Decoy Studio delivers for Cenzo Townshend12 August 2014
Located a stone’s throw from the Sutton Hoo burial ship – widely viewed as the most important Anglo-Saxon site in the UK – Woodbridge’s credentials as a place of special historic interest have never been in any doubt. But, in general, the picturesque Suffolk coastal town hasn’t exactly been regarded as a hotbed of rock and roll activity.
Delve a little deeper, however, and your perceptions will be overturned. For a start, it’s the birthplace of the most consistently innovative producer of his generation: one Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno. It has also, for many years, provided a home and working base to multi-MPG Award-winning mix engineer Cenzo Townshend (pictured), whose numerous clients have included Graham Coxon, Franz Ferdinand, U2, Snow Patrol and The Maccabees.
10 years ago, Townshend was a resident engineer at London’s legendary Olympic studios. One Christmas, he found himself making cards and crackers at his children’s school with another Woodbridge resident who, by an extraordinary coincidence, turned out to be none other than David Bell – managing director of leading studio acoustic design company White Mark. “We discussed the studios where I had worked, and David pointed out that he had actually designed quite a few of them!” recalls Townshend.
This chance meeting was the starting point for a collaboration that, several years later, resulted in the creation of Townshend’s own home-based mix room, known as Decoy. Built around a 56-channel SSL 6000G console, the well-equipped space also features a 64-channel Pro Tools system, a wealth of vintage outboard (Neve modules, Pultec EQs, EMI compressors, Bricasti reverbs) and Focal SM9s, ATC SCM100s and Yamaha NS10s for monitoring.
“The mix room was working out really well, but I noticed that on a lot of projects coming through the recording wasn’t quite finished,” he says. “There was this need for a room where the bands could overdub whilst I was mixing. So that was the starting point for this recent expansion… although it’s ended up being a much bigger project than that!”
Of live rooms… and logs
Townshend isn’t exaggerating: over the last two years, the barn-based complex has grown in scope to encompass a 66sqm control room, 42sqm live room and 15sqm live booth (primarily for vocals); the existing mix room has remained essentially unaltered. Throughout the project, Townshend has been loosely but consistently informed by a desire “to capture some of the magic of old American studios like Sound City and Fairfax… that kind of feel. But above all, I simply wanted to be able to have great records made here.”
With a wealth of post and broadcast clients alongside ‘classic’ music studio clients including Hit Factory Criteria Miami and Real World, White Mark was again an obvious candidate to deliver the acoustic design. As David Bell recalls, some of the most specific challenges resulted from Townshend’s overall aesthetic concept for the studio.
“In the large live room, Cenzo had a strong stylistic idea to install a log pile into one of the walls to emphasise the rural nature of the environment,” he says. “Given the large picture windows that bring the great views into the studio, there was the likelihood that you would be confronting quite a serious flutter problem, so what we did was acoustically treat the area around the 4m diameter circle reserved for the logs, then purchase kiln-dried logs of 2–3” each in diameter. We had them cut into different lengths to produce a random series of flat surfaces to act as a diffuser… or ‘logfuser’, as we’ve dubbed it. It’s an innovative approach, but if you look at our live rooms in general, it is consistent with our emphasis on specially-designed diffusers.”
Townshend has nothing but praise for White Mark’s contribution. “It’s been a very enjoyable collaboration, and obviously having David live nearby has been a great bonus, too,” he says, adding that Studio Connections’ Michael Whiteside also made a pivotal contribution to the project with the development of a bespoke cabling infrastructure.
As with the mix space, the new control room is generously stocked with classic outboard from the likes of Pultec, dbx and Neve, but is based around an Audient ASP8024 console that Townshend has owned “for quite a while… I used to take it out and install it in houses to record bands”. The monitoring inventory, meanwhile, includes Tannoy SRM10Bs, KRK 9000Bs, Yamaha NS10s and some PMCs, too, “so people have a real choice of what they want to use”.
To be concluded tomorrow...