A magical weekend at Rockfield
Imagine this: You sit on the exact same spot where Freddy Mercury wrote Bohemian Rhapsody (4 times platinum), after you just touched the actual Wonderwall from Oasis, in the magical countryside of Wales, getting ready to take part in a recording session and learn from one of the most profound producers/engineers in music history. Including some dancing in the studio.
That’s what happened at Rockfield….
We organise quite some studio visits with our students, which is an integral part of our music production & sound engineering programme. This time though, we really wanted to go the extra mile and organised a surprise trip to a very special place…
In the last weekend of June 2017, we planned a road trip with our students and took them to the legendary Rockfield Recording Studios for a 2-day residential recording masterclass. To provide a little background, Rockfield Studios, situated near Monmouth in Wales, opened almost 50 years ago becoming the world’s first (and probably favourite) residential recording studio. They have played host to many of the world’s biggest artists – Black Sabbath, Oasis, Iggy Pop, Simple Minds, Coldplay, and in 1975 was the primary studios used by Queen for the recording of the greatest pop record of all times ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. So the term legendary definitely is in place.
The road trip started on Friday morning at the institute in Amsterdam, where we left with 3 cars and 14 people. After a day of travelling, including a ferry boat trip, we arrived at Rockfield Studios in the late evening. Dinner was waiting for us and everyone got assigned to their own room; what an incredibly warm welcome!
After a good night sleep, we were also welcomed by the studios’ owner Kingsley Ward. He gave us the full tour of the studios and the accommodations, including some incredible inside rock ‘n roll stories: the beginning of Black Sabbath and the actual location where Freddy Mercury sat while writing Bohemian Rhapsody. We also saw the Oasis’ wonderwall and stood where Chris Martin and Coldplay were standing when they wrote Yellow.
The one and only Kingsley!
Anyway the wind blows..
Well let’s be honest, we were all astonished by this rock ‘n roll history and the way Kingsley brought these stories so alive. But there was more to come, producer and engineer Matt Butler arrived at Rockfield Studios later that day to take the students into the Quadrangle Studio and start preparing the recording session of that weekend.
The Quadrangle Studio
Constructed in 1973, this 170m2 studio has been specifically designed for live recording with maximum separation. The control room was acoustically treated and tested to give the best possible sound to the existing building, and to date has been acknowledged to have produced some of the greatest records in the world. It’s equipped with a MCI 500 series inline console and has some rare vintage NEVE 1061’s Mic. Amp/EQ modules & vintage ROSSER Mic. Amp/EQ modules. The studio has several Live Rooms, including 2 variable acoustic drum rooms and 3 isolation booths.
Matt talked about his 30+ years of experience in the industry, working with Paul McCartney, Dire Straits, Mick Jagger, Phil Collins, Luther Vandross and Madness and his way of approaching recording and mixing sessions.
On Sunday it was time to really start recording. While students were doing all the mic placements, patching (including going through the Neve and Rosser preamps of course!) and preparing headphones, the band of the incredibly talented Jessica Rhodes came in and some last preparations were made. Everything was “record ready”! At least, until a power outage in a great part of Wales interrupted the schedule. What first felt like a setback, actually turned out to be just the thing everyone could use: some social time in the sun surrounded by the beautiful countryside. So while playing frisbee and table tennis in the sun, everyone got the chance to connect: the band, students, our staff, Matt and the staff at Rockfield. It resulted in a very creative and productive evening session, with good vibes and even some dancing!
The power came back around 6pm and we went back to sound-checking the band. Before starting the actual recording session, we sat down all together for dinner in the sun. And once again, we were treated by an amazing meal cooked for us by the chef… Now we understand why there are some bands who initially book 2 weeks in the studio but end up staying for 11 months :-).
Everyone was ready to start recording and what a blast it was this way. The band was superb and their 2 songs were tracked into Pro Tools. Each of our students got their time behind the console and the chance to lead the communication towards the band. We don’t believe there is a better way to learn than by doing, especially with a great band that’s looking to put together and capture a great song! We all loved the song, the proof of that can be seen in this video:
This video has no sound as the track has not yet been released.
We all can’t wait to hear the final product! After wrapping up a successful recording session, we all had a final drink where our students toasted on an incredible learning experience.
Of course, we could not leave without signing the traditional Rockfield guest book and on Monday we headed back home with a very inspiring experience, for all the students and staff. A big big thanks to Lisa, Kingsley, Ann, Matt and the Jessica Rhodes band for making it an unforgettable trip!