, working with samples, creating beats and building your tracks is something less immediate than recording a song with a full band, and your own studio is the perfect place to take your time to do it!
From the confined corners of his home studio, Norman Cook created some truly massive hits, such as 'The Rockafeller Skank', 'Praise You' and others.
The Chemical Brothers
Like many top electronic artists, the Chemical Brothers own studio is packed with so much gear that you'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger studio as well-equipped with synths and other assorted cool stuff...
He sums up his preference for a home studio this way: “I don’t have a studio. I just make it in my room, next to by bed. I really like that. I like there to be a window and light. I couldn’t work in a studio. I’d hate it, and the tracks — well, I’ve tried, and it just doesn’t work. I’m not really a person who’s into the studio thing. I like it to be a living room with a studio in the corner. I can just go and get a cup of tea or watch a bit of TV when I’m doing something.”
Though not actually located at his home, Bernard Butler's Studio 355 has all the hallmarks of a home studio - tiny, and packed with his own personal gear that he's acquired over the years, including guitars dating back from his Suede days up until new ones used at more recent gigs!
Considering Damon is a workaholic with so many different musical projects, it comes as no surprise that he's got a cosy setup at home...
Noel Gallagher's home studio looks like a mess of guitars and amps, of course, but that's where his songs get shaped...
Jack White has always been an advocate of home recordings, and even recorded the 2nd White Stripes album, De Stjil, in his living room!
Patrick Carney/ Black Keys
Patrick Carney is not just the drummer in the Black Keys, but also an accomplished producer with a great home studio, where he recorded his own band as well as others.
As soon as they got more successful, The Horrors decided to invest the money on their own little studio, packed with great gear including vintage synths, Novation Bass Station II and loads more... after all, if you got a home studio, there's a good chance you're a bit of a hoarder, a "gear junkie" always looking for more equipment to fill up your room!
David Gilmour/ Pink Floyd
Home, sweet home... Pink Floyd have recorded classic albums at Abbey Road studios and even at Greek ruins, but the most recent Pink Floyd album, 'Endless River', was recorded at David Gilmour's own home studio. It seems that, after many decades of touring the world and recording at famous studios, nothing could be as appealing as just staying at home...
And that's the great thing about home studios: they can be anything, to anyone. Simple or complex, there are no rules! They can be the final stop of an illustrious career, such as Pink Floyd's, or the start of one - as this photo of an young Kanye West demonstrates.
Few photographs capture the messy beauty and the essence of a home studio as the now-classic picture of Kevin Parker surrounded by his gear, on the back sleeve of Tame Impala's aptly titled 2nd album, 'Lonerism'.
Thanks to the hit-single 'Elephant', Tame Impala was propelled into stardom, and the whole album was recorded at home by its sole member, Kevin Parker (who's only joined by other musicians for live gigs).
The success of bands such as Tame Impala is proof that a home recording studio is not necessarily just an option for those who can't afford a "real" studio, it's not a "second-best" option, but a place full of possibilities, where the creative musician and producer can flourish. And there's no "right" or "wrong" gear for a home recording studio - after all, each studio is a very personal creation that reflects its owner, and because of this they're always very special!