Studios of the pros: stars' recording setups in pictures
26th Sep 2011 | 04:40
Access all areas
Deny it all you want, but we know that you love to have a good snoop around other people’s studios. Seeing someone else’s setup frequently inspires you to tinker with and improve your own, and if that someone happens to be a professional, working musician, then having a detailed look at their kit is all the more valuable.
But how to get that kind of access? Climbing that big tree outside Dave Spoon’s (pictured above) spare bedroom and peering through the window with a pair of binoculars might seem like a good idea, but it’s one that’s fraught with safety (and possibly legal) problems.
Luckily, Future Music magazine has travelled around the world on your behalf, visiting the stars’ studios and photographing them from every conceivable angle. Now, and for the first time, we present MusicRadar’s complete collection of their studio tours, alphabetically ordered so you can quickly find the production palace that you’re looking for.
In pictures: Air's Atlas studios in Paris
If you read our recent interview with Air, you'll know that their Atlas studio facility is a relatively new appearance in Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicholas Godin's recording career. First used on their Love2 album and later on the new project, Le Voyage Dans La Lune,a re-imagination of George Méliès groundbreaking 1902 cinema piece, the studio is quite the wonderland of classic gear.
Click through our gallery to see the synths and studio and read what Air have to say about their choice pieces of hardware.
Armin van Buuren's studio
Armin van Buuren's CV explains it all. He’s had five Number 1 spots on the DJ Top 100, he regularly works the booth around the globe, playing to over 30,000 people, and he’s had commercial chart success - his album Imagine was the first dance record to go straight to Number 1 in the Dutch charts.
Starting out in a studio in his parent’s basement, he rode the trance train to international success, reaching Number 18 in the UK charts with Communication in 2000. His schedule hasn’t slowed since, with his weekly radio show A State of Trance reaching an estimated 25 million people worldwide. He also co-founded Armada Music, whose roster of trance royalty, including Paul van Dyk, Markus Schulz, ATB and Chicane, has gained it a huge global following.
All the while, his studio has progressed from a DAT-driven hardware-heavy cluttered basement to a fully in-the-box custom-treated facility. Now let's step inside...
Avicii's Stockholm studio
Tim Bergling aka Avicii is yet another sensational Swede to reach the dizzy heights of DJ superstardom.
There must be something in the waters of Stockholm. As a city it breeds some of the most talented young producers out there and in roughly two years its favourite son Avicii has gone from playing his first official DJ gig to becoming tabloid property courtesy of Leona Lewis. As one of the new generation of super-producers Future Music went in to find out what gear is behind his anthemic dance productions.
Check out the Autumn Issue 245 for the full tour, including an exclusive tutorial video on the magazine's DVD.
Bent's retro-tech studio
UK electronica duo Bent (AKA Simon Mills and Neil Tolliday) rose to prominence with their debut album Programmed to Love in 2000, and since then, they haven’t been afraid to experiment. For each of their projects, they’ve tried something slightly different, and their diversity was celebrated in 2009 with a Best of Bent set. When Future Music recently rolled up to Bent’s studio, Simon Mills (pictured above) gave them the tour.
Bomb the Bass's stripped-back studio
A key player on the nascent ‘80s dance music scene, Tim Simenon returned with a new Bomb The Bass album, Future Chaos, in 2008, and has just revealed that work has almost finished on its follow-up. Future Music magazine caught up with Tim in his Amsterdam studio, where he revealed that his approach to music making has changed radically over the years.
Alan Braxe's home studio
As one third of Stardust, Parisian resident Alan Braxe helped to create Music Sounds Better With You, one of the most enduring dance tracks of the ‘90s. These days, he’s an in-demand remixer and successful artist in his own right, and in 2009, Future Music got a rare glimpse inside his home studio.
Chocolate Puma's Amsterdam Studio
From their early days as The Good Men to breaking into mainstream chart success, Chocolate Puma have seen it all. Future Music took a trip to visit the studio of the two godfathers of Dutch House.
They were responsible for giving Laidback Luke his first break. Which in turn helped the likes of Bart B More and many, many other now famous producers rise to fame. Their epic career and experience in production have made Gaston 'Dobre' Steenkist and René 'DJ Zki' Horst of Chocolate Puma the original Dutch House masters. They've seen the top ten of the UK charts under three different guises – first as The Good Men with Give It Up in 1993, then Chocolate Puma's I Want To Be With You and also as Riva featuring Dannii Minogue with Who Do You Love Now in 2001. Their track Give It Up was even sampled by Simply Red for the massive number-one hit, Fairground before being sampled again by Fatboy Slim and countless other acts along the way.
The previously dusty old synthesizers and giant mixing consoles had been relegated to the attic and in place was a slick office environment with the Chocolate Puma boys now working completely in the box.
Chromeo's synth-stuffed studio
The duo of Dave ‘1’ Macklovitch and Patrick ‘P-Thugg’ Gemayel have been best friends since childhood and have made music together for practically their entire lives. Their first album She’s In Control was released back in 2004, with their catchy tongue-in-cheek single Needy Girl becoming the catalyst for their career.
This was followed by 2007’s Fancy Footwork and, most recently, Chromeo’s 2010 album Business Casual. Future Music recently caught up with them in their Montreal studio, discovering a treasure trove of hardware synths in the process.
Dada Life's Stockholm studio
The extrovert Swedish duo have been bashing out their tough electro house sound for years and have added their eccentric touch to a multitude of big name remixes. We decided to head to their bunker for some bananas and Champagne.
On the surface, these fun-loving Swedes project a less-than serious producer image of crazy fun and endless good times. Don't get us wrong though, this is very much an accurate depiction. But, the combined knowledge and experience of Stefan Engblom and Olle Corneer is exactly what enables them to be slightly more fancy-free in the studio.
With time spent producing hits for Japanese boy bands and side projects for TV and film, the Dada boys seem to have done it all. But it's the furious rip-roaring sound of electro house that really gets their bananas peeling, and it's that reason exactly that we dropped in to see them.
Their studio is based out of two adjacent rooms, where the boys previously worked within their separate aliases – mostly they work together in Stefan's room once a track is coming together, but separate rooms mean parallel projects and the freedom to pursue ideas separately. After stealing a few cookies from the kitchen, we bribe Dada Life with more chocolate and get given the tour.
John Dahlbäck and his software studio
He's the swedish superstar DJ with a laid-back personality that is in contrast to his strict and structured production schedule. An agenda which sees him creating a mountain of electronic music on a weekly basis.
His studio lurks just outside the centre of Stockholm, a discreet old building home to other producers including Jesper Dahlbäck and Albin Myers. As the founder of Pickadoll records, Dahlbäck has signed records from Sebastien Leger, Zoo Brazil, Dada Life and more. Staying at the outer-edge of the mainstream, Dahlbäck has always retained credibility and never dipped his toe in to the murky waters of commercially-collaborative, dance pop.
In this exclusive gallery, he tours us around his studio and picks out his favourite hardware and software along the way.
Matthew Dear and his New York studio
Consistency and quality-control aren't always necessarily in plentiful supply in the ever-shifting, fast turnover world of Dance music. One artist who most definitely eschews that statement is erstwhile New Yorker, Matthew Dear.
Since2003'sDog Daysfirst made the dancerati prick up their ears, Dear has continued to innovate rather than imitate, releasing a slew of albums showcasing his unique blend of angular, glitch-ridden pop songs imbued with a sardonic, lyrical world view.
New outing, Beams, is certainly no exception. Taking its lead fromBlack City, its brooding electronic predecessor,Beamsgives further flesh to Dear's fusion of dancefloor rhythms, off-kilter hooks and strange tales well told.
When FM caught up with him, he was in-between studios, having decamped from his Brooklyn apartment to an idyllic new home-cum-musical-HQ in the forest. After the jump we take a tour of some of his favourite bits of studio gear.
Dom Kane's Cardiff studio
Since the early ’90s, Dom Kane has been obsessed with music production and DJing. He started out playing illegal raves at the age of 14, and quickly made a name for himself both as a DJ, with a residency at Ministry ofSound, and as a producer – he’s one of the original sample content creators.
Having seen his booth morph from vinyl, through CDJs to laptop DJing, and his studio grow from basic MIDI software to the endless options of Ableton Live, Dom has witnessed 20 years of technical trends. After testing software for FXpansion and Steve Duda, he’s now set up his own sample company and is about to launch his debut album. So, there couldn’t be a better time to have a nosey around his music making facility.
Sander Van Doorn's synth-loaded studio
He may recently have been voted the world’s tenth best DJ, but Dutchman Sander Van Doorn (real name Sander Ketelaars) is an equally adept producer. Having released his first album, Supernaturalistic, in 2008, this year has seen him remixing tracks for The Killers and Depeche Mode. Future Music met up with him in his Eindhoven studio…
Fred Falke's synth-heavy home studio
Having started his career as a bass player, Fred Falke is now a producer, songwriter and remixer who’s worked with everyone from Alan Braxe to UK hit makers Xenomania.
Future Music headed to Toulouse in the south of France to catch up with him in his sunny apartment studio.
Freemasons' home studio
Freemasons, the production duo of James Wiltshire (left) and Russell Small (right), were formed in 2005 (Russell had previously been one half of Phats & Small). They’re perhaps best known for their remix work, having created memorable up-tempo versions of hits by the likes of Beyoncé Knowles, her sister Solange, Kylie Minogue and, most recently, Whitney Houston (they’ve reworked her comeback single Million Dollar Bill). Late in 2007, Future Music magazine was invited into their Brighton-based studio.
Fernando Garibay's LA studio
He’s the young producer and writer who’s produced some of the biggest names in Pop music, including the one and only Lady Gaga.
Rising from East LA and after gaining notoriety for his unique slant on what Dance and Pop music could be, Fernando Garibay was thrust into the mainstream, working with artists like Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin. Working closely with Interscope Records he found himself producing, remixing and writing for acts like Will.I.Am, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and more.
His studio is based in a converted building in the grounds of his LA home and is a treasure trove of rare kit and vintage synths teamed with a huge SSL desk. With previous mentors and teachers including such music heavyweights as Giorgio Moroder, David Forster and Quincy Jones, and the smash new Gaga album Born This Way under his belt, Garibay is officially big league.
Imogen Heap's amazing home studio
Imogen Heap is the singer/songwriter who’s actually interesting - a compelling live performer and studio whizz. Perhaps best-known for her contributions to the soundtrack for credibility-stretching US teen TV drama The O.C., she released her third solo album, Ellipse, earlier this year. Future Music met up with Ms Heap in her facility to talk Pro Tools, toys, and furry fitness balls…
Jazzanova's Berlin studio
Six-man German outfit Jazzanova put themselves at the forefront of the nu-jazz scene when they released their debut album In Between in 2002. However, last year’s Of All The Things was a much more song-based affair. Future Music magazine was invited into the collective’s Berlin facility, where Jazzanova’s production whiz Axel Reinemer showed them the gear that was used to create it.
Joakim's analogue studio
Known simply by his first name, Joakim Bouaziz is a Parisien producer who has taken on so many different projects, it's difficult to label him. Classically trained on piano, Joakim is a true virtuoso, but don't worry about episodes of twiddly finger flaunting, his productions are a tape saturated, synth-fuelled delight.
With a heady mixture of analogue gear and retro techniques, Joakim produces outstanding tracks and has remixed for artists such as AIR, John Foxx, Röyksopp, Alter Ego and Friendly Fires. Having recently moving his studio, he's invested even more into his expanding arsenal of gear, with an incredible Wunder Audio console now proudly poised in the centre of the room. Here the Parisien producer shows us his incredible gear collection and studio facility.
Joker's Bristol studio
Bristol has always been considered one of the UK’s capitals of culture. While most cities get stamped with a musical genre, Bristol has managed to evade any one genre and instead emerge as a city obsessed with sound system, dub, jungle and drum ’n’ bass, through to its trip hop legacy and the current wave of dubstep and house.
Liam McLean – under the pseudonym Joker – has risen to become one of the most championed adopted sons of Dubstep. His take onthe genre grabbed attention with the 8-bit- and Garage-influenced sound ofHolly Brook Park,TronandPurple City. His home studio has since grown into one of the slickestwe'veseen with classic rack gear, mics and synths, alongside custom limiters, compressors and choice EQs.
Joker’s world is a chaotic one, but as soon as he’s in front of Logic, surrounded by his studio, it’s clear where he’s at his most comfortable. But what really strikes you about Joker is his perfectionism – he lives and breathes music of all styles and despite being labelled the ‘King of Bass’, his ear for melody, along with his production skills and enthusiasm, mean he’s unlikely to fade away with any rise and fall in trend.
We managed to pry him away from his DAW for a chat about the gear that fills his brand new purple room...
Liked this? Now read:Thomas Gold's 10 vocal production tips
Get MusicRadar straight to your inbox:Sign up for the free weekly newsletter
In pictures: Sébastien Léger
He's the casual French master of house and tech, blessed with golden ears and possibly the most bizarre monitoring choice we've ever seen.
Sébastien Léger has been releasing records internationally for over a decade, but in the last four years, Léger has become a globally recognised force in dance music production. His huge solo club hits like Hit Girl, collaboration with Chris Lake on their Mistakes EP and vast amount of remix work has marked him as one of the club's leading producers, with a golden touch when it came to big, spacious and melodic productions.
Léger's parents were both musicians and he himself was classically trained on piano and percussion. For the listener, this nod towards formal musical training might be something that's very obvious considering the melodic nature and evolving arrangements, but his ultra casual personality means it isn't something that Léger thinks important.
Sharam Jey's plush studio
With his 1997 remix of Energy 52’s Café del Mar once voted the greatest dance track of all time, you can be pretty confident that Cologne-based Sharam Jey knows his way around his studio. He’s also remixed for the likes of Moby, Mylo and Faithless, and founded his own label, King Kong Records, in 2001. There were plenty of reasons, then, for Future Music to pay him a visit…
Kraak and Smaak's studio
Kraak and Smaak are Oscar de Jong (left), Mark Kneppers (right) and Wim Plug (not pictured), a Dutch trio who’ve been making driving electro-funk since 2003. Famed not just for their own studio material but also their remixes and live performances, the band’s music blends samples, programming and live instrumentation. Earlier this year, Future Music went to visit Oscar and Mark in their canal-side studio in Leiden, Holland.
Chris Lake's London studio
In pictures: Lifelike in his Paris studio
Its electronic music history, from early F Comm artists to Daft Punk’s Montmartre beginnings and global takeover, through to more recent Ed Banger outgoings, means we always feel at home in Paris. Today though - late January and well below freezing - there’s a frosty silence in the air as we make our way across town to the home studio of Laurent Ash, aka Lifelike.
Despite the quantity of acclaimed artists living on the banks of the Seine the scene is still relatively close-knit. Lifelike benefited from this camaraderie when he first moved to the city in the late ’90s, originally releasing his early tracks on Jérémie Mondon’s 20000st.
But it was his introduction to and collaboration with Kris Menace on the modern club classic Discopolis that made him a household name. First released on Alan Braxe’s acclaimed Vulture label, the track was later licensed to Defected, hammered by Pete Tong and became the 2005 Ibiza anthem, selling 20,000 vinyl copies in the first three months alone.
Amidst a tsunami of remixes for the likes of Chromeo, La Roux, Sia, Groove Armada, Moby and A-Trak, Lifelike has developed into a consistent and dependable dancefloor deacon, producing retro-tinged bassline-driven tracks from his hardware-led studio in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower.
In pictures: Steve Mac's gear-stuffed studio
During the ’90s Steve Mac was half of one of the most relentless remix duos, The Rhythm Masters and has over 300 remixes under his belt.
Now, Steve Mac has returned to his rightful place as one of the most reliable, rock-solid producers on the dance scene. Based in the centre of Brighton, Mac’s studio is an electronic musician’s paradise with classic synths and incredible outboard, with Logic holding the fort.
Over his 20-year career Mac has collected, sold, borrowed and destroyed nearly every synth you can imagine. But as a self-confessed obsessive, he’s still investing in classic items. When it comes to audio, Steve is a perfectionist and his latest album Roots is evidence to this precision production
Kris Menace's home studio
Kris Menace - AKA Christophe Hoeffel - has an impressive CV. In 2005, he and Lifelike cooked up an Ibiza anthem in the shape of Discopolis, and he’s also collaborated with Felix Da Housecat. Remixes, meanwhile, have been commissioned by everyone from Robbie Williams (She’s Madonna) to LCD Soundsystem (North American Scum). Future Music recently rolled into his German base to check out his impressive home studio.
In pictures: Florian Meindl's studio
Take a look around the incredible ex-factory, ex-shady 'government' office where Florian Meindl has his studio.
This vast, derelict slab of a building is home to hundreds of bands each with their own studios and rehearsal spaces in cell-like rooms that line lengthy corridors.Battling with the acoustics of this concrete bunker-like space, Florian has crafted a studio that's the perfect home to his pioneering Techno and Minimal projects and the birthplace of his popular Riemann Kollection sample sets. We caught up with the artist in residence.
Alex Metric's London studio
Whether it’s producing bands like the Infadels, remixing huge names like Moby, NERD and Depeche Mode, playing live with his band, DJing alongside the biggest names in the business or working on his own productions from his studio bunker in London, Alex Metric is a man that can do it all.
Future Music recently caught up with him in his London studio to take a look at some of the gear behind his productions, live show and remix work.
Moby's bedroom studio
Synth loving genre-straddler Moby recently released Wait For Me, his ninth studio album, and to celebrate the occasion, he invited Future Music magazine into his bedroom studio. “It’s got a great atmosphere,” says Moby. “Loads of different artists have had studios here – people like Iggy Pop, Sonic Youth, the Butthole Surfers and the Beastie Boys. I sleep in the smaller bedroom and I make music in the slightly larger bedroom.”
Boys Noize and his hardware packed studio
From working with D.I.M. and Tensnake as a teenager in Hamburg, to remixing and producing some of the biggest names in music, Boys Noize, aka Alex Ridha, has smeared his unique sound and style across multiple genres and dancefloors.
His debut album Oi Oi Oi sold close to 100,000 copies and, along with Justice's †, kick-started a new aural assault on clubs around the world. And while every producer and his DAW tried to recreate the sound, Ridha continued to build on his repertoire, working with versatile artists from Erol Alkan, The Black Eyed Peas and Scissor Sisters to Kano, Kelis and Jarvis Cocker. Now, his remixes for Depeche Mode, NERD, Justice, Sebastien Tellier, Röyksopp and many more have been compiled into a Best Of, with everything from dancefloor destroyers to more Pop-style reworkings.
But it's his work with Gonzales on his record Ivory Tower and his stellar production on Spank Rock's Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar that perfectly showcases his versatility and talent across the musical spectrum.
After two years of back and forth, we finally found a date and visited his Berlin studio to find out more about the story, the synths and the samplers behind the noize.
Morgan Page's LA studio
US house producer Morgan Page has been nominated for a Grammy (for the Deadmau5 remix of The Longest Road, featuring Lissie) and remixed songs by the likes of Madonna, Katy Perry, Nelly Furtado and Coldplay. He released a new album, Believe, earlier this year, which gave Future Music a good excuse to catch up with him in his new LA studio to talk gear and technique.
Plaids's studio in a shed
Well, the good news is, Plaid are back with a new album proper, Scintilli, their first since 2003's Spokes, although there were also three excellent soundtrack albums in the interim.
Perhaps the best news however is that the good gents of Plaid were happy to grant us exclusive access to their purpose-built North London garden studio, wherein untold music-making wonders reside.
The duo that make up Plaid, Ed Handley and Andy Turner, have an illustrious pedigree in the electronic music world. Both formerly of seminal Dance unit, The Black Dog, they then went on to work and tour extensively with Björk while still somehow finding the time to create an impressive body of work under the Plaid banner, which they've used since 1991 debut album, Mbuki Mvuki.
Scintilli sees Handley and Turner further explore their ongoing interest in the new forms of synthesis made possible by ever-faster computer processors and sees them shift further into the software realm. All this and they're on that sacred home of electronic music, Warp Records. So let's take a look around...
Simian Mobile Disco's synth-loaded studio
With two studio albums and a slew of remixes behind them, Simian Mobile Disco (AKA James ‘Jas’ Shaw – pictured left – and James Ford) are one of the most-talked-about production duos of the past few years (Ford has also produced for Arctic Monkeys and Klaxons). Future Music recently headed over to the rented London studio that spawned 2009’s Temporary Pleasure long-player, and discovered that SMD’s reputation as synth-heads is well-deserved.
Dave Spoon's bedroom studio
Dave Spoon (AKA Simon Neale) arrived at dance music’s top table in 2006 with the Reason-produced At Night (later re-released with a vocal by Lisa Maffia as Bad Girl (At Night)). He’s subsequently launched a successful remix partnership with DJ Pete Tong and is part of the line-up for BBC Radio 1’s In New DJs We Trust show. Last year, Future Music cosied up to Dave in his rather special spare bedroom.
Starsmith's home studio
2010 has been quite a year for Starsmith. He’s written and produced for Ellie Goulding, Cheryl Cole and Kylie Minogue, remixed Timbaland, N.E.R.D. and Robyn, and started to release his own material. With a full solo album in the works, 2011 may well see Starsmith (real name Finlay Dow-Smith) become a star name; Future Music recently spent some studio time with the man and his gear.
Eddie Thoneick's home studio
The German-born producer rose to fame in 2006, when his rework of the classic Love Sensation with Kurd Maverick became a club smash. Since then, he’s remixed huge names, played enormous, sell-out worldwide DJ sets and his singles Live Your Life and Stronger with industry stalwart Erick Morillo and house diva Shawnee Taylor have both been epic club anthems.
Future Music got the chance to peek inside his studio and see the software and studio kit he likes best.
Tocadisco's Cologne studio
Best known for his remix of The Egg’s Walking Away (think dancing car), Tocadisco - AKA Roman Boër - has become something of a go-to man when an artist needs a dancefloor-friendly reworking of one of their tracks. Future Music recently caught him at work in his Cologne facility, where he showed them the gear behind the music.
Nu Tone's garden studio
Nu:Tone (aka Dan Gresham) is a busy man. When he's not serving up his distinctive d'n'b remixes and reworkings for top artists on the majors, he's jetting the globe as an in-demand DJ with an eye on pushing d'n'b's boundaries.
And when his feet do hit the ground he dutifully marches the 30ft to the end of the garden to work on his artist albums for Hospital Records alongside a host of guest vocalists. He took time out to show us around his studio and his own hotbed of production gear.
Joris Voorn's home studio
A regular fixture in the Beatport charts, Dutch house/techno DJ and producer Joris Voorn has a couple of albums and a slew of remixes to his name, and has also set up Rejected, his own record label. Future Music recently headed over to Amsterdam and climbed the steps to his loft-based studio.
Liked this? Now read: How to sound like a pro artist in your DAW
Get MusicRadar straight to your inbox: Sign up for the free weekly newsletter