Coach House, Rockfield
Upon leaving high school, my dream was to work in a recording studio, so I decided to approach local studio owner ‘Kingsley Ward’ for a work placement. It was extremely difficult to get work in this field, but after a patient autumn, I eventually received a call, asking me if I could start for a trial.
The day of my interview, the singer from Neds Atomic Dustbin walked across the courtyard, eating a banana, I knew this was the place to be! I was also shown the piano that Freddie Mercury composed Bohemian Rhapsody on while ‘bumming’ around the studios during the 1970s.
The place was rambling, and the outside farmyard views could not prepare you for the ’state of the art’ studios inside. To a 16 year old lad, It was like being inside a space control centre.
The Charalatans (With Rob Collins)
I started off as a trainee tape operator, with one of my favourite indie bands of the time ‘The Charlatans’. I can remember sitting in awe of the band, being asked to make tea & coffee for band members and the producer. I was a bit panic stricken as I couldn’t remember all the different requests; some with sugar, some without, white, black, strong, weak, and so on. I delivered the tray shaking slightly, sitting there watching them drink my brew.
It was like a dream working those early days, moving the lead weight tape reels around, narrowly escaping getting crushed by the portable sound proof walls, setting up microphones, watching and listening to the endless rehearsals and band banter.
The band were great to work for, and It was really exciting and new going into the studios early mornings, to prepare for the band, and U2 acclaimed producer ‘FLUD’.
In Between 10th & 11th
The album we worked on was ‘In Between 10th & 11th’, and although the studio takes were raw and rocky, the finished product was mixed down very synthy.
In Between 10th & 11th
It’s still one of my all time top albums, I just love the lyrics and memories it brings back, seeing Tim singing with his jumper sleeves pulled over his hands, perched on a chair, not to mention watching Rob Collins hammering the Hammond organ.
These were the people I’d spent my school days emulating. So to have Tim Burgess ask me where I bought my shirt and jeans from, was slightly surreal – especially when I had to reply “the Bullring Shopping Centre Tim!”.
I remember one time, being totally bollocked by FLUD, for playing my own dance music demo over the studio speakers, just as the band were rolling in for a days recording. It was my first effort at ‘Rave music’ created on a Commodore Amiga, that track ended up getting played on Radio.
The band returned to Rockfield in later years, and Woodside Studios down the road to record subsequent albums. I took a copy of my first white label record down for Tim some years later; when he was getting into DJing.
It was not long after Rob Collins had died tragically in a car accident. I met the band for a drink in the Nags Head pub in Monmouth. The band were sitting on a table in front of a signed picture on the wall, which showed them posing with Rob. The atmosphere was a bit sombre as we sat there sipping our beers, Rob was much missed, but I am sure he was around ‘in spirit’. I still see the band on the odd oaccasion, and it’s nice to see they’re still the same old ‘down-to-earth’ group of guys that I remember from my days at Rockfield.
Black Sabbath Practical Joke
By the time Black Sabbath came to work at Rockfield I had reached seventeen, the L.A. riots had kicked off and Freddie Mercury had died. Both events were watched in the studios by bands recording there at the time.
I don’t think I really understood the importance of Black Sabbath back then, and being into rave, indie and techno music, heavy metal was not something that really inspired me. Their eerie sounds would drift out of the studios, as I waited in the winter darkness for my brother to collect me in his battered old Ford Escort.
I wasn’t supposed to be working with the band, however, on this occasion, I was lounging on the sofa while the band were telling dodgy stories of their hedonistic days. I had gained a reputation as a ‘space-cadet’ by the band, as I didn’t really say much and often drifted into my own little world.
Tony Iommi asked me if I could go and check the large, powerful speakers in the sound proofed studio in front of the mixing console. I trotted down and my voice came over the main studio speakers, “what do you want me to do?” Tony’s voice came back over the monitor speakers, “there’s a buzz coming out of that speaker, can you check it please mate?”
I crouched down and listened, but nothing… “can”t hear anything!” I said, “get closer, there’s definitely something buzzing” Tony replied, as I moved my head closer to the speaker, Tony twanged his electric guitar and the chords wailed into my ears, leaving me partially defended for the rest of the week.
Paris Angels – Not From Paris And Not Angelic
Some of the bands I worked with at Rockfield were: The Charlatans, Black Sabbath, The Damned, Crush, Naked Truth, Clannad, Kinky Machine, Paris Angels, Pop Will Eat Itself, Saw Doctors, X.T.C., Rumblefish and various other soloists.
The Paris Angels were another favourite band of the time, these guys were from the “MadchEster” indie scene and we got on really well, there were a lot of them, and certain band members were often up to mischief, the ‘NME acclaimed’ drummer was usually after Marlboro Reds!
At the time I was making loads of demos and one was a remix of ‘Perfume’; their first single. I can recall me playing it to band as they sat there in total silence. It was so crap, I basically sampled their track, reversed it over a drum machine beat and added some American football commentary. I think I actually saw some tumble weeds pass by, until the singer piped up in her Mancunian tone “aw, that’s really good that Nick…” I stopped the cassette and popped it back in my bag feeling chuffed I’d played them my edit.They were often back and forth to Manchester. The sad thing is, that E.P. they were working on never made it to release, they were really very talented but a little unorganised, much to the frustration of the Sound Engineer at the time. I seem to remember him puffing on a lot of roll ups.
Their track ‘Perfume’ is possibly one of my all time top songs from that era.
Captain Sensible & The Damned
I knew about one Damned song but not much else, so when I was told I would be working with them I couldn’t really relate at the time.
Captain Sensible once got into a discussion with me about evolution, he asked me if I knew anything about it, I said “not really” so he explained the theory of evolution. I probably had ‘which rave I would be attending next’ on my mind though.I walked into the living quarter early one morning to discover pellet holes in the walls. The clock on the wall had pellet holes in the plastic cover too. I took the clock off the wall and the pellets rolled around inside like a cheap travel game, I think Mr Sensible had gone crazy with a ball bearing gun the night before. This kind of behaviour was normal for some bands. He must have been quite bored, or maybe angry (I remember PWEI smashing up a guitar for fun).
Towards the end of my time at Rockfield, I found myself drifting into my own music more and more, I ended up day dreaming about being in the band rather than behind the mixing desk.
I was getting a little stuck for things to do, and so I decided to remix some late 70′s Hawkwind and Bad Manners, during studio ‘down time’. Bands came and went and I was starting to dream of pastures new. Rockfield was an experience that I will always remember, and I feel lucky, and grateful, to have lived that dream.
The Stone Roses
After I left, Oasis and The Stone Roses recorded some of their best material at the studios, and I still keep an eye out for albums being recorded there now. We often saw Ian Brown and The Gallagher’s around Monmouth.
I once spotted Shaun Ryder and Kermit from ‘Black Grape’ driving a VW Beetle, lost, up Symonds Yat West (where I lived at the time), windscreen wipers on full speed with their faces peering out over the bonnet into the gloomy darkness.In my opinion, Rockfield is one of the finest recording studios in the world. It is in an idyllic location, has warm friendly professional staff and boasts a rich musical heritage. I hope that the studios remain popular and stay vibrant and ‘used’, they have already helped shape Britain’s audio identity, and the bands just keep rolling in through the doors.