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Michelle Kearney: I'm A Studio Widow

Sounding Off By Michelle Kearney
Published June 2011

A studio widow speaks out...

Some women are attracted to ugly but powerful men; others find themselves shacking up with complete and utter bastards time and time again. Me? For some unfathomable reason, I seem to end up with home‑studio types.

I've lived with two now, for my sins, and this is the second time I've been a studio widow. The first was when I was in my mid‑20s, when I went out with an avid reader of Sound On Sound. Two rows of SOS back issues were kept in the living room, with the latest kept on the toilet floor — better that than a sticky‑paged bedside edition, I suppose. The rest were banished to the cellar. His 'studio' consisted of one relatively small desk in the living room, with a computer and a few stacky things... I think you call it 'outboard'. Add to that the inevitable boys' toys (stereo, big TV...) and the dust and the cables drove me nuts. The promised cable‑tidy 'solution' was enacted, but it was no solution. (If they spin that line to you, don't buy it!)

Fast‑forward to my 30s, and I moved in with Matt, who works for SOS. Understanding the importance to him of his hobby‑turned‑job, I promised that he could have the second‑largest room in the house — what was once a dining room — for his studio. The caveat was that everything studio‑related had to be contained within that one room, and wouldn't seep out and contaminate the rest of the house.

I've never been one for the grey‑foam chic that studio geeks seem to find so attractive. I thought that a studio was supposed to be a creative space. The kind of place where you have natural light and lots of nice‑looking things to stimulate your creativity. Matt's made an effort to make things more 'aesthetically pleasing', I suppose. Some acoustic panels have been covered in nice material, he's installed some shelves and cupboards to tidy things away, and he's managed to disguise some remaining stacks of stuff. I still wouldn't want to work in there myself, but that isn't my problem — or so I thought…

After first just about managing to cram everything in (rather like sitting on an over‑packed suitcase to zip it shut), Matt's studio gear has multiplied like rabbits. Guitars, amps, Hammond organ, massive Leslie speaker, drum kit, rack gear... the list of additions goes on and on. It's now spilling out of the room, and the dust and cables are back. What's more, boxes of review gear no longer seem to fit. It strikes me that there's more time spent acquiring and testing new gadgets, and finding out how good they might be, than there is actually using them to make music!

What's more, there are 'spare' speakers in the living room (they sound better than the TV, apparently), and boxes of review gear seem to find themselves 'temporarily' stored in our porch. That last practice is going to have to stop, as the porch will be the home for our imminent child's buggy.

Every now and then, there's talk of streamlining the studio, there are spontaneous fits of dusting/cleaning/reorganising, and promises of technological solutions to the ever‑growing studio — most recently an API Lunchbox, which gives me hope that it may be possible to have a studio of the size, cleanliness and order that I would have if it were mine. Who knows, maybe it will happen... and maybe, one day, my dream of a house with a dining room will become reality? Yeah, right!

But if there are any other studio widows reading this, fear not. For all the moaning, my strategy almost works. If I can just make him keep everything in the one room, I can content myself with a good dose of Orwellian double‑think. The studio both exists and does not exist. As long as we can close our minds to it, we can have the rest of the house — which means we can cope.

About The Author

Michelle Kearney will have spawned a baby by the time you read this, and plans to use the sprog to guilt‑trip Matt into streamlining his studio setup. Failing that, she'll have nine months at home to surreptitiously sell 'unneeded' gear on eBay.

Published June 2011