Mark Gardener, the frontman and guitarist of Ride – a band that started out in the British alt/rock period of the late 1980s and who reformed in 2014 – has opened a new studio called OX4 with an SSL AWS 948 console forming its foundation.
The opening of the new studio in Gardener's hometown of Oxfordshire comes as Ride are about to release a new record.
“It constantly surprises me, the Ride phenomenon; we did a big thing the first time around, but now we are playing bigger shows than we ever did back in the day,” said Gardener. “I always thought one day it would level off, so in the interim I got heavily into recording, trying to demystify the process of being in the studio. It's always been my thing, really.”
Gardener received studio education along the way, working with the likes of John Leckie and Jack Rieley.
“These guys were very good at teaching me to listen, as an art,” Gardener mused. “And back in the day, when we were on the clock at Abbey Road, I'd knock out some rough mixes for Ride. It taught me to work under pressure, and that sometimes the first decisions you make can be the best ones. Now I am always very wary of going round in circles as it can drain the life and energy out of a project.”
Gardener had always 'lived' with SSLs during his recording career with Ride and his other musical collaborations, so it was a natural step to turn to SSL for his studio.
“With mixing today, you can get something to a point, walk away, and come back with fresh ears. Also, bands won't get back to you quickly; any requests for changes in a mix will come in a few days, so you need to be able to reset and refresh,” he said. “I started using a summing mixer at home, and suddenly the width and depth helped speed up my mixing process. I really wanted a console, something I could be fully hands-on with and wouldn't have to work my way through the layers of. That's what first drew me to the AWS console.
“I quickly realised that SSL had nailed it in terms of understanding how people work today; in minutes, you've got a full recall on this desk, which is phenomenal,” he explained. “And I am back to using channels. It's more fun when you can be tactile. I love how you can flick between the E and G EQs instantly. Before I got the console I was using plugin versions of the SSL E and G channels – now I have the real thing!”
Gardener continued: “I am also astounded by its preamps. I have a lot of cool outboard kit, but recording directly from the SSL is amazing; it's an incredible sounding console. I love the old boards, of course, and a lot of Ride tracks were mixed on old SSLs, but the AWS is so much more efficient than an older console. The DAW integration utilising the delta-Control automation is also brilliant. I've got my console keys set up for Logic, and I've got all my transport stuff right there at the push of a button.”
As a result of having the AWS, Gardener is getting more hands-on with mixing and is getting better results than ever before.
“I love the familiarity of the EQ, having it literally there rather than going into the layers. As I work with the AWS console, I am definitely coming out of the box more, and this digital-analogue hybrid set up is basically a best of both worlds situation. I've found that my mixes are improving dramatically as a result of having the SSL, and having the G Buss as my final buss compressor is fantastic.”
Sessions are now underway at OX4: singer-songwriter, Susie Stapleton, was first through the doors, accompanied by Jim Jones Revue's Gavin Jay, and Stranglers' drummer, Jim Macaulay. The Stranglers themselves were in the studio recording new material last month.
“I feel so fortunate to be working in a room like this, purpose built by Studio Creations, where I can hear everything so perfectly, and I’m excited to see how the artists will respond in the coming projects” Gardener concluded. “The SSL AWS is definitely the new love of my life – and by the end of the year our studio extension will be complete, comprising a second control room and more artist space. If we continue as we’ve started, then I can only see us growing more in the future.”