There has been a huge shift in the way DJs and producers have been making music over the last few years. Hardware, and especially analogue equipment, is the order of the day, with the re-emergence of dedicated studios providing tools to facilitate this style of working. In this month’s In The Studio, we take a look at one of the facilities leading the way – DJ Mag Tech spoke to Tristan Grace of Devon Analogue Studio — based in the remote and picturesque Devonshire countryside — to find out more about what they have to offer and why they’re not based in the current trendy electronic music production hotspots...
Tell us a little bit about Devon Analogue Studio...
“Devon Analogue is run by my wife Elley and myself, based in North Devon, UK. We are an electronic music-focused studio that blends a hybrid recording environment with a unique collection of hardware and instruments in a bespoke living space overlooking the rolling green hills of Exmoor, in Devon.”
Why Devon and not London, Detroit, Berlin?
“It’s different strokes for different folks. Aside from the lure of our extensive equipment list and our – hopefully – good reputation and sound, our clients are looking for a rural and secluded space where they can escape the daily toils of life and quite literally live the recording sessions that they have here. The [UK’s] West Country has strong roots in electronic music production and the natural beauty and remoteness certainly play a part in pulling people here.”
What services do you offer?
“We generally tailor each booking bespoke to the artists. Studio hire ranges from dry hire or fully engineered recording sessions to production tuition and mix support, which works great for artists looking to develop skills or polish that first EP. We provide bespoke mixing services, whereby we remotely process and mix clients’ projects prior to mastering. Studio builds and consultancy is also something we are helping clients with – we are often asked by artists who use Devon Analogue to help improve their home set-ups in terms of a hybrid workflow, patchbay work, DAW optimisation and general rewires.”
Your studio also offers residential facilities, how does this work?
“Yes, it sleeps four people. It’s designed as a loft-styled space with bedrooms, wet room, full diner and bar.”
What sort of artists does Devon Analogue attract?
“Primarily we are focused on all aspects of electronic sound – we have a wide range of people who come through. We are here for everybody – we work from left-to-right with people looking to get their first pieces of work ready through to established international artists. Some of our clients include Artwork, Bicep, Skream, Pearson Sound, Mike Huckaby, Paul Woolford, Special Request, DJ Q, Nabihah Iqbal, Overmono, Shadow Child, Waze & Odyssey, Mat Playford, Sportsbanger and Sync 24.”
What’s a typical day for the studio?
“No day is the same, as you’re working with [people from] all walks of life – we like to provide a structure, which the artists can shape to fit their requirements. On day one of a session, we generally plan the order of elements in which the artist wants to attack their session, or just see where they want to go. We are here to facilitate whatever an artist wants to do. We are very proactive with the maintenance and servicing of our equipment so, nerdy as it is, we do a lot of testing. There is nothing worse than arriving at a studio when you are brimming to kick off, to then be told which unit doesn’t do this and what’s broken. We have a good team of techs behind us, which keep the fire burning. On the less musical side, there is always housekeeping for us to keep on top of.”
With the name Devon Analogue, we take it that your primary focus is analogue hardware?
“We have a unique collection of both digital and analogue instruments – synthesizers, sequencers, drum machines and outboard hardware such as slow and thumpy valve compressors, lovely EQs and effects. In addition, we do focus a lot on software – everybody uses different tools, [so] we have a big tool kit."
"DAWs are the heartbeat of everything here. The workflow of the studio is something we pride ourselves on, it’s very user-friendly. No matter what DAW is your preference – Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, Reason, Pro Tools or FL Studio – we have a template waiting for you at the beginning of your session, which makes all instruments and outboard ready at the touch of a button. We work hard on the system and gear that we source to ensure that the space has its own sound and vibe, which is coming through on people’s tracks that they release following their sessions here. This is very important for us – to have an audible identity is key for the studio.”
Which are you favourite bits of kit?
“I guess we are quite known for our Waldorf Wave, which is an iconic piece of German wavetable synth design – they are extremely rare and also very needy, but it’s really worth it. The synth featured on legendary techno records from producers such as Mike Huckaby, Maurizio and Mike Schommer – Deepchord. The wavetable sound is so distinct. Alongside the Wave, other current favourites are the Oberheim Xpander, which has arrived recently, that has a very Metroplex Detroit sound – so easy to write with, modulation options for days."
“Beats- and bleeps-wise, our good friend Simon’s PSYCOX SY-1m Syncussion is doing it and also the very recent AVP ADS-7 ASR drum machine from Russia sounds raw. We also have a nice collection of outboard hardware. We have some really nice gear to fatten, affect or warm stems or tracks and mixes. A few favourite bits include the Chiswick Reach all-valve compressor, a very slow thumping valve rack and also our Zahl EQ-1 from the immensely skilled designer and builder Michael Zahl and Basic Channel member Mark Ernustus. We like to share demos of our gear online to give existing and potential clients an insight into what’s going on week-to-week here in the studio.”
How long has it taken you to get to this stage in terms of the set-up and running of the studio?
“Set-up and build took about eighteen months, and we have been operational two years. It’s certainly not been easy but it’s very rewarding seeing artists love the space and hearing the output of sessions through peoples’ releases, which are regularly coming through.”
So how has the year been so far for you?
“It’s been a good start to the year and we are busy with artists daily and handling new enquires for upcoming projects. We have some quite exciting gear collaborations, which we will be talking about very soon. It’s great to be working with some manufacturers we adore. We are also building an outside bar and private orchard garden for the studio, which is going to be lovely for the summer months, post-sessions.”