A celebration of Strawberry Recording Studios, Stockport,
1967 - 1993.
and Recording World
1976, January, pp53-4
In a less than salubrious part of Stockport, a sign over a doorway reads "Strawberry Recording Studios" but the austere surroundings belie the comparative internal splendour of Strawberry. The studio started in 1969 as a modest four-track operation. Before that, 10cc's Eric Stewart and Strawberry's Pete Tattersall had a small demo studio until Graham Gouldman (also of 1Occ) joined the partners and they decided to "do it properly". Their policy of "doing it properly" has culminated in the recent updating of the studio from 16 to 24 track. The decor and layout of the control room has also just been redesigned by Westlake Audio.
Pride of place in the control room is taken by a beautiful custom-built Helios 26-channel, 24-track console. Its layout was designed by Pete and Eric, and the electronics by Dick Swettenham of Helios. The desk seems to have everything on it and, more important, just where you want it. All the controls are within arm's reach, as the desk is angled round in a semi-circle. It even has a built-in cigarette lighter because, as Pete 'says, "If it's four in the morning and nobody has any matches, where do you get a light?". There are two Studer ABO's and a B62 plus a 24-track Studer set into a recess in the wall. Additional extras include a Cooper time-cube, Aengus EQ unit, full Dolby system and EMT stereo echo plates. The studio itself measures 42' x 30' and includes a large vocal booth. There is also direct access to the studio via a goods lift, so loading problems are minimal.
Pete describes 1975 as very busy. "Last year was excellent. We've got bookings right into 76, which is great because we only went 24-track in summer, when 10cc recorded their last album. Now we've had the control room done, we're 'officially' 24-track." Pete is very pleased with the way the control room has turned out. "We wanted to get the perfect room when we went 24 track. I'd seen a lot of Westlake rooms and thought they had incredible ideas. Thev're so advanced in studio design. The decor was pretty good as
it was but it doesn't compare to the finished result now." That last statement certainly rings true when you look round the control room. Half of the walls and the door are covered in tree bark on cork, and the front walls are chunky brickwork, giving the room the appearance of a Swiss Chalet. Set into the wall at either side of the window are two giant Westlake monitors, which are driven by Crown DC300A amplifiers.
"The only thing you can go on is your ears," said Pete, "and when we switched on the monitors, I thought 'Jesus!'. I'm told, as a Westlake room, it's very good. Apparently, we're only half a dB short of an ideal listening situation. If you put mono through two speakers, you should, theoretically, get a 6dB rise in level at Central Listening Position. Our rise was 5.5dB and I'm told Westlake haven't yet achieved a 6dB rise anywhere. I'm well pleased with it."
Visitors to Strawberry have included 1Occ, Neil Sedaka, Paul McCartney, Mike McGear, Scaffold and big bands like The Million Airs and the Syd Lawrence Orchestra. "It's great doing big bands," Pete enthused. "The day before we closed for renovations, we did a thing with a big band for EMI and they recorded it in straight stereo - the first time I'd done that for years. You use a multi-mike technique and everything comes through at once, but it turned out great. You get more involved with the thing when you're recording a group because you see it all being built up from start to finish, but at the same time, it's good doing big bands because it's all happening at once, apart from where they overdub various solos."
Most of the vocals and mix on the Bay City Rollers' Once Upon A Star album was done at Strawberry and, according to Pete, they were "The nicest guys to work with on that session. There were no temperaments or hassles. In fact, each of them took turns to make coffee throughout the session. Neil Sedaka was great to work with as well. He's tremendous. Such a professional"
Apart from Pete's involvement with Eric and Graham, 10cc are among his favourite bands. "They're tremendously talented guys. They take the trouble and time to get things just right. What I like about their writing is that the words make sense even without the music, which in itself is great."
The success of a studio, according to Pete, is all down to atmosphere. "It's vitally important," he stresses, "and that should include the people involved in the studio. The engineers have got to be friendly and helpful and good equipment helps as well. Although even if you have all the best gear but no atmosphere, it
Pete is working on plans at the moment to offer a "package deal" to bands. "We're in the planning stages of it at the moment," he explained. "I'm in touch with various hotels and country clubs locally, so we'll be able to eventually offer a recording and accommodation situation to bands who perhaps want to come in for a month to do an album."
With the completion of the control room, I wondered what future plans Pete had for Strawberry. "Well, we'll always be constantly adding to our equipment. We have parametric EQ on part of the desk, and I may extend that. We won't be going quad. At least, not until the quad situation is sorted out. The other thing is that we're currently looking at automation - computer mixing. There are a few on the market, but it won't be in the immediate future."
As far as extending or enlarging the premises, Pete told me "There are a lot of possibilities. We have the use of the basement, which houses a workshop and echo plates at the moment. We also have options on the floors above so we could make use of that. There's some land next door as well, so we could even go sideways. There's enough room all round really to build on to the studio. We're contemplating building a large echo chamber.
"Now we've finished the control room, we may re-do the studio. It's being discussed at the moment. Even as it is now, it goes well with the control room, and it's comfortable and has a nice sound."