Mark Ralph renovates vacant Beethoven Street2 December 2014
Producer Mark Ralph has left his room at The Old Dairy and taken over the lease at Beethoven Street Studios in Queens Park, north London. Like The Old Dairy, Beethoven Street was previously run by Jerry Evans and Tad Barker (of Tickle Audio Hire) – however, the facility had been left mostly empty since Paul Epworth moved out to renovate The Church (see Tickle Audio Hire to vacate Old Dairy after £4.95m sale). With The Old Dairy now sold to Westminster Community Homes, Ralph was in the need for a new studio, and his close relationship to Evans and Barker led to him taking over the company that owned the lease at Beethoven Street. This marks a return to his old haunt for Ralph, who had a room at the Beethoven Street facility before moving to The Old Dairy.
Ralph (pictured), whose career began as a session guitarist working with the likes of Gwen Stefani, Robbie Williams and Ronnie Wood, before making a name for himself with his own band the Filthy Dukes in 2009, is now in demand for his production and engineering skills, having worked with Franz Ferdinand, Hot Chip and Jagwar Ma.
Ralph has, since moving in and taking on the lease at Beethoven Street, already made an impact on the facility, building three new production rooms on the ground floor of the three-storey building. The new rooms measure around 16m2 (172sqft), and have been floated to isolate sound transmission between the rooms as much as possible within the space.
All three rooms already have clients ready to move in, among them Cambridge band Clean Bandit – whose recent album New Eyes was produced and mixed by Ralph – and electronic music duo Jack Beats. “The rooms are empty; we’ve done the isolation but we’re leaving it entirely up to whoever moves in to put acoustic treatment up,” explains Ralph. “I can see the rooms being used for writing or production, but I could see a mastering room there, too.”
The largest studio in the facility is Ralph’s own, which takes up the whole of the first floor. The control room houses an SSL 4048E console, previously belonging to Tony Visconti at Good Earth Studios (now Dean Street Studios), which has been recently serviced and re-capped by Pete Higgs. Ralph is moving in plenty of his own outboard equipment, but there isn’t room for his old console – a custom-built 56-channel analogue console designed by German producer Conny Plank. The console, which was one of only two ever made, was built in 1974 and used to record Kraftwerk, Can, Neu!, Brian Eno and Ultravox. It has now been loaned The Park Studios in Brighton. Around the control room is Ralph’s collection of vintage synths and samplers, of which he considers himself a collector: “Although I’m a guitarist, I’ve never really been interested in collecting guitars,” he says. “They don’t excite me, whereas synths give me something new.”
The top floor of Beethoven Street houses one last production room (home to songwriter Ed Harcourt) and a roof terrace, kitchen and lounge for use by all the studio’s clients.
Unlike the smaller production rooms, Ralph’s studio has its own live room, with plenty of space for recording drum kits and live bands – something he will be looking to make use of himself, but may also decide to rent out for commercial use in the future: “Right now, I’m busy and I don’t need that,” he says, “but if, in a few years’ time, maybe I’ll want more time to myself.”