The 12 Strangest Places To Record An Album

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The 12 Strangest Places To Record An Album

MTV band in a bubble
Words by Christie Eliezer

From Aphex Twin's Come to Daddy to Wings' London town - studios on tropical islands, or on boats or with lush rainforests; over Thai snake pits and frozen Arctic mining towns.

Musicians and producers try to evoke inspiration in the studio with iconic music posters on the wall, Buddhist chants or meditation sessions. From the Aphex Twin Come to Daddy EP to Wings’ London Town, here are the 12 strangest places album’s have been recorded.

Ultimately, studios are mostly sterile places for magic to happen, so artists have made records in the strangest places.

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.

1. A Plastic Bubble/Biodome – Regurgitator’s Mish Mash!

For their fifth album Mish Mash! (2004) Brisbane band Regurgitator spent near three weeks (August 31 to September 21) in a multi-room glass bubble at Federation Square in Melbourne.

It was part of Channel [V]’s Band In A Bubble reality series, an idea by their manager, record label owner and visual artist Paul Curtis.

Locked in with the three members was producer Magoo, engineer Hugh Webb and Channel [V] host Jabba.

No one could go in and out, and food – cooked by Quan Yeomans’ (guitar) mother Lien, a Vietnamese chef and author – was delivered via a hatch.

Action Watched

The action was watched in-person by passers-by, large screens in Federation Square or on a dedicated 24/7 Foxtel channel.

After they emerged, Regurgitator played the new songs to a large crowd while Jabba asked Channel [V] bosses for extended leave.

The band claimed to be happy with the results but critics considered Mish Mash! not among their best. It reached #52 on the ARIA chart.

2. The South Pole – NǽnøĉÿbbŒrğ VbëřřĦōlökäävsŦ

Antarctica is a vast desolate place that is utterly silent, and in the dark for six months of the year.

So it’s not surprising that listening – and occasionally making – music is high on the list for research scientists working there.

Nanocyborg Uberholocaust (spelled correctly, NǽnøĉÿbbŒrğ VbëřřĦōlökäävsŦ) was formed by scientists Wavanova and Dark Dude.

The story goes they met on assignment and discovered they both played bass, and went on to make albums they described as “ambient cosmic extreme funeral drone doom metal”.


Long-haired Ukrainian astronomer and geophysicist Bogdan Gavrylyuk (born 1972), was posted to the Vernadsky Research Base where temperatures fall to minus 20°C with life in nine grey huts surrounded by penguins.

“Here it’s a special place for writing songs,” he told the BBC.

“We’re like prisoners, locked up for 10 months in the cold. Alone! But it creates a special mood. Possibilities!

“I write all kinds of songs: about pirates and gangsters; about sailors hard at work; about the salty, sweet taste of kisses; about hope and love. 

“I can’t write about those things back in Ukraine – there’s too much noise.”

3. Blackburn Castle, NSW – Gareth Liddiard’s Strange Tourist

Drones and Tropical Fuck Storm co-founder Gareth Liddiard has always been partial to living on rural properties in Victoria.

First Myrtleford, and then Nagambie next to the Goulburn River, where The Drones recorded the 2013 album I See Seaweed.

For his 2010 solo album Strange Tourist, he chose Blackburn Castle in Yass, NSW, recording over eight weeks after five days of digesting books, magazines as The Monthly and Soldier of Fortune and online curios.

4. Death Valley, California – Marilyn Manson’s Holy Wood

Acts had been recording in deserts as Mojave, Rancho de la Luna and Joshua Tree from the 1960s to capture their alienation spirit.

But in 1999, Marilyn Manson had become such a scapegoat by rightwing and Christian crazies for America’s teen violence – including the high school shootings in Columbine, Colorado which left 12 students and a teacher dead – that Manson wrote an angry album that he called “a declaration of war on the U.S.”

Death Valley

Several Locations

Several locations were chosen to get the best out of the bitter lyrics, including producer Rick Rubin’s Mansion Studio in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles because it was apparently haunted.

But for Manson what better place than America’s most inhospitable place, Death Valley in California, where temperatures go up to 54C (130F) and which the band visited a number of times before the sessions “to imprint the feeling of the desert into our minds”.

Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (2000) was a near-masterpiece.

5. A Bank Vault – Aphex Twin’s Come to Daddy EP

Richard David James claimed he bought a former bank building on South London’s Newington Causeway in the mid-90s when he was making the Aphex Twin Come to Daddy EP.

He said, “All wood-panelled rooms, really ’70s.”

He found the vault good to record in because its “four-foot thick walls” would be good sound dampeners, while further protecting the equipment and recordings from burglars. The sound and vube clearly influenced the Aphex Twin Come to Daddy EP. 

Aphex Twin Come to Daddy EP


He also “wanted the karma of living in a place where money comes in all the time.”

The bank (and its karma) in which the Aphex Twin Come to Daddy EP was recorded was demolished in 2009 for a 20 storey residential building.

6. Swimming Pool – Sigur Rós’ ( )

The notes for the third album from Icelandic adventurers Sigur Rós, titled ( ) (also known as Svigaplatan, which translates to The Bracket Album) and delivered in the fictitious language “Hopelandic” states it was recorded at Sundlaugin Studios in Álafoss, Mosfellsbær, a small rural town outside Reykjavík.


Sundlaugin means swimming pool, which is where ( ) came together, in a drained, abandoned pool from the 1930s, and which the band bought in 1999.

Its location is inspirational, the band say: “Sundlaugin’s position on the periphery of The Arctic Circle is extra special: awesome volcanic terrains, geysers, glacial rivers, snow-coated forests and, of course, the greatest light show on Earth, the Northern Lights.”

Their original plan was to record in an abandoned NATO tracking base in Iceland.

7. A Shearing Shed – The Triffids’ In The Pines

A remote shearing shed almost 600km into the West Australian wheatbelt, was on a farm owned by the parents of Perth band The Triffids’ guitarists David and Robert McComb.

A three day drive is where, in April 1986, the band went to make their lo-fi In The Pines with an 8-track and mixing desk set up in the drive shaft that normally powers the shears.

“At night a major hazard proved to be moths getting caught up in the tape spools,” the band would remember.

In The Pines The Triffids

They also got a glimpse of Halley’s Comet, and local farmers who dropped in to say hello would be roped in to do backup vocals.

Different Place

The idea, suggested by their sound guy Paul Bolger, was to make a record in a “different” place to get “different” shades, similar to Bob Dylan’s The Basement Tapes or The Band’s Music From Big Pink.

The large corrugated iron shed, with sheep-shit encrusted wood flooring, was divided into accommodation for ten people, which included producer Bruce Callaway and a photographer.

One of these was designated the “honeymoon suite” as Liz Pippet and Martyn Casey had got married a few days before.

Graham Lee said the whole attitude was that as the whole project was done on the cheap, it didn’t matter if the end result was unusable.

“If it didn’t work, it didn’t work. It didn’t matter. It was something of a holiday really.”


In The Pines cost $1190; $340 of this was spent on alcohol (beer, wine and vodka), $310 on food which included a whole sheep, $300 on hiring the recording equipment hire and $240 on petrol.

Not only did the record become a fan favourite, but main songwriter David McComb’s ashes were spread here in the pine grove after his death in February 1999 following a car accident in Melbourne.

8. A Charter Yacht – Wings’ London Town

In 1977, with Paul and Linda McCartney expecting their third child, it meant no touring and plenty of time to make a record.

In May, Wings began recording on a charter motor yacht London Town moored at Watermelon Bay in St John’s in the Virgin Islands.

The band stayed in one boat, the Samala, and the McCartneys on the El Toro.

Using 24-track equipment belonging to the Record Plant West in Los Angeles, the sessions were fun and relaxed, with the track “Cafe On The Left Bank” nailed on the very first day.

Went Spare

“The captain went spare when he saw all the instruments,” McCartney told Melody Maker. “We remodelled his boat for him, which he wasn’t too keen on.”

“We converted his lounge into a studio and we turned another deck into a sound control room, and it was fantastic! We didn’t have any problems with salt water in the machines or sharks attacking us.”

Customs Officials

They did have a problem when customs officials raided them looking for marijuana (no arrests, just an official warning).

With lots of drunken leaps from boat to boat and reckless dives, McCartney cut a knee, guitarist Denny Laine got bad sunburn, guitarist Jimmy McCulloch bunged a knee and lost hearing in one ear for a time, engineer Geoff Emerick electrocuted his foot, and a McCartney manager slipped on a stairway and broke his heel.

13 songs were cut for the London Town album, which had the working title Water Wings.

9. Desolate New Zealand Beach – Crowded House’s Together Alone

Parts of Crowded House’s fourth album Together Alone (October 1993) were recorded at desolate Karekare Beach, New Zealand, the remains of an ancient volcanic crater.

The beach sessions were at Neil Finn’s friends Nigel and Jody Harrocks’ house with London-based producer Youth (a.k.a. Martin Glover of Killing Joke) who used new age crystals and paganism to trigger the magic.

The late drummer Paul Hester said, “We flew in Youth and an engineer called Greg Hunter straight off the streets of Brixton to Karekare Beach, New Zealand – miles from anywhere, no shops, no nothing. 

“They were in shock for days. Didn’t know where the fuck they were.”

10. A 2 Million Litre Water Tank – Stuart Dempster’s Underground Overlays From The Cistern Chapel

To create one-of-a-kind reverberations, U.S. jazz musician Stuart Dempster made Underground Overlays From The Cistern Chapel (1994) in a disused 186-foot diameter water cistern at Fort Worden, 70 miles (approx. 112km) northwest of Seattle.

With reverberation length up to 45 seconds, Dempster got great cavernous sounds off conch shells, didgeridoo (hunt down the result on the song “Didjerilayover”), Tibetan cymbals, trumpet and trombone, some solo and some with collectives with different tunings.

He said of the experience: “This is where you have been forever and will always be forever”.

11. Tire Factory – Black Keys’ Tire Factory

After recording the first two Black Keys albums in drummer Patrick Carney’s rat-infested basement, he got evicted in late 2003.

Next stop was an abandoned rubber tire factory in their hometown of Akron, Ohio.

Built in 1915 by General Tire on the corner of S. Seiberling Street and Little Cuyahoga River, the factory stopped making tires in 1982 but the company kept renting out parts of it.

The Black Keys paid $500 a month for a room on the abandoned cavernous second floor (but sneakily took over the whole floor running cables throughout and dubbed it “Sentient Sound”.

Second Hand Recording

They used second hand recording gear and magnetic tape “recycled from (their record label) Fat Possum studio in Northern Mississippi; we recorded over not-quite-right versions of radio commercials for local fried chicken joints.”

Recording was hardly fun. The second floor windows could not be opened, and it was stifling. Carney called the acoustics “horrible”. 

The console, a Tascam M-16, they bought on eBay from Canadian band Loverboy kept malfunctioning and sessions for Rubber Factory (2004) ran overtime to five months.

The factory was torn down in 2010. The cover of their “Lonely Boy” single from the El Camino album (2011) shows the bulldozer after the building was destroyed.

12. Inside A Bridge Pillar – Einstürzende Neubauten Stahlmusik

For their first album, Stahlmusik (Steel Music) west German industrial rock band Einstürzende Neubauten (Collapsing New Buildings) took to the Stadtautobahn Bridge, underneath an autobahn in West Berlin, and recorded on a cassette player inside one of the pillars on June 1,1980.

They noted: “The space was 1.5 metres high, 5 metres in width and 50 metres in length and made out of steel.

“Pocket torches were used to light the place and a Telefunken Bajazzo transistor radio was used as amplifier.”

Learn more about the Aphex Twin Come to Daddy EP’s legacy here.