Studio Guide: Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

Lewis Durham writes for ClashMusic...

When I was a kid, like most boys, I was into making swords, guns and pretending I was peter pan. After that stage, I was interested in phonograph records. At home, we never had a CD player, we had a turntable and a cassette deck so seeing records as kid was the norm and seeing them being played was normal. I think this is the reason we (my family) refer to disks as ‘records’ and not ‘vinyl’s’. The first time I saw records in a different light was when I saw my granddad winding up his gramophone and putting a record on. The thing that got me interested in it was the technical aspect, how and why did this work? It was not the case of “trendy student writes stuff on a typewriter to be cool and funky” (because 10 year olds don’t think that way) and all that, it was a case of fascination with the technology.

About 5 years later and I had managed to get to the stage where I was making my own acetates (a one off disk made, which looks and plays like a record but is made of a metal disk coated in lacquer, its not made of plastic) in my bedroom using a small presto 6N lathe with a Grampian cutterhead and massive valve amps. At the time, UK Garage was the music the older kids played and there were a number of MC’s and DJ’s in the upper forms (my sisters year) of my school. They would make they’re own tracks and I cut numerous phonograph records for the MC’s and DJs in my school. At the time, I still had no real interest in making recordings of bands and such although I had a good idea of how it was done and what equipment was best to use. By the time the UK Garage thing had finished, people weren’t Djing much anymore as the guys had left school by now. So I pretty much stopped making disks for those guys by about mid 2005.

I was by now playing music with my family (on stage) and we were signed so recordings needed to be made. I knew from a young age about what was good quality and what was not. For example, it was obvious to me that CD players and computers were built like shit, penny’s to make, not made to be fixed, and that’s what they also sounded like to me.
A studio slowly built up in our back room, which is about 12ft square. In the tinny room, I crammed an 8 track 1 inch Studer tape recorder, which I never really liked much but it was the only thing available, a home made mixing desk and a couple of Vortexion microphone amplifiers and some microphones. And that was the beginning of the recording studio really. At the time, broadcast quality valve equipment was not as sort after or as expensive as now.

Over the next few years, the studio spread into the next room (much to my mums dismay) with a widow divide in the middle allowing me to make live recordings of bands (who played in the other room) on to a single track of tape. The major refurbishment of the studio included the window, lots of maintenance and installation of new equipment and recorders, this was happening before my A-level exams, and is my excuse to not doing too well In them. The tape recorders got updated, to older machines. We compare two things and pick the best, regardless of how old something is, it just has to sound good to us. We have tried computers and various digital formats, none came close to quality of the tape recorders (Ampex recorders), so they left the house. More stuff was acquired through various sources, most of them being stateside. Usually, the stuff we bought would have last been used in the 1950s so when switched on would usually go BANG, or just not work. I had spent quite a bit of time with elder electronics nerds who worked in studios of the 50s and early 60s and I had also been reading radio electronics books from the 1930s so I was able to repair the equipment and get things working which saved a lot of money and time because stuff would brake down during recording sessions.

All those endless nights, soldering under the mixing desk made from an old wardrobe door until 5 in the morning with empty plates of food and empty teacups and overfilled ashtrays. That’s what made our first album and when I hear it now and look back, I laugh and cringe and usually say, “How did we let that go to release, it sounds awful”. But it’s the only way we had to learn. That’s why each recording sounds different because we are constantly changing things around. The limitation for me is the size of the room. The bigger room you have, the bigger sounding recording. This is the main challenge for me, to have the instruments not sound like they are in a small boxy room, which they are. Recording in big rooms is a luxury. I’ve done it a couple of times (location recordings), you put the mike up and it sounds good straight away. At home it can take literally hours placing a mike.

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Kitty, Daisy & Lewis release new single ‘Don’t Make A Fool Out Of Me’ on October 24th.

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