A studio in the basement of a ukulele shop in London? It seemed like a nutty idea, but there it was, and owner Simon Trought, along with Giles Barrett, had been knocking out some of London's coolest records during the last few years. The Television Personalities, Let's Wrestle, Allo Darlin', The Wave Pictures, Comet Gain and others ventured out of this basement with happening tracks. But when I showed up it quickly became apparent that a studio move was in order, and in December 2010 the new Soup Studio opened up in London. I wish I'd been there for the beer-fueled opening party!
You've been in this space for five years? The ukulele shop has been upstairs?
Simon Trought: Yeah. We moved in at the same time. I had another studio space further up in north London and a band came in to record. I got to know them quite well, and the drummer from the band is Matthew Reynolds, the man himself: "The Duke Of Uke."
Giles Barrett: I've never seen him drum in all this time.
ST: I know! Yeah, he was a great drummer as well. Just, like caveman style. He had this madcap idea to open a ukulele shop. He saw that I was unhappy where I was. He had this basement space [and said], "Let's move it down here."
It's a tiny space.
ST: Yeah, it's worked out fine. Like, up until about a year ago. Now a lot of bands come down to look 'cause they've heard stuff we've recorded, so they want to record here and then they come here and think... it's not an insult, but they just can't fit in here. You know, their band's too big, they've got too much gear, you know...
ST: ...nowhere to store cases, even. The big projects that we've done, I've taken a lot of stuff out and put it in my flat. You know, everywhere is a case, everywhere is a body...
Have you had to work at alternating times with the store?
ST: No, no! It's fine. Yeah, the door's always open! That's the good thing.
Do players drop through?
ST: Whenever you've got a session on there are always other players coming down to hang out.
GB: The one problem we do have is [that] they have a ukulele class upstairs, in the evenings. You know, the floor's pretty good except if you have 20 people tapping their foot in unison.
ST: Yeah, [if you're] trying to do some quiet vocal or something...
That's when you do the electric guitar overdubs. (laughs)
ST: Yes, yes.
ST: But it's been good. Matthew loves the studio being down here. That's why he's so tolerant of it. He wants people to know it's here.
How did you guys both get your start in recording? I assume as musicians?
ST: I always had a little Tascam Porta 05 at home. My dad's a guitar player and had a little hobby room in the house and it was great — every Christmas I'd get these hand-me-downs. Uh, you know, a guitar he didn't want and then finally the 4-track when I was about 12 or 13. I had that all the way through college, recorded all the bands I was in at college. The fun, stoned bedroom recordings and just nonsense. I've got boxes and boxes of old cassette tapes with load of crap on them, but I don't want to get rid of them!
Of course! [To GB] What was your story?
GB: I started on computers. Like, my brother's in a band. I started recording him when I went off to university. Then a band who was really ready to do a good record — they've since been signed and stuff — they were called the Maccabees. I was like, "Oh, shit! I better hire a room real quick!" I was playing in a band called Hexicon. We came and recorded down here with Simon. Three years ago now?
ST: I think so, yeah.
GB: ...and it just happened to be just as we were getting evicted from our old place around the corner. There was a big studio complex above an Islamic school, so, they tolerated us for a while, but they decided that we weren't to be in the same building. But then it just so happened that Simon needed some more help down here.
Do you just do different sessions, bring in different sessions here or...
ST: Yeah, he's great! Giles had a good collection of mics and a nice set of speakers and some juicy bits. We pooled it...