Arts contributor Jonathan Falcone takes a closer look at the Brixton-based recording studios that have seen the likes of Alt-J, Basement Jaxx and Madness record albums.
Alt-J’s rise to musical fame has seen them credited as indie darlings and critical favourites, as demonstrated by their headline show at the Brixton Academy in May. Maybe less well known though is that their award-winning debut, An Awesome Wave, was recorded at Brixton’s Iguana studios.
Located in an unassuming business unit just off of Acre Lane, inside it boasts three performance spaces, a central control room and a communal kitchen across 4,000 square feet of music making heaven.
Iguana Studios is owned and founded by Andrea Terrano, who set up the studio in 2000. As a Brixton resident for over 20 years he has become an integral part of Brixton’s musical community. Affable and chatty, Andrea moved here from Trieste, in the North of Italy. “As soon as I first came out of Brixton tube it was so exciting, I turned to smell the Jamaican patties cooking and I though ‘wow, there’s much here.’”
Despite Andrea’s humble demeanor, Iguana studios has had an impressive list of superstars pass though the door. “I guess the biggest act I’ve worked with is Basement Jaxx, who were local when we started working together. I’ve played on a song of theirs that we’ve worked together on. I believe it will be on their new album which is really exciting.”
“The studio is not mine,” continues Andrea, “Everyone who uses the space owns it and I’m so lucky to have some wonderful people use the studio. Charlie Andrew brought Madness to the studio and got some great tracks done for their latest album, plus he’s amazing at working with and nurturing new talent. That’s how he worked with Alt-J, he really played a role in their development. Ben Cocks also uses the studio and he’s a talented composer who creates a lot of music for television and Mo Brandis uses the studio too. He’s recently co-written and produced for Stooshie and is also the live singer for Incognito. It’s such a great mix of people and friends.”
It’s this sense of community that Andrea loves and that he believes can only be found in Brixton. “Running a studio these days is tough, many of them are closing. Some of them are too removed and suburban and even some of the bigger ones are struggling, so I’m grateful. Sometimes I even wish I was a little bit less busy, but then I realise that I completely don’t want that at all.”
So why does the studio work so well in Brixton?
“Brixton has everything a studio needs. There’s such a mix of people, so the mix of the music that is made in the studio is fantastic. When I first came here it was possible to play with many of the reggae legends, I think they came over here to get involved in a more established music industry, as did I as an aspiring engineer.”
“We’re also close to great food and the hardware stores are brilliant too, so if something needs to be built to help with a recording session it’s easy to get the equipment. It really has everything I need. There’s also history. If you look at Acre Lane I believe it was originally a mediaeval road. I think if you look at it you can see that, I can picture the horse drawn carts carrying timber.”