The Foundry Studio co-owners, Sam Craggs and Chris Palmer are just catching their breath after completing the mammoth task of installing 72 channels of Audient ASP8024 in Studio 1. As owners of the largest Audient desk ever built, Sam and Chris have equally big plans for the newly-launched Sheffield studio – as Audient found out recently, when we caught up with them both for a chat.
Touching on a range of topics, including the Isle Of Wight festival and ‘in the box’ mixing, to advice for budding audio people, Audient started by asking why The Foundry Studio wanted quite so many channels on their mixing console.
We’re lucky enough to have one of the largest live rooms outside of London and as such can facilitate larger ensembles such as brass bands, choirs and orchestras, all of which require significant amounts of channels, so now we know we’re prepared for almost any recording scenario. It’s also helpful having that many channels for the band/artist orientated work we do. Anyone familiar with analogue consoles will know that the recall (or lack thereof!) can make revisiting sessions time consuming and frustrating, but with 72 channels, we can actually split a few projects that are all in progress at the same time across the desk and leave settings in place – very useful!
Now that it’s in the control room too we can’t imagine any other size or configuration of desk looking so good. It’s as if the room was designed around the console.
What was the motivation to go for Audient initially?
There were a number of contributing factors really. The fact you’re a innovative company that’s based in the UK appealed to us. We have a lot of other products from vintage and contemporary UK brands in the studio and it feels good to be supporting the thriving local pro audio industry.
“there’s no escaping the fact that Audient products are much more competitively priced than many other brands”
Also, there’s no escaping the fact that Audient products are much more competitively priced than many other brands in the same market yet, as we’ve discovered, you don’t compromise on quality and you get an incredible amount of bang for your buck with each product. The deal was sealed when we visited Leeds Beckett University to demo the console they have there and we instantly fell in love with the great sound and workflow.
Finally, there’s the fact that because it’s a new-build console, we won’t be forking out thousands more each year on maintenance or restoration but we still get that classic analogue sound and feel.
From the moment we made an enquiry, we received such a high standard of customer service from Audient. We initially pitched the idea of having 72 channels and it seemed everyone immediately got behind our vision and fully supported us throughout the whole process which was really refreshing. We’d seen nothing but great reviews about Audient’s design, engineering, build quality and, most importantly, pre-amps and now we’ve experienced all that first hand, plus their amazing customer service, we are incredibly happy with our choice. We really feel part of the Audient family now.
What’s your favourite feature of the ASP8024?
It would be too hard to pick just one, there are so many great features. The 4 band EQ sounds beautiful though, it’s so musical and clean and you can really boost a band to bring out some analogue sparkle.
The DLC section is also a favourite because not only does it allow all the obvious control surface functionality but we also have the ability to automate the analogue signal path through the VCAs.
And from a vanity point of view: the Ash wood trim looks stunning!
What’s surprised you about the desk?
The first time we ran a full mix through the console we were amazed by the depth of sound compared with what we were used to with our old control surface and ‘in the box’ solution. It feels as though mixes become three dimensional when fed through it, which is likely down to having individual channels of digital to analogue conversion rather than a stereo converter out of the computer feeding into such high quality preamps in and out of the desk.
“pleasantly surprised at the intuitive design and workflow”
We’ve had the usual comments from visitors about how complicated it all looks initially, but they’re always pleasantly surprised at the intuitive design and workflow once we’ve talked them through it.
Are we right in saying that you’ve kept the studio open throughout the lengthy wiring & installation of the desk? How did that work?
We almost managed to! The Studio 1 control room was only out of action for about ten days whilst we did the more intensive tasks we wanted to do in preparation such as laying new cables under the floor, sanding and varnishing the floor and painting the back diffuser wall (it took so much paint!). Obviously we had to think about noise as we’re based in a large unit with two other studios so tried to keep the disruption to a minimum but, being studios, you never quite could predict the hours they’d be busy. Everyone was very understanding and excited though, luckily.
We still had sessions happening in the live room throughout the installation that patched straight through to Studio 2, which was useful and stopped us having to completely close. We worked some ridiculous hours and days in the three weeks before the arrival of the console (we can’t thank everyone involved enough for their help and support) but it has all been worth it, we couldn’t be happier with the end result!
A lot of people are going purely in the box, what do you think the advantages of having a console in a big studio set up are?
‘In the box’ setups work for smaller studios because they’re so compact (though most do have some form of outboard these days) but having a live room the size we do and working on the size of projects we do means smooth workflow is essential. We’ve recorded sessions with brass bands where we’ve had preamps stacked up the wall, it was a nightmare trying to keep track of what channel patched where! The console means there’s no hunting for the signal in the studio, everything is at your fingertips.
“We’d seen nothing but great reviews about Audient’s design, engineering, build quality and …pre-amps”
We’ve heard lots of musicians and producers say how much they’re enjoying moving back to tactile music making and we know anyone who gives the console a go will agree, it’s a much more creative and natural way to work. Lots of people will argue that it’s more complicated and time consuming using a large console because you can’t recall settings but technology these days has made it easier to take and access photo snapshots of settings so if you do have to prep for a recall it’s nowhere near as laborious.
People also expect studios of our size to look a certain way or have certain equipment and our console definitely looks like it belongs. We’ve noticed certain artists and musicians seem to have really upped their performances during sessions because they know every single detail will be exposed. This effect has led to some fantastic productions so far though!
What are your medium/longer term goals for The Foundry now you have such a big console?
Initially we’re aiming to re-establish the studio’s brand, identity and reputation as many people aren’t aware it has reopened having shut down under previous owners and a different name. With the launch of the console we can hopefully continue the steady growth in clients we’re already seeing and build some great relationships and connections along the way.
In the long run we’d like to be working on larger scale productions in all forms of media. We’ve got the space and facilities to work on projects such as film or game scores where a larger ensemble needs recording and, being far more affordable than other similar studios, we are able to accommodate a wide range of budgets.
“we are incredibly happy with our choice”
Making great music will always be the main goal for us though and we’re aiming to create a space where musicians and artists can find a really great performance in themselves that can be captured in the highest quality.
Who have you worked with and who are you working with at the moment?
Between us we’ve worked with acts such as Florence and the Machine, Tinie Tempah, Mumford and Sons, Keane, The Noisettes, Madness and Paul McCartney on a range of projects including arrangement, engineering, production, mixing, live sound and broadcast. The studio itself has had some legends through the door too though, including Lulu in its earlier days and Donny Osmond more recently.
If an artist or band is talented though then it doesn’t matter what stage in their career they’re at, we will always be excited to work with and shout about them. In the last few months we have enjoyed working with some incredibly varied talent including Bang Bang Romeo, who are sure to be the next big thing to come out of Sheffield and were also the first band to record live through the console! We’ve also had the quickly rising Manchester trio, Rothwell in and sounding fantastic. An artist we have in the studio regularly, Philippa Hanna has been doing some fantastic support tours and performances recently, for artists including Leona Lewis, Will Young, Anastacia and Little Mix. We also recently became the regular rehearsal space for Joanne Shaw Taylor after discovering her management’s office was less than 100m down the road! These few are all very different but all equally worth checking out if you’re a music fan.
We will also be announcing a partnership with a very forward-thinking Sheffield based Label and Publisher in the near future which we’re very excited about as there’s the potential to work on some really creative projects together. Keep an eye on our social media for more information on this as it arrives.
Why should people choose The Foundry rather than anywhere else?
We feel that what makes us unique is that The Foundry Studio is a family-run business. We find the act of working with artists and helping them to achieve a reward in itself. For us, it is so important to find artists we believe in to enable us to work and grow together, ultimately to work towards achieving results that are the best they can be. One benefit for artists choosing to work here is that we also have an in-house design and video team with a wealth of experience, allowing us to collaborate with them to develop a strong brand that reflects both their music and personality without breaking the bank.
“Not many studios can boast 1,000 square foot and 72 channels in the heart of a vibrant and creative city just 2 hours out from London by train.”
Another aspect we are proud to shout about is the sheer size of the studio and the facilities we have to offer when people visit us. Not many studios can boast 1,000 square foot and 72 channels (huge thanks again to the whole team at Audient!) in the heart of a vibrant and creative city just 2 hours out from London by train. We’re also far more affordable compared to studios of a similar size in the capital. And naturally we make a cracking cup of Yorkshire tea! [That’ll swing it – Audient]
What is your proudest moment?
We don’t think anything will top the install of the console for a long time. We’re all still feeling so excited as it’s been an incredible journey (cheesy but true). From us having the initial idea to Audient immediately getting behind the ‘vision’ and supporting us wonderfully, right through the manic refurb period to installation and now, when we can finally announce it all!
Chris might say his proudest (and possibly tired-est) moment is when we finally soldered the last connection on the patch bay, which he has constructed entirely from scratch himself. He’s a hero.
What advice would you give to a 20-year-old you just starting out?
For any young, aspiring musicians, engineers or producers out there, we would definitely advise them to encapsulate themselves in music as much as possible. The key to developing in the music industry is to always be learning. With every session, mix or production, your skills should improve and you should aim to learn something new. This should be embraced as part of the journey.
The beauty of the industry is that for a huge percentage of people this is a passion and an interest but it’s important to go the extra step and, if this truly is the career path for you, this wont be a hard task to take on and should actually be enjoyable. In short… Live, eat, sleep and breathe music!
Another key thing is working with the right people. Working with people you can learn from, people who bring ideas and techniques to the table and openly share them with you are invaluable and will help your progression no end. These people should also inspire you creatively and technically, making you want to up your game. Working as part of a strong team is always far better than working solo; from simply another pair of ears that you can get feedback from, right up to a full production team that you work extremely closely with.
“Live, eat, sleep and breathe music!”
You should work out what your strengths are and play to them. It’s always good to have a degree of versatility, but concentrate on what you’re really good at. Time spent doing other things can have a negative effect, and hinder you from doing what you want – and ought – to be doing. Also so much of the industry is based on reputation; be known for doing what you’re strongest at.
Finally, be prepared to work hard and always be professional. The music industry is a competitive place, there will be an overwhelming amount of people wanting to do the same thing as you, but if you always put in 100% then you will find your place and grow with your career.