“Our favourite space to write and record ideas and develop songs is a space that I’ve named Start Together Studio. It’s in the Oh Yeah Building in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. We discovered the space early last year when we were looking for a place to record our second album. We heard about the Oh Yeah Project and on looking around discovered the shell of an old Country & Western studio, where people like David McWilliams, Hugo Duncan and various other people have recorded over the years. Before that it was a Whisky Bonding Warehouse, mostly destroyed during the Second World War, so obviously, like every recording studio, it is said to be haunted.
It has a sizable control room and live room as well as a beautiful sounding wood room. Outside of that there are at least six other rooms in the building that we used to record instruments in. Stone rooms that were 60 feet long with high ceilings, tiled bathrooms, elevators, three story stairwells… there are so many parts of that building that really feel like instruments on the album. The atmosphere is one of freedom and encouragement, unusual in a central location in the city and we can make noise at any volume any time of night or day without fear of angry neighbours. You can feel secluded and tucked away or in the middle of the city depending on how many doors you open or close and there’s a stunning view of Belfast from the rooftop. It was such a positive experience I’ve opened a full time recording studio in the space, for other artists to experience what we have.
We kitted it out with Pro Tools HD3, some nice pre amps like Universal Audio, Chandler and API, loads of nice microphones from Neumann to Sennheiser to Electro Voice and everything in between. We also have found things like the Roland Space Echo, Maestro Echoplex, EMT plate reverb, WEM Copycat and as many guitar pedals as we can manage to buy. Moogerfoogers and a stack of synthesizers like Moogs, Rolands, Jens, Solinas, Arps, Casios, Yamahas have all been in there. Lots of amps like Marshalls, Fender Twins, Selmers, Rolands, Ampegs and I love my Dipinto guitars, they sound great! There’s also loads of drums and percussion along with things like vocoders, autoharps and melodicas to fill out the room. Basically it’s all the things we’ve been collecting so that we can reach for something different almost every time we have a new idea.
The most important thing in this space is – for writing new ideas – an acoustic guitar, Roland Juno 6, Pro Tools and a good Microphone. We spent almost three months straight writing and recording Take The Whole Midrange And Boost It last summer. Since then it’s been days when we can. When we’re not on tour I spend over 40 hours a week here working with other artists on albums, it is my favourite place to be. We both usually create initial ideas alone and then come to each other with those to loop and tweak and explore. On the last record we have people play bass, guitar, strings, brass and sing on different sections of the album, I think that’s been very important to the sounds and the feeling of the record and is something that we overlooked in the past. Oppenheimer will always be the two of us bouncing ideas back and forth and seeing where that takes us. Usually with my ideas I layer a lot and really quickly, it usually starts with a drum loop or synth part and I’ll fill out the arrangement to see if I like it. Then I’ll bring it to Shaun and we’ll go from there. Shaun usually brings riffs or chord structures on acoustic guitar. Sometimes we start ideas completely together, or one of us has three quarters of a riff and needs help. Sometimes Shaun brings complete ideas that only need arranged and produced, sometimes I’ll write vocoder parts and build songs around them. It’s pretty varied, which keeps it exciting.
We use everything we can get our hands on! It’s based around Pro Tools, with all the equipment I’ve mentioned above, and we’ve also borrowed and used things like pianos, old Yamaha organs, spring reverbs, bass guitars, and other peoples voices. What I like most about our space is that I love the freedom to do what we like, to push our ideas to the limit and to not be held back by anyone or anything. Mostly I really love all the amazing sounding rooms we have to stand and play in and to capture the characters of. I think that is the most important thing about a good recording.”
Oppenheimer are indie pop electronic duo Shaun Robinson and Rocky O’Reilly from Belfast. They released Take the Whole Mid Range and Boost It in 2008, which is nominated for this year’s Choice Music Prize. The band are about to start a US tour so won’t be playing at the Choice Music Prize ceremony on March 4th. For more information visit http://www.oppenheimermusic.co.uk/ or www.myspace.com/oppenheimer.
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