It first opened its doors to the musicians of central London nearly 60 years ago. The Small Faces and Paul McCartney recorded there and Manfred Mann once owned the place. EMI Publishing had a recording studio there, Acid Jazz Records a headquarters and, later, Tin Pan Alley Studios set up shop at the address.
This month, ahead of an ambitious rejuvenation of London’s famous musical epicentre, 22 Denmark Street has reopened as Denmark Street Studios. The studio is owned by engineer/producer Guy Katsav (The View, Laura Marling, David Guetta), who subsequently brought former Metropolis Studios sales manager Elliot Shand (pictured, right) and producer/engineer Itay Kashti (pictured, left) into the fold. Since opening, the studio has already seen the likes of Ninja Tunes’ Roses Gabor, former Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt and UK grime star Skepta cross the threshold into the subterranean studio. “The first time I came (to Denmark Street) was in the early ‘90s, I still remember it was one of the reasons why I moved to London,” said Katsav (pictured, centre). “Over the years I’ve seen the whole area and street decay, music wise, so to try and flip it bring it back again and inject some energy back into the street… I think people are getting excited around here. We’ve already had a lot of people from the shops come and play, which is fantastic.” Katsav, who had previously spent 10 years at (currently for sale) Soho Recording Studios, was searching for a bigger space after his success with The View, Groove Armada and others. “By a complete fluke I remembered there was a studio here. I found the owner, we came here and instantly I said ‘I’m taking it’. It was instant.” Shortly after Katsav called Shand, whom he had met earlier this year. “I was at Metropolis and (Guy) called me up and said ‘Would you be interested in a recording studio in Denmark Street?’,” said Shand. “My bags were packed in the next five minutes. “ The trio took over the space in August of this year and immediately set to work on the daunting task of getting the space back into working order, after being closed for some time. In Shand’s own words, the studio “smelled like a lake” when they first moved in. Katsav elaborates: “The amount of rubbish that we took out of here was insane. And I’m talking about rubbish that had been here since the 80s, maybe even the 70s. The state of it was scary, but I could see the potential. You walk in and you can feel the history.” Some of that history was also left behind, including an antique violin now hanging on the wall, a closet full of magnetic tape (and no, they haven’t listened to them yet) and a 1906 Bluthner grand piano, now restored to its original glory and sitting proudly in the studio’s main live room. The refurbished Studio 1 centres around two consoles: an AMEK BC2 and a Sony DMX100, and a selection of outboard gear by SSL,Tube Tech, GML, Universal Audio and more. Monitoring options include Yamaha, Genelec, Focal, JBL and Celestion. Around the corner are Studios 2 and 3, both “in the box” production rooms. The former is the home of Down and Left – a production company backed by production duo Gypsy Hill (DJ Kobayashi and Herbert Newbert) – and the latter a room occupied by producer Rui Da Silva, responsible for the 2001 house anthem Touch Me. “We haven’t needed to push too hard so far, it’s building momentum just on its own,” said Shand. And it will likely continue that way, as a recently-approved plan to rejuvenate the street – including new shops, venues and even a hotel – has just received approval by Camden Council. As reported in sister publication MI Pro, Laurence Kirschel, the developer responsible for the plans, said: “The development will invest in local shops and not only safeguard, but reinvigorate the area’s fantastic music and cultural scene.” Work is expected to begin on the project in 2014. In the meantime, Katsav is working on his own future plans, including broadening the business into multimedia production and, perhaps a Denmark Street festival sometime in the future. But for now, there’s no rush. “It’s like making a record,” said Katsav. “You can’t force things. If you allow things to evolve in a natural way, people will want to be a part of it.”
Photo: (top) Mark Haldon and Dunja Opalko (middle)