Located on the corner of Forbes and William, in the heart of Woolloomooloo’s music industry hub is Universal Music Australia’s newest crowning glory, Forbes Street Studios.
In a monumental project, the multi-purpose Sydney studio has been built from the ground up to cater to everyone from international stars to signed artists and independent bands. As Managing Director of UMA and head of the project, Michael Taylor called on the very best music has to offer – the likes of Grammy award-winning Nick DiDia (Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against The Machine) and Eric J Dubowsky (Flume, Chet Faker, Flight Facilities) – to help guide this remarkably resourced, high-functioning studio to its completion.
“I work with producers, writers and engineers all day long, and artists obviously at the key of it, and so when you’re building a studio from scratch because the place used to be a mini mart, a grocery mart right, so we’ve got 220 square metres of space that was just raw so it would be crazy not to reach out to some of our favourite producers, engineers and artists and say, ‘Hey if you could build a space what would you love?’
“And everybody came back saying that a mid-level room size is what they wanted. They wanted a room, DAW accessible, where you could bring in your laptop and yet get master quality stuff if you needed, and have access to all this great outboard gear and mics and a desk – but not have the cost of these huge rooms that come with it.”
While the state of the art studio is owned by Universal, it will also be open to the public, making it a totally unique prospect, says Taylor. “While Universal artists will certainly get an awesome rate to work in this studio and it will be really advantageous for them to use the space, we’re going to take unsigned artists and bands. I’ve had Sony and Warner’s A&R guys come in to the space to check it out. There’s just not that many studios in Sydney left and when you’re making records all the time like the labels are, you’ve gotta always find new places to hit up.”
When it came to the gear and technical aspects of the studio, Universal and Taylor hired Anthony Garvin, the former general manager of Studios 301, as a technical consultant. It was Garvin along with Taylor who are responsible for Forbes Street Studios’ wealthily specced gear, which stretches across an SSL room, writing room, edit suite and interview room.
“Like for example with the microphones,” Garvin offers when asked about the studio’s versatility. “I said to a bunch of engineers… ‘If you’re recording, what are your essential microphones?’ And each person returned maybe 10 or 12 microphones that they would really like to see in a studio like this. We essentially got a list of 10 or 12 from 9 or 10 different engineers and were able to put all of that together and pick the top mics from that.
With the studio’s equipment wish list coming to fruition, Garvin pinpoints two utterly impressive pieces of gear that offer a real point of difference.
“So I guess there’s two main things, the first thing in the main studio being the monitoring,” Garvin explains. “We’ve got a pair of Barefoot MiniMain 12s, which to the best of our knowledge they’re the only set in the country. A lot of guys have Barefoots, but these are like several models up from what the kind of standard model is, if you want to call it that. And so yeah they not only look great, but they sound really good. And the other thing would be the console, which is an SSL AWS 924 Delta, 24-channel analogue console. It’s brand new so it’s ultra reliable. It interfaces with Pro Tools as well as having 24 pres and EQs, so it’s kind of just an easy to use, flexible SSL console that’s kind of the centrepiece of the main studio.”
There’s a sense that Universal have left no stone unturned in ensuring Forbes Street Studios is equipped to deliver high quality recording and production across all music platforms.
“One of the things that you never see when you’re working on a record is the interior of the walls and what it looks like under the floors and the ceilings when you pull them back,” Taylor says. “But there’s so much work that goes into floating a floor and a ceiling. I think there’s 8 tonnes of sand in the floor at Forbes Street Studios. We really wanted to make just a phenomenal sounding space without any room bleed and I think we’ve achieved that. And we’ve had acousticians come in and test the space and they’re just all walking away blown away at how great it sounds.”
For more information head to forbesstreetstudios.com.