Shape of my heart

Launching home-made UFOs at a Gloucestershire campsite.

Launching home-made UFOs at a Gloucestershire campsite.

I was expecting to write a post this weekend to the effect of “all the walls are now covered with hessian”. This is great news sonically, but doesn’t necessarily make a very interesting blog entry, considering that you probably now know (more than) everything you ever wanted to know about frames, fabric and sound absorption etc. I’ve just been away at a camping weekend with the family (also playing bass for a blues scratch-band – kinda DIY music festival for a couple of hundred people). Before we left I had a quick look at the studio in progress and asked Artis if there was anything he needed while we were away overnight. He asked if it would be OK for him to cover the air ducts in the live room with ‘interesting shapes’. He suggested that the room was starting to feel a bit austere (when someone says the words “like a dark prison” very slowly in a Latvian accent, it is difficult not to think of Count Dracula). Given that Artis has a real craftsman’s eye, I figured that whatever he had in mind would be tasteful, and way cooler than any suggestion I would make – so I left him to it.

When we returned it was blisteringly hot day so I went straight down to the studio, partly to see what Artis had done, and partly because it’s really cool in there: the sound isolation is so heavy that the building’s interior temperature is pretty much unaffected by the weather.

He’d completed all the hessian frames in both rooms, plus all the window frame pieces, and had made the MDF/hessian panels to covered the air inlets as planned. And… he’d made them all in the shape of guitars!

I’m speechless with delight. Here are some pictures while I calm down.

A simple duct cover, in front of the control room baffle.

A simple cover, in front of the control room cool air duct...

  Although it conceals Artis' secret signature inside the duct, which reads "Built to last by Lazy Fat People, 9-6-09".

Although it conceals Artis' secret signature inside, which reads "Build Till Last (built to last) by LAZY FAT PEOPLE."

And in the live room, here are the works of art…

Shape of my heart2

The circle represents the banjo - the headstock is from my banjolele. Cool air comes from the now-concealed duct.

And this is my banjolele - the first musical instrument I ever bought. It was £10 in 1980, and is responsible for my love of playing music. Explains a lot, perhaps.

And this is my banjolele - the first musical instrument I ever bought. It was £10 in 1980, and is responsible for my love of playing music. Explains a lot, perhaps.

On the opposite side of the live room is the warm air outlet, and this time Artis has gotten really creative…

The body shape is based on my Yamaha classical guitar; the headstock is two pegs from the top of the Takamine.

Live room warm air duct cover. The shape is based on...

The curve of the Yamaha body...

...the curve of the body from my Yamaha classical guitar...

Shape of my heart6

...and the pegs of the Takamine's headstock

I can’t say how delighted I am with this development – it’s not only beautiful in its own right but it’s made the studio really personal, referencing some instruments that have been with me most of my musical life.

Here's the live room laminate floor, which Artis laid this morning. Beautiful!

Here's the live room laminate floor, which Artis laid this morning. Beautiful!

So, to sound recording issues. I had a long chat with Howard (the ‘Studiowizard‘) over the weekend (all our chats are long – when two geeks collide it’s always the way). Obviously the whole of the live room is ‘dry’ rather than ‘live’ due to the small dimensions involved – it’s too small to get a useful room reverb going, and anyway, it’s always easier to add reverb to a dry signal than to try to dampen a lively room. But wooden floors can still be great for acoustic guitars and drums, even in an otherwise damped room (a while ago I took a recording tip from Davey at the University, which is to record acoustic guitarists on wooden boards for extra reflections). So for the best of both worlds, the plan is to lay high-quality wooden laminate on a bed of fabric (to prevent squeaking floorboards), and then to buy a large IKEA rug on which to put the drum kit; the laminate is pretty tough, but I don’t want nasty bass drum spikes spoiling my nice wooden floor.

Laminate floor with UFO lights, archetrave, mains socket and hovering banjo...

Laminate floor with UFO lights, archetrave, mains socket and hovering banjo...

KIBÄK - one of the many classy rug designs available from IKEA (not that Im trying to compromise your right to a free democratic choice)...

KIBÄK - one of the many classy rug designs available from IKEA (not that I'm trying to compromise your right to a free democratic choice)...

So, the important question. Which rug? Here’s an IKEA search to get you started. This isn’t a poll, it’s a free choice for readers of this blog, so you can suggest styles and colours. Please add comments on this post, or via my Facebook page. You will of course be asked for your opinion on matching drum shells when the time comes…

Rug-a-round… now!

Different light

He's not called Artis for nothing, you know!

He's not called Artis for nothing, you know...

Day 7 of phase 2. Today Jeff went out hunting and managed to capture an air-conditioning unit. Meanwhile back on-site, Artis took time out from his heavy schedule of banana-drawing (see photo) to construct some lighting boxes. And the lights are going to be fantastic. There will be eight downlighters in the control room – four built into the baffle above the monitors, and four across the centre of the room. There will be a dimmer switch in each room, and each light is built into its own cube-shaped box, ensuring that the bulbs don’t touch the rockwool, and allowing hot air to escape safely into the ceiling void. The light fittings are moveable so each 35W lamp can be angled as needed.

Think this looks easy? YOU try hanging a door with 1mm accuracy!

Think this looks easy? YOU try hanging a door with 1mm accuracy...

Both interior doors are now fitted. They’re pretty dense as they are, but the guys will be adding an MDF layer to the lobby side of each door to add density (the door and its hinges being potentially the weakest point in the room in acoustic isolation terms). The art and craftsmanship of pro door-hanging is truly a thing to behold. There’s a perfect coin gap all the way down – a £1 fits snugly and a 50p rattles around. This is a pretty phenomenal achievement when you think about it – fitting a 40KG 2m high door within less than 1mm tolerance. I once tried to hang a bathroom door at my previous house. I did such a bad job that I had to move house to avoid the embarrassment…

On the music front, we’ve temporarily stopped listening to Skyforger and have now moved on to Jackyl – AC/DC blues with live chainsaw solos. Oh yes!

Moveable light fitting, fitted into the wooden panel that forms the lower side of the 'lighting cube' in the ceiling

Moveable light fitting, slotted into the wooden panel that forms the lower side of the 'lighting cube' in the ceiling

Here's how the lighting panel will fit into the ceiling. Artis tries valiantly to get out of shot but realises at the last minute that his arms aren't long enough...

Here's how the lighting panel will fit into the ceiling. Artis tries valiantly to get out of shot but realises at the last minute that his arms aren't long enough.

Air refrigeration units run wild and free in the forests of Bath, you know...

Air refrigeration units run wild and free in the forests of Bath. You just have to know where to go hunting.