Sounds of Shoreditch
Ft. Drew Bang & Strongroom Studios
It's been a rollercoaster of a musical journey so far for Drew Bang. In his late 20s, he fell on hard times, and found himself sleeping rough on the streets of London; today, he is an acclaimed audio engineer with credits including U2 and Royal Blood to name a few, the latter earning him an MPG Award for Engineer of the Year. Not a bad turnaround in under a decade.
Belief, talent, and a hell of a work ethic has got Drew to where he is today in this industry - and we think that's inspiring - so we invited him to join us at one of his favourite recording facilities, Strongroom, to embark on a day of fun and frolics, with a little work thrown in. Recording drums is one of Drew's fortes (and why wouldn't it be, with a surname like Bang?), so we called on The Bay Rays' drummer, Max Oakley, and Steve Rodford, who slaps the skins for legendary rock and rollers, The Zombies, and asked Drew to show us some of his recording tricks and tips.
Watch the Movie
Armed with four cases of Signature Brew beer, a custom Mapex drum kit with Paiste Cymbals, a pair of Genelec 8351 monitors, some Focusrite pres and compression, a selection of Shure mics (including Drew's actual MPG Award as the breakout mic!) Waves' Torque plugin, and two enthusiastic drummers, we descend on Strongroom's stunning Studio One, which boasts a fabulous Neve console, and has played host to a string of artists in its time. If these walls could talk.. Enjoy the film!
A Strong[room] Mindset
Strongroom Studios' manager, Emma Townsend, and her team are currently battling with local authorities to ensure that this epic studio complex stays strong, despite the threat of closure, should developers get their way. #SaveStrongroom is an initiative which is being supported by the music industry as a whole, and Emma is particularly passionate about the place, and is hopeful that justice will prevail, and developers won't get their way, and embark on an 18-month long building project that could cause havoc to the studio and its surrounding areas.
"We like to think of this as a little haven in the middle of Shoreditch; it's just a nice place to be," Emma smiles. And she's right - Strongroom boasts a glorious green courtyard, just as studio owner, Richard Boote (pictured alongside Emma), always wanted it to be when he embarked on the build back in 1984. These vines, we are told, were planted by Boote himself. That feels very 'Strongroom' to us. "It's one thing having soundproofing throughout, but drilling into the ground is a whole other thing - and with the vibrations alone that would come, should any building actually go ahead, we don't know if our vintage desks could take it. We'll continue to fight our corner, and stay positive that we come out on top."
The right attitude to have, for sure. Emma has been at Strongroom for six and a half years, starting out as receptionist, then studio booker, and now she is studio manager: she books studios for clients, organises what the sessions entail, puts on suitable engineers, and deals with the booking of the studios' floating gear (amps, instruments, etc.) but there is more to Strongroom than its four commercial studios:
"A big part of it is community," Emma insists. "We like people to be comfortable when they come here, and we love that it's such a vibey place to be. Our runners are very friendly, and that's so important, too - we can't have them begrudgingly making a cup of tea, they have to be part of our vibe - and it's all part of the Strongroom experience."
Which is a great one. The Strongroom kitchen is also well worth a visit.
"Yep, we're trying to fight back against the gentrification," Emma smiles, adding that it's a not-for-profit kitchen. Nice. "In the last few years, loads of burger places have cropped up, and it's over a tenner for a burger, which doesn't come with chips or anything! We didn't want any part of that, so created our own menu."
We sampled the burgers - very good, indeed, and all under a fiver! Aside from the marvellous Strongroom kitchen, where else is there nearby for bands to chill out?
"A lot of places! The coffee shop next door is incredible, actually; we all have loyalty cards, too, which is great," Emma reveals. "Then there are loads of amazing Vietnamese restaurants around here, and the tapas place on the corner is really good. Also, Protein is a really cool cafe, next door to Frame, which is like a workout spot in the railway arches - very Shoreditch vibes [smiles]."
Most of the clientele at Strongroom today comes in the way of bands on big indie labels early on in their careers:
"And that feels about right," Emma says. "It suits us, because that's who we are, really."
And we tend to agree. This is one very vibey musical hub situated in one of London's coolest spots, with some of the coolest kit in tow. So, Hackney Council, listen up, and make sure you #SaveStrongroom!