Located in the commune of Tarare in the Beaujolais wine region, Hacienda Studios is built on the grounds of an old orchard. The main live room – Studio A – resides in what was once an old fruit farm. More precisely, an old fruit farm that belonged to studio owner Jean Gamet's great-grandfather.
Despite being in the family since 1850, Gamet says the time has come to move on. He will be celebrating his 70th birthday in 2016 and hopes to sell Hacienda to someone who can keep it going as a studio. Otherwise – like so many studios around Europe – the buildings will be sold to property developers. Either way, there's only four months left: the deal must be done by April. “It's a bit sad, but that's life,” says Gamet matter of factly.
Over the course of its 30 years in operation, Hacienda Studios has developed quite the reputation, given its low-key surroundings.
“Hacienda is a well-known studio in France, but it’s especially known for discovering new artists,” explains Gamet. “That was my job: discover new artists, produce them and get them a recoding contract, which I did for a long time. That's how the studio got its name. We made gold records with unknown artists. That kind of success, and the way we record here, attracted a lot of the big acts in France to Hacienda.”
There were also big acts outside of France who came to record at the studio, most notably a young Youssou N'Dour, American guitarist George Benson and Sly and the Family Stone guitarist/bassist Larry Graham. In the case of Graham, he was simply looking for a place to rehearse before a gig at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Gig over, he came back to Hacienda, staying several weeks to record.
Pictured L-R: Jean Gamet with Larry Graham and production partner Stéphane Piot
Hacienda's tranquil surroundings have always been conducive to creativity. Now, with a new motorway (the A89) linking Tarare to Lyons in just 10 minutes, the studio is also well situated for business.
“There are some very interesting possibilities for the studio's future. Not only do we have a qualified team of engineers already working here, but there is a growing festival scene in the Beaujolais region and a new live venue being built in Lyons,” says Gamet.
He adds that although the advent of broadband internet initially had a big impact on the number of residential bookings at the studio, they are now seeing a resurgence of bookings from bands looking to get away from it all and let the creative juices flow.
To that end, Hacienda's on-site gîte, or holiday home, can accommodate up to eight people, and there's Les Jardins de l'Hacienda, a bed and breakfast two minutes down the road run by Gamet's younger brother Bruno. However, if something a little bit more elegant is required, the nearby Château de Bagnols – a deluxe five-star hotel with its own helicopter pad to quickly whisk celebrities in and out incognito – is another option.
Inside Studio A is a rarely seen 64-channel Lafont Chroma console – one of only two in France. Gamet explains: “Jean-Pierre Lafont, who manufactured the console, is considered to be the French Rupert Neve. He sold about 40 to 50 consoles, especially on the west coast of America, most notably for post-production.”
“I've always been very faithful to the Lafont sound. It's an extraordinary sound: like a Neve but easier to use. The desk was entirely serviced in 2014 so its in perfect condition... and it's a magnificent desk at that.”
Even more impressive are the acoustics inside the live room in Studio A, which took nearly a year to build. The walls are made entirely of stone and stand nearly a metre thick. Gamet is less matter-of-fact as he describes the sound of the room. Perhaps also because resonating within those walls are the echoes of over 30 years of music, 30 years of Gamet's career and 30 years of chasing sonic perfection.
“The sale price of the studio doesn't reflect the work that's gone into that room. If you factor in the work I put in to improve the acoustics in there over the past 30 years, it would cost a fortune,” says Gamet. “I'm not interested in making a fortune. I'm interested in providing an ongoing benefit to artists and musicians.”
Interested in Hacienda? Get in touch tout de suite with the studio's English correspondent, Jacques Roux, on +33 (0) 6 40 66 04 88.