Studio experience

Which recording studios have you worked in?

Who have you worked with in the studio?

How did you start producing?

What is a ‘speculative’ production contract?

Are you producing anybody at the moment?

Not that many really.
As well as my own, I have worked in ‘Loco’, in Usk, ‘Le Mons’ in Newport, ‘Horseshoe’ in Magor, ‘Warwick Hall Of Sound’ in Cardiff, ‘Pinewood Audio’ in Pontypool, 'Whiteoak’ in Crickhowell, ‘Real World’ in Box, near Bath and ‘The Beathouse’ & 'Abbey Road' in London, as well as several non-commercial private studios in Newport and Bridgend.

Most of the studio work I have done over the years has been with the bands of which I was a full time member.
I haven't done a great deal of studio session work for other artists.

The first thing I did in the studio outside one of my own bands was in October 1995, for producer Carl Simmonds, at ‘Pinewood Audio’ in Pontypool.
I was asked to vocally arrange and perform backing vocals on six original tracks for Mike McNamara (Mac of Big Mac’s Wholly Soul Band). Then I helped out with the vocal mix too.
These recordings lay dormant for some years, but five of these six tracks eventually surfaced on Mike’s ‘No Turning Back’ album, released in 2002.

I have done several other sessions for Carl over the years, including acoustic and electric guitar on four tracks of Jordan Adams’ ‘Like A Lifetime’ album, on Silverwood Records, in February 2002, four classical guitar instrumental tracks for Telstar's 'Chimed Guitar' album, in June 2003 and various tracks for Ian Richardson, John Jones and 'The Mad Marconi'.
I also played acoustic and electric guitar on the backing tracks used by Will Mellor (‘Hollyoaks’/‘Casualty’) whilst winning the BBC’s ‘Celebrity Fame Academy’, for Comic Relief in March 2003; and on backing tracks used (by Alex Parks, Alistair Griffin, Carolynne and Peter Brame) for the August – October 2003 BBC series of ‘Fame Academy’ and at the ‘Fame Academy’ finalists’ live appearance at Birmingham’s N.E.C.
Most recently at Pinewood, I recorded acoustic and electric guitar and backing vocals on four tracks of Duncan Breeze's 'With Love Always' album, also on Silverwood Records, in February 2005.
Sadly, due to the advancing of technology, Carl's simulated guitar software is now so good that I'm unlikely to be asked to do much more.

In 2000, I began working for Community Music Wales and although mainly employed as a teacher, I have also been asked to go into the studio with certain CMW clients to act as an additional help during their recording sessions. These sessions have led to me playing guitar, bass and percussion, vocally arranging and performing backing vocals, as well as helping with production ideas.
Sessions with CMW clients at ‘Le Mons Studio’ in Newport, with engineer Chris McDonagh (ex bass player with The Darling Buds) and alongside fellow session player CMW’s Paul Gray (ex bass player with The Damned and UFO) led to the inclusion of a track on the ‘Complete Control Music - Club 18-24’ compilation CD (Released May 2001).
CMW have also employed me to do session work at ‘Whiteoak Studio’, in Crickhowell, with engineer James Kennedy.

Other sessions I have worked on outside my own bands took place in April 2002, at ‘Warwick Hall Of Sound’, in Cardiff, as a result of a speculative production contract I had signed with Newport band Gracie.
Sadly, we only had two days at Warwick to record a two-song demo and the time disappeared very fast, but we had fun doing the sessions.
Engineered by Rohan (Dynamo Dresden) I think the resulting single was something of which Gracie should be fairly proud.

In recent years all my studio time has been spent recording my own material.


My first efforts at recording were of course the tape recorder in the middle of the room at band practice, but my first experience of multi-track recording came with using a Teac ‘144’ 4-track studio, hired from Dave Hopkins (bass player with Big Mac’s Wholly Soul Band) way back in 1983.
I went on to buy that same ‘144’ (which I still have, even though it barely works any more) and became the guy every band called on if they wanted to record themselves.
I learnt by trial and error and the recordings I did for local bands led to my first meetings with several people whom I would go on to be in bands with. By the time we had Mad Hatter together in 1985 I could find my way around the 144 fairly well, considering its limitations.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but I had in fact become a producer, all be it on a very lowly level.

My first recording in a ‘proper’ recording studio came in January 1986, at Peter Beese’s ‘Horseshoe Studios’, in Magor.
Ritzi had made it to the final of the 'Welsh Brewers Rock and Pop Band Competition' and in the process earned ourselves a two-song appearance on BBC TV’s ‘Juice’ programme, for which the sound had to be pre-recorded.
At the session I took on the self-appointed role of producer, although being young and a bit naïve the engineer really controlled most of the recording.

I continued to record Ritzi in the home recording environment and by the time I went into ‘Loco’ Studios with Cheer Up Tuesday (January 1990) I had gained sufficient confidence to pretty much take control of the whole recording. Even though I was again only self-appointed, the rest of the band let me get on with it and it became the first time I had ever had an engineer working under my direction.

The first recording I was officially asked to produce was in 1997, for That’ll Be The Day. Although not a full-time member of the cast at the time, I was already working with them as their vocal arranger and was asked to co-produce the recording of six 50s/60s medleys, which were to be included on a compilation album, along with original versions of songs from the same era.

The sessions took place at Peter Gabriel’s ‘Real World Studios’, at Box, near Bath and were engineered by Ben Findlay, who had previously engineered the likes of Wet Wet Wet, The Stereophonics, Van Morrison, Black Grape and The Levellers. The production’s director Trevor Payne produced the recording of the music and then handed the reins to me to arrange the nine voices and to record the vocal parts. I then spent two very long days/nights mixing the tracks with Marco Perry, at 'The Beathouse' studio, in London.

Over the years that old Teac ‘144’ has been gradually updated with the additions of a Fostex 280, Roland R5 Human Rhythm Composer, PC with Cakewalk / Cubase / Sonar / Reason, Roland VS 880 EX Digital Studio Workstation, Roland JV 1010 Sound Module, Roland VS 2480 Digital Studio Workstation and various monitors, microphones, effects etc. So, I now have the capability to produce high quality recordings without the need to hire a studio.

I have never been trained to use recording equipment, or to produce recordings in any way. My limited knowledge and ability comes simply from first hand experience of having spent time both recording and producing my own bands at home and also performing for, or producing my own bands (and others) in professional recording studios.
Although I have a few books for reference, whether right or wrong, all my decisions are made by my own ear and judgement, not by somebody else’s pre-conceived direction.
Of course I get things wrong, but I'm always learning.


A speculative contract is an agreement between two parties to work together without any fees being paid in either direction, on the understanding that if certain goals are achieved, fees will become due.

So, if I enjoy an artiste’s music and believe I can give them a helping hand,
I may be willing to work with them speculatively (i.e. without receiving any payment at all, unless the artiste goes on to gain a publishing or recording contract).

Working speculatively as a producer obviously means that it is possible that I may put a great deal of time and effort into trying to help an artiste improve their sound, only to find that it comes to nothing at the end of months, or even years of hard work.
This is not a problem, as I am more than willing to try and help, but without any form of written agreement in place I would also be taking the risk that an artiste could go on to achieve substantial success, whilst not recognising the part I had played in helping to make it happen.

I am not willing to take this risk and therefore, I am not willing to work with any artiste on a speculative basis unless a written agreement, which protects both parties, is signed.

The agreement that I use for speculative work has been inspected by the Musician’s Union Contract Advisory Service and consequently reviewed by a specialist music solicitor in London.
Under their recommendation, several changes and additions were made to the original draft and I am totally happy that the present form of the agreement covers every detail required to protect both producer and artiste.

The purpose of the agreement, for the protection of me as the producer, is to ensure that if my help does improve the artiste’s sound enough to help secure a recording/publishing contract I am rewarded for the time and effort I have put in. If it does not, then I am happy to accept no payment whatsoever.

The purpose of the agreement, for the protection of the artiste, is to ensure that they cannot end up receiving any unexpected bills for my services, nor any unexpected claims on their songs with view to song-writing credits, copyright etc.


No, nobody at the moment - apart from myself that is.

Nick Brown - Guitar Tuition, Newport, South Wales.