Located about an hour’s drive from Dublin in the county Westmeath countryside, Grouse Lodge is a residential studio that’s situated in a restored Georgian estate. The likes of Muse, Snow Patrol, R.E.M and Manic Street Preachers have all recorded here, and in 2006 and 2007, it hosted the late Michael Jackson. Future Music magazine took the tour.
The centrepiece of Studio One is a Neve VR60 desk: “The general feedback [from producers] is that the Neve is one of the cleanest desks they’ve worked on,” says studio engineer Ken Waters. Up on the wall you’ll see a set of Dynaudio M4S monitors, while in the centre of the desk there’s a TC Electronic System 6000 reverb. “This fantastic system easily takes care of most of the reverb duties that we need, plus we have the Eventide H3000 for other effects and processing,” says Waters.
Studio One live room
Studio One’s live room is pretty stunning, and contains two pianos, a stone wall drum room and a vocal booth. “When we designed the live space with Andy Munro we really wanted to create a room that sounded fantastic on a diverse range of audio,” says studio owner Paddy Dunning. “We’re able to record full bands all in the same room, or use the panels to section off areas or create rooms within rooms.”
Studio Two is the smaller of the two facilities, but with a 36-channel Neve V-Series console in place, it’s not exactly what you’d call underspecified. “It’s generally used for a lot of the unsigned bands or pre production and writing work. But we’re working on changing the studio so people are able to work on more projects in here,” says Ken Waters.
Paddy Dunning says that he and Michael Jackson became friends during his stay: “Michael actually spent most of his time recording in Studio Two. He really seemed to like the sound of that room,” he says.
“What was amazing for me was discovering just how incredible Michael was at playing any instrument. He’d sit at the piano and play all the Beatles songs for us to all sing along to, or get on the drums, or play guitar. Michael was working with people like Rodney Jerkins, Will.i.am and other musicians, but the tracks he recorded were never finished.”
Ken Waters adds: “We still have one of Michael’s old keyboards here. It’s a battered old Casio keyboard that I actually nearly threw out by accident. I guess he just used it for ideas or as a MIDI controller.”
More than just a studio
Residents at Grouse Lodge will discover that it doesn’t only contain top-flight recording gear - there’s plenty to do in your ‘down time’, too. Facilities include a 15-metre indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, gym and sauna and pool and table tennis tables. If you’re a more outdoorsy sort, you can indulge in some horse riding, cross country quad bike racing, archery and fishing.
Artists who record at Grouse Lodge are invited to leave messages on logs that are displayed on the kitchen, and Paddy Dunning suggests that most of them enjoy their stay. “Everyone who records here gets such a positive energy and I don’t think we’ve ever had a major argument,” he says.