The Red Room London‘I arranged for a crew from another country to go to the Paris studio at five in the evening. They went in and took the console to bits, took the outboard out, wrapped it all up, and were gone by four the following morning. They arrived here in London the next day… installed the console in two days and had it all up and running a week later.’

Seriously? You kidnapped a whole recording studio?

Much more a rescue mission than a kidnapping, Miloco MD Nick Young is elaborating on the story behind the opening of The Red Room – the company’s latest work at the former Orinoco studio complex in South London. If you had any reservations regarding Miloco’s ambition, technical nous or sheer enthusiasm for the recording business, it’s time to put them aside now. Adopted by Miloco (then Milo Music and in fear that building work adjacent to its Hoxton base might put it out of business) in the mid 1980s, Orinoco Studios has been the company’s HQ since. The move gave the company its present name, through combining Milo and Orinoco. Now, it seems, that the time is right to restore the Orinoco name to distinguish the studios presently there from the wider activities of Miloco. The newest of these – barely a week old – is The Red Room London.

The Red Room LondonWhen Miloco took it on, Orinoco was a full ‘big room’ studio, with live room and Neve VR control room. It was already home to an extensive catalogue of big records, including Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory and Be Here Now, most of the Chemical Brothers albums and, of course, Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow’.

‘We continued running it like that, but we quickly felt that the market was beginning to change in what you could earn out of a conventional studio that size,’ Young recalls. ‘So we split the studio into two, because most of the time people were mixing in there and the live room was sitting empty. The control room became The Engine Room and we turned the live room into another studio, which is a busy writing room now – The Bridge.’

In addition, there is The Pool, with a large live room and a particularly extensive complement of instruments, amps, pedals and mics. Which brings us back to the Red Room London…

‘After running The Engine Room as a mix room for a while, we felt that the Neve had gone out of fashion with the clients,’ Young continues. ‘There seemed to be fewer people mixing on Neves and more mixing on SSL, although there are still a few guys mixing on Neves. So we refitted the room with a G-series SSL that came from Olympic via Holland. That’s been in there for five or six years. It’s been a good mix room with that set-up – we’ve had lots of different producers through.’

A few weeks ago, a conversation with Swiss mix engineer Philippe Weiss was to see the studio completely refitted, revitalised and renamed in an almost military operation: ‘I had a call from Philippe saying that he was having troubles with his business partner at his Red Room studio in Paris,’ Young begins. ‘He felt that he had to remove his equipment quickly – he couldn’t risk leaving it while he tried to resolve the issues in case the equipment got stuck there while the dispute went to court. So we offered to move his equipment into our room, and make it the best mix studio in London. With his vision, his equipment and our room, we knew that we could make it really good.

The Red Room London

‘I warned my team that we were going to replace the whole studio. Although they were surprised at how quickly this was going to happen, Miloco’s got a bit of a name for moving very quickly and being unafraid of changing things. We worked out the wiring scheme, and we were ready to decorate the place and change all the lighting, and other cosmetic stuff at the same time.

‘We had that all organised before the desk and the outboard arrived, the team uninstalled our console and had Philippe’s installed 24 hours later. And it was all up and running a week later. I don’t know that there’s anyone else in the UK who could do that. We have all the strands of the different businesses in place and we have a really good team of people. Most are ex-engineers, so they know what clients want and how to build a studio.’

In the Red

The room is now centred on a ‘recapped’ 56-channel SSL G+ Console with Ultimation and Total Recall, supported by monitors ranging from Auratones (originals) and Yamaha NS10s to Barefoot MicroMain 27s and custom Munro M4s – all controlled by a Cranesong Avocet. The outboard is the pick of the studio’s earlier collection and that brought over from Weiss Red Room in Paris.

‘We took a lot of our outboard out – I’d say about 30 per cent of what’s there now is ours and 70 per cent is his. We’ve been able to get rid of stuff that only gets used by a crazy person now and again, and its all now really high-quality stuff. It’s Pultec, EAR, Chandler, Fairchild, Urei, Manley, GML, LA2As, dbx… 

The DAW is an Avid HDX rig with 48 outputs, running Pro Tools 11 and a full complement of plug-ins. But Young is keen to emphasise that the strongest asset of the room is its sound: ‘It’s a very “true” room, built to the right dimensions with great acoustics,’ he says. ‘The big monitors are very accurate, which is why the Chemical Brothers kept coming back for remixing. We have some producers who come in and only use two channels on the desk. No outboard. They might be mixing in the box, and just using the monitoring. It’s about the room.’

The Red Room London

Weiss’ obsession with sound makes good sense of the bid to bring his Red Room to London, and the lengths to which the Miloco team went to make it happen. ‘The aim is to make it the best mix room in London,’ Young repeats, ‘and I don’t think we’ll have any problem achieving that. His whole ethos is quality. He’s recapped the SSL with Black Gate audiophile capacitors, so even for people who just want to mix through the desk it’s going to sound special.’

It doesn’t end with the console, however, as Weiss has also brought a new approach to printing the mix: ‘Whereas in most studios you come out of the SSL and print the mix through an AD converter, Philippe doesn’t like the stereo section of the SSL so he bypasses it completely,’ Young explains. ‘Using the Crane Song Avocet Monitor Controller makes a big difference, and he prints using the pre-VCA point on the console.

‘He has built his own mix-print chain. It comes through a Dangerous Liaison analogue switching unit and has a chain of outboard – stereo Ureis, Pultecs, a customised Alan Smart [Smart Research] and a couple of other things – that he can tweak a mix with and A-B it using the Dangerous Liaison, which switches with relays. It’s the highest possible quality audio chain. From there he has a custom Inward Connections SPA690 volume pot, which controls the level to the converters – our Lavry AD122-96 MkIII and a Forssell MADA-2, which Philippe brought in. There’s a second computer for mastering, running Sound Forge software. The beauty of that, is that you can print at 96kHz regardless of what you’re running during the session – which you can’t do in Pro Tools.’

The room’s monitoring is also receiving special attention. In spite of the fact that the Munro M4s were tuned by Nick Whitaker after the refurbishment and are performing better than ever before, they’re to be replaced by a new Augspurger main system.

‘We’re a distributor now for Augspurger and we had our first pair of small Duo 8 monitors and 14-inch subs come in this week, so we set them up on stands to test them,’ Young explains. ‘Out of the box and without any tuning, they just sounded amazing. We have Duo 15s with dual 15-inch subs coming, so we’re going to install them. You can hear everything, right across the spectrum really clearly. They’re not just for hip-hop any more.’

With the larger Augspurger system in place, it will be time to bid for the accolade of London’s best mix room. In addition, as Weiss is relatively unknown in the UK, one of the objectives will be to introduce him to new clients. This is expected to leave the room open to other projects for around eight months of the year.

‘We’re marketing it already – we’ve had a session in this week,’ Young says. ‘I’ve already been talking to a few key people, to get them to come in and try it out… you can make a room as good as you want but what actually makes it is the people who work there and talk to other people about it.’

The talk, it would seem, has already begun…

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