Southern Ground purchased the studio in 2012, but spent over a year renovating the now 100-year-old building, and what a magnificent job they have done. The building has been stripped back and uncovered and then beautifully and masterfully given life again. “The bones of the building are the same. The booths were here, the cypress [wood] on the walls was all original. The outside of this room is koa and then the inside is sapele which is another guitar making wood. It’s just a beautiful figure of wood. The booths have the smaller cuts of the koa – it’s fairly remarkable – the woodwork and the guys who did the construction work were unbelievable. The best analogy is like jazz musicians. In a building this old, nothing’s square -a couple of things have been built onto or modified a couple of times – they came in and just were super fast and just did incredible work.’ Both David and I were left in awe – the true beauty of this building cannot be described – as soon as you step through the doors and into the magnificent space that moves around, above and below you, you know it’s really something special.
‘When we came in the ceiling was capped at the beams, so drums would just go up and go away, but when Zac came in he asked what was up there. So we got some scaffolding in and climbed all the way up there and they started seeing some brick, so Zac came in and said I want to expose as much of that as we can’.’
The result is trumendous – the more they let their curiosity take hold, the more beauty was uncovered. ‘There was this door that was sealed off with plaster over it, but that was the original choir loft door, and the choir loft was up there when it was a church. Since then they had knocked out everything so there was nothing here, so he made the loft into a lounge. We had all these tapes in a tape vault, that had been collected over the years, so we went through cataloguing everything so that we knew what we had and then decided to put it on display so that we can see what’s there.’
The recording technology that was also found in the studio left behind from Masterlink included a Neve V3 and SSL 4000G+ console and vintage Neumann U47/U48 microphones, better known as The Beatles microphone, amongst many other finds. Brandon, who had used the studio before the Southern Ground era, had many stories to tell about the construction. echo chamber.’ The engineer said to go to lunch and I’ll have an echo chamber here for when you get back. So he ran this cabling out here and put a speaker down here at the bottom, mics at the top of the stairs and started piping the vocal out here. One of the guitar players from the Grand Ole Opry came down here to master something that day and he walked in and asked ‘who’s the Neil Young wannabee’, cos he heard the vocals being piped into the stairs and he said, ‘well yeah – that’s Neil Young!”