‘Six of those songs were recorded in a professional studio back in ‘95 – and that was when I fell in love with the idea of building my own studio.’
Steak pie has always been a big deal in my family. We eat it at Hogmanay, and on the occasional Smith get together; but it’s also the namesake of my brother’s Falkirk-based music studio. Being the much younger sister, I don’t think I’ve known a world without Steakpie Studios; so I was excited to step into the current recording space where Paul works on music projects for his band Weird Decibels, and his solo and collaborative works on the Falkirk music-scene.
How old were you when you created your first music studio?
Oh that’s a good question. I need to think about what my first record was. It was a solo record ‘Gods in the Kitchen’, recorded in 1998, so I would have been about 21. I was still living with Mum and Dad and I had the biggest room, and all it was was a Tascam four track tape recorder (a 424 mkII), and I had just the one microphone and mic stand, an acoustic guitar and an FX Zoom Studio 1202 which I still have and use. It’s a brilliant effects rack, I’ve used it for 19 years.
Where did you buy your first piece of recording kit?
It was from Music Warehouse in Bonnybridge, they eventually got a shop in Falkirk. I bought the Tascam, the FX rack (or the Zoom rack for stereo effects), and a Digital Compact Cassette (DCC). I bought all this through my first credit card! I think it cost around £500-£600 altogether. I kind of got conned into buying the DCC, the guy who sold it to me knew it was a dying format. He saw me come in as a young guy and took his opportunity. I don’t regret buying it, because I got all these albums done. Plus, it’s the only analogue recording equipment I have.
What came next?
I did three solo albums and a lot of B sides in that bedroom, so I probably got two CDs worth out of that and about five albums worth of material in total. Next, I moved to Steakpie Studios (which was the bedroom across the hall!). That was the first dedicated room I had for music, and that had a massive influence on my work. By having a room which was specifically to create music, I could leave things set up. That meant if I had and idea, I could record straight away.
The most significant album I recorded in that era was (solo album) ‘The Armour is Broken’ in the early 2000s. It was the first album I recorded on my new Tascam 788 (a digital portable device that recorded 8 tracks of audio), it’s my son’s machine now! It was the first digital multi-tracker I had, and it sampled at a very reasonable 24 bit at 48kHz (bascially the higher the values the higher the sound quality). That meant better than CD quality, and I could bounce tracks (put several tracks into one or two), dub (add additional parts) and make bigger projects. ‘The Armour is Broken’ went down very well in the local music scene. I then did the rest of Weird’s unfinished album ‘Whapper Stormer’. Six of those songs were recorded in a professional studio back in 95 – and that was when I fell in love with the idea of building my own studio. Whapper would finally be finished in 2004.
I also bought my first condenser microphone around this time. Stagg is a budget make, it provided a larger sound frequency range than my dynamic microphone’s like the Shure sm58; this improved the audio quality of my projects. However, at this time my technique was lacking. I used it for drums, guitars, vocals – everything. I started using hi fi speakers (not recommended) as monitors too, whereas before I had just used headphones.
When did you get the dedicated studio you have now?
Five years ago, when I moved into my new family home. Kirsty suggested I should have a room dedicated to recording music. It’s the smallest in the house, but has a conventional rectangle shape which makes it much easier to control acoustically. I bought furniture for it and kitted it out, investing quite a lot into it. And things just took off from there.
I’d like to upgrade the studio by installing a computer for a digital audio workstation but that can be expensive especially when I’d like to continue recording bands. This requires a little more hardware such as mixing desks which the Korg 3200 has, however the results you can get with PC music software far out do what I can achieve on the Korg.
What’s inside the drawer labelled ‘Lewis’ Studio?’
That’s all of Lewis’ stuff. He’s doing a 21-year apprenticeship with me!