The visit to Realworld

In 1997, Tomás was working in Secret Garden Studios in Glanmire Co. Cork with Rupert MacCarthy- Morrogh. The Kelly Family were living in Cobh at that time, and used to use the studio for CD copying and rehearsals. One time they decided to do a vocal overdub, and brought in their own engineer from Germany, a gentleman by the name of Stuart Bruce. At the time, he was moving back to England with his family and setting up a studio in the Realworld complex. The Kelly’s didn’t do much work, so Stuart got paid very good money to sit around and chat with us all day! He was a great story teller- if you’re an engineer. He gave us some cool tips for recording. He was a modest chap and I discovered afterwards that he had worked on a lot of great albums from the eighties.

We got on so well that he invited us to visit his new studio and to have a look at Realworld. So in October, after the APRS in London, we did. The atmosphere at Realworld was amazing, and the staff were very friendly and chatty. We looked in on the Pro Tools editing session for a Shiela Chandra album (probably Moonsung, mixed by Stuart), and met the producer Hector Zazou, who seemed to be working on the Chandra album, but he doesn’t have a credit. The sound of Shiela’s voice was very beautiful on the studio monitors. The engineer was hard at work backing up the session onto ADAT while everyone else was having dinner in the sumptuous dining hall.There was a chef and a chandelier- amazing! Even though PT was fairly new back then, we thought it was a bit odd that he trusted ADATs more than a CD-R, because we were using ADATs then and knew how unreliable they could be. Of course, CD-R turned out to be not so great either…

We had an Ace Ventura moment when we opened the sliding door in The Bunker, because the water for the mill runs underneath the building. Suffice it to say that the soundproofing was very impressive! At the APRS, Sony had a nasty looking bouncer standing next to the Oxford on their stand. We gave him the finger and told him that Richard Chappell was going to show us Peter Gabriel’s Oxford, which he did. Did I mention that everyone at Realworld was really nice? Richard looked tired (I think there was a party the night before) but was very happy to show us around the writing room and talk about equipment.

The building is amazing, all wood and stone. The atmosphere is inspirational, and it feels like a great place to make music. In the writing room Tomás was in heaven, because Peter Gabriel’s fourth album (which lists the Fairlight samples used) aroused his curiousity about sampling and music production. Here he got to touch that actual instrument, instantly curing him of his geeky synth spotting affliction.

We were so blown away by the place that we didn’t take nearly enough pictures. For example, Stuart’s own studio was based around an Amek Mozart and a couple of ADATs. He had 3 Akai S1000s, a Prophet 10, a Fender Rhodes and a rack full of synths and tasty outboard. One wall had shelving covered by a curtain. These shelves contained an exotic selection of guitar pedals, baby synths and drum machines. Stuart kept them there to help inspire musicians and keep them happy. We saw all the different rooms, which used different materials in their construction to give a range of acoustic spaces. All of these rooms were beautiful places to be, and also looked very beautiful.

The place was crawling with Eventide Harmonizers. There was gear everywhere. There was a Mitsubishi 32 track in the corridor, and Peter’s EII was being used as an ashtray. To give an example of scale, our studio was based around an 02R. Peter’s keyboard mixer was an 02R. But there was a distinct lack of gearlust in the place, and no snobbery. Peter records on anything- ghetto blasters, ADATs, Sony 3348 and Pro Tools. It was all about inspiration, not gear. The mic collection was extensive and impressive, and inspired both of us to start collections of our own. Currently, Rupert is in the lead… and no, that’s not a contradiction.

Our visit really proved to me that the single most important feature of a studio is the atmosphere. This is down to the people working there, and the building itself. I also learned that professionalism is really about trusting people.

The Sony Oxford digital mixing desk in Peter Gabriel’s workroom. There’s a better picture, somewhere, of Richard giving Rupert a tour of the desk.

The workroom studio, which is in the loft. Peter’s CP80 and Hammond organ are in here.

Tomás looking a bit shocked that he’s standing next to THE Fairlight. Peter’s CMI2 was on the other side of the room, looking a bit battered but still working perfectly. Behind Tomás is one of the studio’s Prophet 5 synthesisers.

Standing on the hill opposite the Realworld building, taking it all in.

I just had to sit on the biggest SSL of its day. This is the main room at Realworld.

This is Stuart Bruce, the gentleman who was kind enough to invite us to Realworld, give us a tour and a few pints afterwards. The thing at the back with the basketball ring in it is the diffuser in the main studio. This photo doesn’t do it justice, because in real life it looks like a cathedral. The door underneath the ring leads to the smaller room, which looks like a chapel. It’s very impressive, but compared to the other rooms it’s a bit freaky, so not many people use it!