A deconsecrated church in Mansfield now houses the recording studio of musician/engineer/producer Oliver Kenny, Holy Rock Studios. At its centre is a 36-channel ASP8024 Heritage Edition mixing desk supplied by KMR Audio.

Holy Rock StudiosKenny was involved from acquiring the building at auction, through the overall design and acoustics to costing the specifications. As well as accommodating ten musicians, there’s space in the building for his own living space.

‘The initial brief was to find a building that could be a blank canvas with high ceilings so I could craft a studio space with minimal limitations,’ Kenny says of the studio’s evolution. ‘Somewhere down the line, I started looking at church properties, and began to think it was a viable option. I found this one listed at auction – having previously bid on around ten churches, all silent bids, this one was at an actual property auction and was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life.’

Once he had won the bid, he was able to see that the true potential of the 115-year-old property: ‘We realised that not only could the band have their own apartment accommodation, but that there was enough space for me to build a house inside the church as well as offer some business units within the additional space,’ he recalls. ‘The decision to expand the build delayed the project by at least 12-18 months, but it was the right decision both for work-life balance and most efficient use of my resources.

‘The main church structure, on entry, was around 8-9m from floor to ceiling, which allowed me plenty of room to have high ceilings downstairs [around 4m] but also have room upstairs to live and function properly. I had a company come in and fit 14 steel pillars to support a steel and concrete floor, which split the building into the “house” upstairs and studio downstairs.’

Holy Rock StudiosKenny moved into his house-within-a-church in March, which he describes as ‘a permanent, forever home that I can grow into with a family’. Sleeping where the altar once was and looking out of a stained-glass window from his living room, the space is unique.

Studio A was next on the list and after the recent soft opening, which ‘went without a hitch’, Kenny invited local band The Family to come and trial the space, and record demos of two of their songs. ‘They were so impressed with the space and the gear, that they have booked in to record their debut album later in the year.’

KMR Audio supplied the desk, Barefoot MM27 Gen 2 monitors and much of the outboard: ‘I took pride in putting together an equipment list that is the best value for money, having balance throughout my chain, compromise where needed and quality where it counts resulting in a great finished sound. This balanced approach allows me to create a world-class sound for my clients – without breaking the bank for either of us.

‘The desk’s sound quality is able to compete with desks at a much, much higher price point, its functionality is flexible and the module design of the desks allowed me to design my version of the console with space for the Slate MTI2 in the middle for automation.’ With 36 channels, two producer bays and a patchbay, the set-up suits Kenny’s workflow. ‘I love an inline console design – you can  get a recording level and mix at the same time so, so easily.

‘I think one thing that has surprised me is just how much I have come to love the Retro Iron, High Lift and Low Bump buttons on the stereo bus. During mixing, these are pressed down almost the entire time. It just adds something to the sound that is so subtle but when you take it off you’re painfully aware of that, to use a cliché term, ‘vintage coloured type tone’ being missing.

‘Although we also have some vintage console mic pre clones that we use on some of the core sounds, a lot of the time for everything else we will use the preamps from the desk. The amazing quality of sound that they produce means they can sit alongside the classics and you can’t go wrong.’

Still under construction, Studio B is a smaller studio/producer space: ‘We thought very carefully about the relationship between Studio A and B and how these could complement each other,’ Kenny says. ‘We have the Audient iD22 as our audio interface in addition to the ASP800 8-channel mic preamplifier, so that we are able to record a full ten channels of audio at once to record a full drum kit easily.

‘What was super important to me in the design of the studio rooms was flexibility. I needed to make sure that Studio B had a similar spec to Studio A, so any overdubs or any vocal or instrument work in Studio B don’t sound different to Studio A. Having the same class-A mic pres throughout the Audient range, and fantastic converters in the iD22, means I have no doubt that whatever we do across the two different studio rooms for tracking, will result in no noticeable difference in quality.’

Kenny is excited about getting stuck into recording, hinting at a Grammy Award-winning American artist showing interest in finishing their latest album at Holy Rock Studios: ‘I can’t give much more information than that at the moment,’ he says. ‘The studio is designed to work with bands with big guitars, loud drums, screaming vocals and a heavy sound. We could of course record anything but those are the kind of sounds and genres our space specialises in as this is what we love to do ourselves.’

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