September 22, 2014
The National Music Centre (NMC) will take an uncharted approach to its recording facility when it opens its doors in 2016. NMC’s recording spaces will combine three historic recording consoles from three legendary studios, and provide artists with unprecedented access to NMC’s collection of over 2,000 rare instruments and artifacts.
Martin Pilchner of Pilchner Schoustal International Inc., the brains behind many major Canadian facilities, such as Phase One, Metalworks, and Deluxe, and studios for Toronto DJ Deadmau5 and the late Jeff Healey, along with many other studios around the world, is working with NMC staff to design the future recording studios at NMC.
Toronto DJ Deadmau5 has Pilchner Schoustal International Inc. to thank for his own studio pictured above. Credit: Pilchner Schoustal International Inc.
“When realized there will be no other facility like this in the world,” Pilchner says. “A vast collection of heritage instruments and recording equipment, with a studio design response that is sensitive to the creative needs of an artist, while providing concise and accurate acoustic performance, all within the context of a world class arts facility. It accommodates so many possibilities.”
Famed recording consoles known for their distinct sounds and features will find new life at NMC. Among them are the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio (RSM), used by the Stones and a long list of rock star heavyweights, such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple.
Deep Purple’s’ 1972 track “Smoke on the Water,” one of rock music’s greatest songs, references the RSM in its lyrics.
The opening lyrics “We all came out to Montereax, on the Lake Geneva shoreline. To make records with a mobile, we didn’t have much time,” are taken from Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” and are a direct reference to the RSM.
“In December 1971, when the band decided to record their now legendary album, Machine Head, they wanted the best venue, the best team and the most modern recording equipment,” says Dr. Drew Thomas, the archivist for Deep Purple. “The Rolling Stones Mobile was the band’s ‘weapon of choice.’ When we think about Montreux, Machine Head, and the band’s legacy, we can’t separate them from the mobile—it was a critical component in the bands recording process, and very integral to the legend of Deep Purple.”
Thomas adds: “It is with this history in mind that NMC has been working on the preservation, restoration and renewed functionality of the mobile with the hope that future generations can be involved in the evolution of such music technologies, whilst keeping one foot firmly placed in the roots of music as we know it today.”
Motörhead performing “Motörhead” off their self-titled 1977 album, which was recorded at the Olympic Studios console.
The Olympic Studios console, which was used by an assortment of acts that visited the famed London studio in the 1970s, will also be accessible to artists. Olympic Studios is famed for recordings by Motörhead, Eric Clapton and Elvis Costello. The console was custom built for Olympic Studios in 1977, and used in Studio A from 1977 to 1985/86.
Musicians will also have access to the Trident A Range console, internationally recognized as one of the rarest and most prized recording consoles. The albums recorded on the Trident A Range console include: the Dandy Warhols‘ Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, as well as Spoon‘s soundtrack for the film Stranger than Fiction, and Explosions in the Sky‘s soundtrack for Friday Night Lights.
French pop act Air’s “How Does it Make You Feel” is from the 2001 album 10,000 Hz Legend, which was also recorded with the Trident A Range console.
“Each console in the collection has its own unique sonic characteristics,” Pilchner says. “Most studios have one console. To have three implies that the best features of each can be used on any particular part of a recording to yield the most desirable end result. Let’s not forget the fact that these particular consoles are not available anywhere else in the world.”
NMC’s multi-level recording facility will be designed to be flexible for artists. Artists will have the ability to move between all three consoles to capture the unique sonic characteristics, and best qualities, of each—something Pilchner likes to compare to mixing ice cream flavours.
Trident A Range recording studio. Rendering by Pilchner Schoustal International Inc.
“A session can be set up between spaces in any combination required,” Pilchner says. “All three control rooms, including the RSM, can be used concurrently on individual sessions or combined comparative sessions.”
Additionally, the intersection of analog and digital formats provides a rare opportunity for artists to use them interchangeably, and explore the limitless possibilities of recording.
“Combining both analog and digital technologies really is the best of both worlds,” he says. “You have the benefit of the warmth and richness of analog, with the ability to lossless edit and modify the production.”
As Pilchner explains, much thought went into the spatial planning of the studios in relation to the building, in order to obtain the best sound for each specific sonic environment—be it acoustic or electronic.
“The main studio floor is intended to be a rather live space, engaging the room volume to the benefit of acoustic instruments,” Pilchner says. “The Acoustic Sound Lab is a recording space with a high degree of sound field damping, a lower reverb time, so it has to be an intermediate space between the Live Room and the Electronic Sound Lab.”
Acoustic Sound Lab. Rendering by Pilchner Schoustal International Inc.
In addition to these spaces, the three control rooms will also be able to access a dedicated isolation booth, as well as the King Eddy venue, meaning that live performances from the historic Eddy stage will be able to be recorded live-off-the-floor.
“It will be the unbeatable combination of the spaces and collection,” Pilchner adds. “This facility will bring a much needed ‘studio as instrument’ for artists. It will be a facility where they will be free to experiment in an inspiring environment.”
Through the Artist in Residence program, artists will have access to NMC’s recording facility, including musical instruments that would ordinarily be unattainable. NMC’s Artist in Residence program is designed to feed and nurture artistic creativity and technical innovation by providing artists at various levels of professional development with uninterrupted time and space, and the use of its unique collection, the expertise of staff, and its sought-after recording facilities to create new and innovative works in a unique and supportive world-class facility.
NMC anticipates that within one to two years of opening, the Artist in Residence program will attract upwards of 40 artists per year from across Canada. NMC’s historic recording consoles, including the RSM, will be made available to these artists to use during their residency, providing a one-of-a-kind opportunity to record with these legendary artifacts.
As more recording studios are built in the private sector, it will be important that these types of recording spaces are built in the public domain, so that high-quality musical works remain accessible to artists of all stripes.
“There’s nowhere else on the planet that’s going to be capable of doing what this recording facility is capable of doing,” Pilchner says. “You may have a museum with rare instruments, but to also have access to a world-class production facility will make this recording space a talking point among musicians globally.”
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