40 Feet of Clarity

/May 11, 2013

When there’s no room left in your studio for more junk, don’t clean up, just move the problem… into a shipping container.

How does one acquire so much crap?

Last week I made the momentous decision to build another overdub booth down here at The Mill inside a space that, through years of neglect, has somewhat embarrassingly managed to accumulate everything from whipper snippers and old paint tins to off-cuts from the original studio build that I just couldn’t bring myself to chuck out.

The corner in question is a mess, but now that the area is going to be pressed into action as the new ‘quietest room in the studio,’ all this crap has to go somewhere else… but into a skip and thrown out? No chance!

Thankfully I’ve found a spot for most of it already; though it’s not a very good long-term solution I’ll admit… it’s the lawn outside the studio door.

It looks great out there right now… ‘classy’ you might say. There’s the aforementioned whipper snipper, old carpet, pine lining boards that were left over from the studio’s staircase, which were themselves recycled from the front bedroom of the house. There’s a gas-fired heater that I collected ages ago but have never used, a couple of bikes, parts off the ride-on mower and a liquorice all-sorts of hand tools and fuel cans. If only I could shift it all into the national gallery, it would easily classify as pop art.



I always find myself saying this, but I really have no idea if it’s true: collecting stuff and putting it aside for a rainy day is just part and parcel of owning a studio… an occupational hazard you might say.

Hmm, now that I’ve written this quaint theory down, I’m pretty sure it’s utter bollocks. I need to face facts here; I’m either a magpie or a slob.

But I can’t just build another shed to house all this crap. That would take months. Besides, I already have a second shed on the property that’s larger than the house, which, funnily enough, is also full of crap. I think there’s a pattern forming here. I need a solution.

Cue the arrival of a 20-foot shipping container.

Yep, I’m getting one from Melbourne… for, as luck would have it, my brother has four he no longer needs.

But of course, this seemingly irrelevant fact – that there are four – has excited the magpie in me and reignited my desire to build a dedicated echo chamber for the studio as well… you know, a specific room containing speakers and mics that I can feed audio signals into and retrieve back as reverb, which I can then add to songs as a secret weapon. No plug-ins here folks; this will be bona-fide analogue mixing at its purest.

And a shipping container would be an ‘instant’ echo chamber! I wouldn’t have to build it, I’d only have to line it and fit it out with some basic speakers, mics and a multicore… (he says, knowing full well there’s far more to it than that).

So now it looks like I might be getting two shipping containers: one for all the crap, the other to act as a giant reverb tank. Or perhaps I should just cut to the chase and check myself into the local nuthouse.



So here’s the plan (subject to change). In the coming months, I’m looking to build an overdub booth, an echo chamber, produce and mix about five albums, as well as renovate the front room of our house to accommodate the arrival of a new member to our family… yikes! This is all starting to sound pretty unrealistic.

Actually, come to think of it, I think this may be the problem many of us audio engineer/producer types have… we’re unrealistic about how long things take. I know I am. I don’t think I’ve ever really sat down and tried to work out how long the average song takes to produce. How can you, they’re all so different?

The overdub booth will be no different I suspect. A good mate of mine, Rick O’Neil will attest to that. He reckons I once told him I could build a quadratic residue diffuser (a fancy acoustic panel) for his mastering room in Sydney in about six hours… it eventually took three weeks.

I’ve always denied it. I could never have been that optimistic about a construction time frame…

Anyway, let’s mark this point in time as the moment when the gun was fired and the overdub booth’s construction began. Should take about six hours…