Studio Focus: Rockinghorse Studios

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Studio Focus: Rockinghorse Studios

Words by Will Brewster

The iconic Byron Bay recording facilities chat studio renovations, clientele and their eye-popping accomodation suites.

Looking to record your next album overlooking the idyllic surrounds of Byron Bay? Rockinghorse Studios might just be up your alley.

We chat with producer/engineer Nicholas Wilson to find out more about the studios, their recent upgrades and the amazing accomodation options on offer. 

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Rockinghorse Studios has quite a reputable name within the Australian recording landscape. Give us a brief history of the studio – how long has it been around for, and how has it evolved over the years?

The Studio opened in 1992 and used to run two Tascam M3500 consoles and two Studer A820MCH tape machines.

The consoles later got upgraded to a Neve V series 48 channel console which remained there until 2016 when we decided to make significant changes by removing the console and creating a modular recording space without a console as the centrepiece.

We retained all the classic analogue outboard and had Pro Harmonic rack up parts of the Neve console’s channel strips.

From seminal ‘90s records like Grinspoon’s Guide To Better Living and Spiderbait’s Ivy And The Big Apples through to new releases from Ocean Alley, Sticky Fingers and beyond, there’s been many a classic album recorded at Rockinghorse Studios. Are there any records or artists who’ve really stuck out in your mind?

I would have to say Sticky Fingers’ Land Of Pleasure and Yours To Keep stick out most over the past decade. They were great recording sessions and really focused artists when in the studio.

Other artists that come to mind are Wolfmother, Seasick Steve and Nick Littlemore.

Paint us a portrait of the entire complex. How many rooms are at Rockinghorse, and what kind of acts are they best suited for?

Studio A has three acoustically designed live rooms plus the control room. 

We have recorded predominantly bands but have also done lots of voiceovers, ADR and even choirs. I would say we can cover any genre of music.

Studio B recently had the previous computer and HD system from Studio A put in, running 16 Neve V series channel strips and the Apogee Symphony MKII. The Space features a large control room and one smaller live room which makes the space ideal for smaller projects and overdubs.

Who’s currently working at Rockinghorse? Can you tell us a bit about your in-house engineers and producers?

Nicholas Wilson has been a producer and audio engineer here since 2009 and has worked on countless records and artists that include Wolfmother, Andrew Stockdale’s Keep Moving solo record, Sticky Fingers’ Land Of Pleasure and Yours To Keep and many more.

He was nominated for an ARIA as Engineer of the Year in 2014 for his work on Land Of Pleasure.

Paul Pilsneniks joined us in 2017 after working as a producer and audio engineer at 301 Studios Byron Bay. Artists he has worked with include Angus and Julia Stone, Dope Lemon, Powderfinger, Boy And Bear and many more.

Steven Schram joined the team recently and has been one of the countries’ top producers for the past 20 years. He has worked with artists such as Paul Kelly, San Cisco, Little Birdy, Darren Middleton and many more. He won an ARIA for Engineer of the Year for Paul Kelly’s Nature LP.

Studio A at Rockinghorse underwent a number of upgrades last year. Tell us a bit about what was involved in that process: what went in to make it better?

We did the major upgrades in 2016/2017 but were still running ProTools 10 along with an Apogee Symphony MKII And a couple of avid 192s. 

We are now running an HDX system with one Lynx Aurora n 32×32 IO and a new Mac Mini with the HDX card housed in a Thunderbolt 3 chassis. One advantage of this setup is that producers and engineers have the option of bringing in their own Thunderbolt 3 enabled computer to run their sessions.

We also upgraded our headphone system from an analogue system to a Behringer Powerplay P16 self mixing system which has been positively received by artists who now have control over their own headphone mix.

On that note, can you fill us in on some of the gear at Rockinghorse? Are there any particular mics, guitars, synths or outboard units that you’re really proud of that you’d like to talk about?

We don’t have a console anymore but have retained the Neve V series channel strips and created a modular space. We have a Slate Raven to control ProTools.

We have four Neve 1064 Mic Preamps along with 24 Neve 1272 preamps. Our outboard is extensive and include two Pultec eqp-1s 3 Urei 1176 limiters a GML 8200. We also have an EMT 240 plate reverb that sounds phenomenal.

Not only does Rockinghorse offer a number of recording facilities, but artists can choose to stay onsite at the studios. How does this help facilitate the creative process of tracking a record, and how much does it cost to stay?

Staying at the studio gives the artists the opportunity to immersive themselves fully into the process and be able to shut off from outside influences which in turn increases productivity and creativity.

We have a couple of accommodation options available to suit different budgets and needs as we understand that our clients range from start up to established artists.

Our five bedroom luxury home comes with all the comforts and perfect for larger groups and bands. The property itself is extensive and having the chance to relax and turn off from everyday life brings out a creative process that is hard to replicate. 

Where do you see Rockinghorse Studios within Australia’s recorded music industry?

I believe Rockinghorse Studios is one of the premier recording studios in the country.

The location and surroundings combined with world class studio equipment, purposely designed rooms, great engineers and the option to stay onsite make it the perfect place to work and seem to be unique to this studio.

And not to forget, Byron Bay is right on our doorstep.

Find out more and book a session over at Rockinghorse Studios today.