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Why I Love... Recording Outside Studios

Joe Osborne By Joe Osborne
Published December 2023

Recording Outside StudiosPhoto: Free / SOS Archive

The last time I recorded in a professional recording studio was in November 2021, at Hohm Studio in Bradford. The studio is spacious, bright, comfortable, clean, organised, has unique hand‑built gear and sounds great, thanks to the custom‑made acoustic treatment by skilled in‑house engineers Ross Halden and Tom Goodall. It’s everything you could really want from a professional studio, and is exceptional value for money. But the last time I was there, it dawned on me that everything was so well done and safe that. for me, the whole experience felt somewhat uninspiring and predictable. I wasn’t the musician or engineer; I was acting as co‑producer with the band FailYer and I went on to mix the record.

For about the last 18 years, I have been recording many different styles of music and different artists in all sorts of spaces. Over this period, audio recording technology has matured, and can now be very portable and quick to set up. This rapid development of technology is amazing; I learnt to engineer on tape machines, early digital desks and ADAT, and now I have a recording rig that far exceeds the quality, ease of use and portability of this early digital gear.

There is an immediacy, a sense of urgency and therefore a different energy when recording in non‑studio spaces.

I’ve found myself recording in village halls, old schools, churches, industrial units, concert halls, deserted valleys, DIY venues, basements, living rooms, bedrooms, libraries and art galleries, both in the UK and abroad, either out of necessity (where it would have been cost‑prohibitive to use studios), or to attempt to get a good and unique sound. There is an immediacy, a sense of urgency and therefore a different energy when recording in non‑studio spaces. You never know quite what you are going to get, and you have got to try and capture that chaos quickly in a way that you choose, and hope it doesn’t sound like crap!

Yes, rigging the gear every time is inconvenient compared to a purpose‑built studio, and sometimes you come to use a headphone extension cable for an orchestra recording session and realise it stinks of year‑old sweat and beer from the last time you used it on location in a stinking, filthy punk basement venue... but I feel it is always worth the unique and exciting results. So much so that I decided to base my whole master’s degree around this idea.

Our ears are so used to hearing music made in recording studios that it can sound quite different to hear something that was recorded with an ambience. Our environments shape us and what we do in them, much more than we realise sometimes, and so I love recording music in unusual places.