Situated in the basement of an old industrial building on the edge of Leeds city centre, Soundworks Studios was set up in 1995 by producer, writer and all-round music guru Will Jackson. Recent clients include Kaiser Chiefs, The Music, The Cribs and The Pigeon Detectives, so Future Music magazine decided to bomb up to Yorkshire and pay this well-respected facility a visit…
SSL 4064 E-Series desk
The main control room is based around the 64-channel SSL 4064 E-Series console equipped with G-series computer. Will tells us he found it while hunting for bargains on eBay.
“It turned out that it was from Parr Street Studios in Liverpool and I’d already worked on it with Embrace. I like the E-Series because it’s the first generation and it’s just got something about it. They’re proper rock ’n’ roll desks, but they’re also incredibly versatile.
“The EQ can be quite sweet or very nasty - it’s just vicious. The mic amps are really in-your-face, extremely high level. I don’t really use the automation that much. I just set all the faders to zero and send stuff down channels from the computer.”
We’re so used to seeing Pro Tools in top studios that Soundworks’ choice of DAW raises eyebrows. “We run SSL Soundscape,” Will tells us. “It’s our best-kept secret. I got the first system in 1992, when it was four tracks. It just works and it’s really transparent.”
Although he acknowledges that the difference is small now, Jackson tells us how the experience of using a buggy early ’90s version of Pro Tools pushed him towards Soundscape, which was originally developed by Sydec Audio in Belgium.
The rack, top
Focusrite’s Liquid Channel sits at the top of the rack: “This is fantastic for vocals,” says Will.
“The compressor’s great because you can’t really hear it working unless you mash it.”
The rack, bottom
Another of Will’s outboard favourites is the MXR Dual Limiter, which you can see second from bottom.
“This is really good for mashing stuff up. You can get really really nasty with it, which is brilliant,” he says.
The majority of synthesis duties in the studio are handled by a trusty Roland JX-3P (top) equipped with the optional PG-200 programmer.
“I bought it from a guy in Canada and he’d had a touch-sensitivity mod done,” recalls Will. “Obviously the keyboard isn’t velocity-sensitive, but it’s good if you’re controlling it from a sequencer. The Cribs ran this through an Orange amp and mic’d it up. It sounded great.”
Hammond organ with Leslie cabinet
“This needs a bit of refurb really but I got it for nothing out of someone’s garage,” reveals Will.
”We sometimes run Native Instruments B4 through the Leslie cab and it really brings it to life.”
“I generally mix on the Genelecs [8050a, pictured on the left and right of the shelf], which I think are great speakers,” says Will. “They’re very uncoloured. I love them for that.”
On the wall-mounted bracket you’ll see a JBL 4412: “In the old days, JBLs used to give me a headache in studios but this is pretty much the first set I’ve used that are very pleasing to listen to,” Will reports.
Finally, the smaller speaker in the middle of the shelf is a Fostex 6301, which Will says is: “Great for checking mixes for vocal levels and to see what they’ll sound like on the radio. Obviously you can’t give it much bottom end.”
A Sontronics Helios is just one of many mics in the Soundworks collection, but when it comes to recording vocals, Will isn’t too picky.
“I’ve got a Neumann KMS 105 hand-held condenser which has got amazing rejection but I’ve used SM57s and 58s. Of course, you get a bit of bleed but who cares as long as the sound’s right?
“I remember Ricky out of the Kaisers leaning over the desk with his head right in the middle of the monitors yelling his nuts off into a 58. It’s nice to have clean vocals but I’m not really bothered as long as it sounds good.”
Soundworks has an impressive guitar collection that includes a 1963 Gibson SG Junior (pictured in its case: “it plays like a dream,” says Will); a 12-string Fender Stratocaster XII (far left: “apart from a Rickenbacker it’s the best electric 12-string ever made”); a Gretsch Electromatic (centre: “this is the complete business”); and a Danelectro DC59-12 ( second from right: “it’s a budget guitar but the quality is well in excess of the price”).
Liked this? Now read: In pictures: Blueprint Studios, Salford
Get MusicRadar straight to your inbox: Sign up for the free weekly newsletter