Studio Spotlight

Composer, producer and performer Marvin Ayres walks us around his audio production suite Wall Of Waves, a sonic sanctuary in a converted house in south London…

He has released a couple of albums, Cellosphere and Neptune, on the influential label Mille Plateaux to critical acclaim. Ayres has since worked with Jaki Liebezeit (ex CAN) and collaborated with many visual artists on audiovisual installations, which have been exhibited in major galleries including The Tate Modern.

Ayres’ most recent project is Sacred Spaces, for which he composes and records in unusual places — everywhere from derelict industrial sites to historic places of interest. His main studio, however, is Wall Of Waves, and here he takes us on a guided tour of the studio.

«Wall Of Waves kind of grew on me and around me — this is my home, too,» Ayres says. «I designed it for recording, mixing and editing in stereo, 5.1 surround sound and 9.1/3D sound, combining the best of both analogue and digital audio worlds with an array of analogue outboard equipment plus Pro Tools 10 and Logic Pro.

The aim of the studio design was to steer clear of the typical sterile studio environments and instead create a relaxed creative space with plenty of natural daylight.

«The studio has a medium-size live room complete with a Yamaha upright piano and spacious decked garden for relaxation,» he continues. «It’s well-contained from the bustle of the street. We have outboard gear such as the Roland Vocoder SVC-350, Space Echo RE-101 and a bank of Moogerfooger pedals. The studio is perfect for creative audio processing.»

On a crest

Ayres then goes on to explain how the studio began as his own space but has expanded to have other artists visit: «The idea originally was that the studio was used by me solely for my own compositional work. I recently recorded and mixed my latest album, Ultradian, but other recent projects from the studio include the progressive rock band Curved Air’s Live Atmosphere album and BEF’s (Human League/Heaven 17) album Dark, which I also arranged and added live strings to.

«We have two in-house engineers at clients’ disposal and the studio is also available for hire to freelance engineers/producers. My most recent service offer is the Marvin Ayres String Orchestra (MASO) and we have also branched out into using the space for tutoring and rehearsals. We can also facilitate location recording. MASO has provided strings for artists such as Basement Jaxx, David Bowie, Prefab Sprout and Culture Club. The idea is simply to enable recording artists to source bespoke string arrangements for their music without the usual stress and cost attached to hiring an orchestra or quartet. In its fullest sense, this means a track leaves a studio with, say, a simple musical setting of acoustic guitar, keyboards and light percussion and is returned — ready to go — with a string arrangement.»

It’s been both a challenging and stimulating experience and as a result of it we received a commission by the National Museum of the Royal Navy to record in some of its most iconic environments for a modern classical album that sets out to define the Royal Navy on land, on sea, undersea and in the air.

«It may be tempting to suppose that having a studio confines one, but I have found the opposite to be the case. Wall of Waves has taken me to people and places I never once imagined I would experience.»

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