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Sphere heads for LA – but Battersea rooms remain open

Dave Robinson 9 May 2014
Sphere heads for LA – but Battersea rooms remain open

Sphere Studios in Battersea, London, has closed its doors after 13 years. Owner Francesco Cameli has quit the UK for Los Angeles, where he intends to open a new facility next year.

The Italian says he decided to relocate after becoming “bored” with the scene in the capital. The ability to work with rock bands “has migrated away from London,” he says.  “There is no shortage of recording work for choirs, strings and X Factor-style backing tracks, but there is no organic interaction here. There is no loud rock music in London!”

Now an opportunity has come to work in the US – initially with a “big rock producer” who Cameli does not name – and he plans to seize it. “LA is more my environment,” he says.

Sphere was designed by Munro Acoustics and opened in 2001. It has been “busy pretty much every year since it opened”, with the seven production rooms full “practically 100 per cent of the time.” Duran Duran were a permanent fixture for 10 years and heavy users of Studio 2, while The Script have just left Studio 3 after a three-year stint. Cameli rated Sphere’s Studio 1 as “one of the best Neve rooms in town.”

Genesis, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Mariah Carey and Muse have also all been clients of the studio.

Cameli has earmarked an 18,500sqft facility (formerly a refrigerated Baskin-Robbins plant) in Burbank for his next project. He has transported the entire contents of Sphere, bar a Pro Tools rig and the Neve 88R console used for recording Adele’s album 21, to the west coast, and he plans to have an Andy Munro-designed studio up and running by mid-2015.

“I’m not going to miss London.” he said with a sigh. “The politics, the bullshit, the backstabbing – I have no interest in playing the sort of games you had to play to get a look-in [here]. Having said that, Sphere has been busy for 13 years. How many studios can claim to have recorded four Queen DVDs, a James Bond soundtrack and an Adele album? “It’s hard to single out a highlight – other than being able to stay open for as long as we did, and closing on my terms.”

However, Cameli’s departure is not quite the end for the former SW11 launderette. The new owner – a firm of property developers – is still running rooms in the renamed Battersea Park Studios “pretty much as they were,” according to producer Gavin Goldberg. A resident of a Sphere production room since 2008, Goldberg now occupies Studio 1 with his writing partner Andy Wright, while Duran Duran have made the full transition into Studio 2. Other rooms there are also busy, he reports, while certain staff have been retained from the Sphere days.

“The owners have refurbished the place a little, and are trying to keep everyone happy,” Goldberg told PSNEurope. “We don’t know what the long-term prospect is, but, for the next year or so, you could say the lunatics have taken over the asylum.”

Battersea Park Studios: +44 20 7326 9450

 

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