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All guns blazing: Introducing Brussels’ Raygun Music Sound Radio

Last month saw the opening of the new-look Raygun Music Sound Radio, making people feel at home while offering top-notch quality, reports Marc Maes

Raygun studio, catering for the production of radio commercials, was founded in 2006 by Peter Baert. A year ago the studio changed management – with Baert and former DDB art director Liesbeth Demolder jointly taking the helm – and today holds a leading position in its market, with further diversification into composing and recording music for commercials and film scores ongoing. Moving to a new building was the next logical step.

When entering the 500m² facility in Brussels’ Hooikaai, one may be surprised to discover a spacious hotel lobby rather than recording studios. “This has to do with the clients we work for: advertising agencies, creatives, communications consultants,” explains Liesbeth Demolder, managing partner of Raygun. “They find a cosy atmosphere, plenty of daylight and carefully picked furniture […] with a high quality studio under the hood.”

Hidden behind wooden walls are Raygun’s recording studios. “The studios were designed and built as floating box-in-box studios,” says Peter Baert, who is taking on music production at Raygun. “With the recording booths for studio one and studio two located between the control rooms, the see-through concept establishes direct contact between actors, musicians, singers and engineers…

“The control rooms are designed more like a living room rather than a high tech studio – our clients may have to wait, and we want to make them feel at ease. That’s why we invested in positive energy, [in] daylight and oxygen, [in] space.”

Baert and Demolder realised that moving to a new location meant a new step in Raygun’s growth; a substantial investment in studio quality was essential. “We opted for two Avid S6 M10 consoles, with two DAD X32 interfaces, as the technical core of the studios,” explains Baert. “Studios one and two use the same interface – the DADX32 allows working with two Pro Tools systems.

“We designed the whole floor from scratch and installed a complete network, both in analogue and Dante ethernet – the three studios and recording booths can work in any possible combination. Today, we see studio 2 as a recording and post-production facility, offering a 5.1 surround system, while studio 1 is a specific recording and editing studio. Radio is a fast medium, so speed is crucial, and studio one’s mission is to finalise a 30-second commercial as quickly as possible. Engineers mix directly in Pro Tools 11 HD.”

A third studio, Studio Music, with the second S6 M10 and DADX32, is a combination live room/recording area. Baert uses it to compose, arrange and record music for commercials, trailers and scores. The studio offers room for a string quartet or jazz trio, with a wide variety of synths and keyboards available, including a Roli Seaboard and baby grand piano with ‘silent mode’ MIDI keyboard.
All studios are equipped with Genelec monitors, with Studio Music equipped with additional ADAM Audio A8X and A5X monitors in a surround set-up. The recording booths mainly use Neumann U87 microphones, but Raygun’s collection also includes Neumann 107s, TLM 193s, AKGs, DPAs, UKKOs, AKG pickups and a Soundman binaural microphone set.

Dutch company Mutrox Soundproof Solutions designed and built the studios. “The opening deadline for the studio was a challenge,” continues Demolder. “Mutrox did the job in six weeks; they also demonstrated how acoustic panels, carpets and the furniture – tailor-made by Walnutsgroove – offer sufficient absorption to allow huge glass windows.”

The Avid S6 and DADX32 interfaces were supplied and installed by Belgian distributor Amptec.

Raygun’s radio department generates the bulk of the business. “We’re the only radio studio specialised in music composing and recording for commercials,” comments Demolder. “With Peter holding a Berklee masters in arranging and orchestration, this aspect of our business is rapidly growing.”

According to Liesbeth Demolder, the challenge is to find the balance between project and budget – or, as she says, between tartine et vitrine: “We have grown in our niche, and this commitment also involves a substantial investment in human capital. Today we employ eight people.

“Maintaining the balance between work and play has its price, but we get [lots of] positive feedback in return. And sometimes we take on an assignments that bring along so much warmth and energy – but less euros. Craftsmanship and job satisfaction are crucial.”

With Raygun Music Sound Radio already a major player in Belgian radio, Baert and Demolder are now looking further afield: London and Paris are two hours away from the studio, and Peter Baert was invited to the Cannes Lions 2015 radio awards event in June, generating a number of new opportunities for Raygun.

“We strongly believe in what we do, and get much energy from it, both on a people and product level,” he concludes. “We have a creative story to tell and are prepared to go that extra mile when necessary. Raygun makes a difference with our production values, human capital and passion.”