Thursday, March 24, 2016

London Bridge Studio Tour with Scott Walker 3-24-16

I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the legendary London Bridge Studio in Outer Seattle, I think it is Mountlake Terrace. I dunno, maybe not. I am being purposely evasive as they are in semi stealth mode. You can Google the address, but you won't know what door is theirs.

Here are the three amigos who are partners in this adventure. 

Not that they don't want you hanging around. They were very welcoming. They just got a lot of stuff. Asshole people steal stuff.

Scott Walker and I were invited for a tour by co-owner and producer Jonathan Plum. I was at the right place at the right time when Jonathan came into Darrells Tavern to see some music. Scott and he were talking when I stumbled over and introduced myself. The rest just fell together and Jonathan was so kind to extend the invitation.

Here is the wall of fame:

They have a hell of a provenance. March 16th of this year marked the 25th anniversary of the Pearl Jam recording of Ten. We got to hear a tune off that disc on the reference monitors in the studio. Freaking Awesome!

Here is the Wall of Shame (not really), a lot of history is right here.

It doesn't take long to recognize souvenirs from some of the greats on this wall. What a wonderful thing to have, better than all the glitter on the other wall.

I was lucky enough to be touring with Scott. He was my in...I am constantly amazed at his connections and knowledge. Many of you who read the blog know I refer him as Maestro, or as my editor (wife) reminds me The Maestro. He has great knowledge of the Seattle music scene; both past and present. He also books bands and is the sound tech at Darrells Tavern in Shoreline.

He keeps all that knowledge up here:

I am just a music fan with little knowledge of the scenes behind the music. But I am a music fan that is willing to learn. Let me pass on a little of what I learned.

London Bridge Studio was founded in 1985 by a pair of brothers; Raj and Rick Parashar. It quickly became the place for grunge and many a great album was recorded here. From Pearl Jam's Ten to Alice in Chains Facelift. This place is truly a shrine.

Here is one of the reasons. The Neve 8048 console. 

Through the incredible years of grunge recorded in this studio, this console has translated the guitar, bass, percussion, keys and all other type of musical instruments into something beautiful that can be shared. I listen to a lot of music. This is where that magic happens.

Here is Julian, Jonathon and Neve.

The Neve console is a vintage unit built in the UK in the late war years. It is a mixing unit that has incredible control over every frequency and nuance of any recording...before it is recorded! Ok,I am revealing my ignorance here. Half of what these guys were talking about went right over my head.

What I do know is that this is one of the keys to any great studio. This has the warmth and sound of a vintage Stradivarius. A very special thing that Jonathon and his mates have made sure to keep in top shape. Kudos to them for keeping the important stuff important.

The unit has been upgraded and maintained to insure it's continued professional high quality audio qualities. They had a fund-raiser that helped pay for the costly upgrades. The list of donors is a who's who of local music lovers.

What a super cool way to show thanks to donors and measure the success of the project.


There were other great devices that interfaced with this monster. Everything from a vintage 2" tape machine to a big fat new Mac. These guys have all the swag and then some. It was a real treat to see this incredible techie's dream.

Our tour actually started in another of this studio's incredibly assets. The main recording room was really a surprise to me. It did not match the picture in my mind of a state of the art recording room. The thing that I fixated on was the brick wall at the far end of the studio.

This was no ordinary brick wall; no end of a factory wall. The room was designed with this wall and every other little detail in mind. No wall was at 90 degrees to one another, even this wall was bent.

The result was a bright sound that didn't echo or rattle. Somebody knew what they were doing. There were various hanging dampers and a bass damper that featured hanging material that dangled on fishing line.

Jonathan talks with his hands. I am a visual guy. He was a great tour guide.

Jonathan had worked in this studio when he was just a kid. He learned the ropes in his 20's here. He worked at several other studios and played in several bands over the years. Jonathan was eventually approached by the owner and soon after was the new steward of London Bridge Studios.

He gave a demonstration of the difference in some of the rooms he had in the studio. There was the dead room where all sounds went to die. Well, no, it was a room that would isolate the one musician from the others. But the distinction between rooms was jarring.

Jonathan moved from one room to another demonstrating the difference in sound. In the dead room, it was quiet and most tranquil, in the main room it was bright and clear. This place had all things audio. It was no wonder that top musicians love this place.

Did I mention the that the studio had a unique odor? It had this delicious vintage smell that permeated the main room. Scott explained to me that it came from these beautiful instruments.

The Hammond Organ (as I was later schooled) is a curious instrument that has complicated rotating electro-mechanical components that give off a distinctive smell. Read up on it; Lauren Hammond was a genius. See him here:

Some of my favorite musicians play the Hammond Organ. If you have never heard Fats Waller play the Hammond, please do.

This organ was very often teamed up with a Leslie speaker. It worked on the Doppler effect with the tones coming at you in a rotating motion. As I learned later Leslie and Hammond hated each other. Pretty sad as they made such beautiful music together. Read about Donald Leslie here:

I got to say Doppler Effect in my Read about the Doppler thingy here:

There was a curious hole in the floor that led to some hidden room below. We steered clear. I love Trompe-l'oeil.  (literally, fool the eye). See that here:'%C5%93il

The collection of instruments did not stop at the organs. There was a beautiful grand piano at the other end of the main room. The percussion collection was impressive.

OK, what the hell is this? I mean they got stuff that you and I would think was some kind of weird art. Truly, these are the pedals for the Hammond.

There were various moving screens to isolate and artist. Curtains helped manage the sound in the room.

Scott and I were having a blast. Scott was in tune with the tech side of things, I was stoned on the magical shrine that I was lucky enough to experience.

The list of bands that have been here is too long to list, but you can see that list here:

You can connect with them on Facebook here:

I was blown away with the place and ended up sitting slack jawed for most of the tour.

This is Julian, one of the techs that keep this place running at the high quality that it has become the London Bridge trademark.

Thanks to Jonathan and Scott for an educational afternoon. I got to spend some quality time with Scott after the tour and learned so much more about the music scene. We have surprising mutual friends.

I made an offer to the gods when I visited. I brought a vintage 45 record holder from the early 60's. This was originally owned by my Father-in-Law, Stan Rea who was an audiophile. I knew it would look better in this shrine than at my home. I think he would be happy.

I hope you are listening to lots of music, it is medicine for your soul.  Make sure the whole culture is sustained by buying music, not pirating and above all; seeing live music. This is the most direct way to support your local artists.

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