The picture above is the “Big Room” at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios in Wiltshire.
Nice, isn’t it ?
(I’ve never been there, but personally am very curious to know how it sounds, with all those windows and hard surfaces – but, I digress…)
What may surprise you to learn is that this isn’t where Peter writes, records and mixes his records.
He does it in his shed.
Mind you, it’s not just any old shed – a couple of years ago SSL were offering a complete recording studio package based around a shed identical(*) to Peter’s – including an SSL desk and plenty of other gear, it cost a cool £250,000.
(*) Or, is it ? See the update below…
Here’s the sales pitch and guided tour:
And here’s a (quite funny !) interview with Peter talking about the shed:
If the price seems a little steep to you, don’t despair – almost any large shed or summerhouse can make a great recording/mixing space ! You’ll need to bear in mind that the soundproofing will probably be non-existent, and to add some DIY acoustic treatment, but as Peter says in the interview, the environment is the most important thing – to create a private space where you can relax and feel creative.
In fact, that’s the real reason for this post – not just to lust after (or laugh at) The Shed Of Dreams, but to ask – what is a studio, in the 21st century ?
Twenty years ago, the answer was easy, but since then almost everything has changed, and a quick browse of forums like homerecording.com make it clear that many people’s “home” or “project” studios are actually better designed and equipped than some “professional” facilities.
In fact, in this day and age of the affordable laptop you don’t even need to use a shed, almost anywhere can become a temporary recording studio. Several albums have, like 1 Giant Leap, been largely written and recorded all over the world, in whatever environment suited the players at the time – and the end result is all the stranger and more wonderful as a result.
Personally I have mixed feelings about the slow demise of established recording studios – on the one hand I welcome the opportunities that new technologies offer; I strongly believe that music should be open and accessible to everyone. On the other, I truly believe that the right studio and engineer can bring something special to a recording or a mix, and I’m saddened to to see great, established studios close, and the expertise, tradition and discipline they foster diluted or lost.
Then again, as Peter wisely says – “People like sheds”.
What is your writing/recording/mixing space like ? Does it relax you and help you be creative, or frustrate and limit you ? What is your “shed of dreams” ?
UPDATE: Straight after I posted this, Jonathan Webb (@jbwebb on Twitter) sent me links to three more fantastic videos of Real World – interviews with Peter’s long-standing (and awesomely talented) engineer Richard Chappell, in the actual “shed” / writing room – there’s masses of great info here, thanks, Jonathan !
The only question now is, why does the real thing look nothing like the SSL version? Enquiring minds need to know…