Flood & Alan Moulder Interview at Assault & Battery 2
Shortly after the official unveiling of Assault & Battery 2, Miloco sat down with producers Flood and Alan Moulder to discuss their latest creation. Here you can read what Flood and Alan have to say about this incredible tracking studio, it's amazing gear spec, the vision they had behind it's regeneration and the vision they have for it's future.
Miloco: The studio's looking great so many congratulations on the whole job. Has it all gone as smoothly as you'd hoped?
Flood: I'd say it's probably gone more smoothly. One of the major things we've enjoyed working with Miloco, is the setting up, doing all the preparation and installing, and just all the admin side of things has gone absolutely brilliantly. I mean everything was turned around in, what, three weeks was it? And even getting the desk over and sorting all that out. So that for us has been one of the major pluses with working with a professional body of people.
Miloco: The atmosphere in the studio is quite spectacular, with a very dark vibey theme. What was the inspiration behind the theme, and more so was it a theme which you picked out to inspire you creatively?
Alan: Well I think so. To be honest I don't think we're quite finished with the themeing yet. I feel there's more to come! But we like the space, and we've had our eye on it ever since we've been down here, and we obviously knew the guys, Barney and Mark, who owned it before, so as soon as we found out it was available we became very interested.
Flood: And over the years, between myself and Alan, we've amassed very different bits of backline, mics and all sorts of weird bits of tackle, which are very representative of our own personalities. And so one of the things that we want from the studio, is to have somewhere that has a very appealing atmosphere to it, and one that's not corporate or bland.
Alan: Yeah we did find that we seemed to moan about how you'd go to every studio and they'd all look and sound a bit the same. So that's why we wanted something a bit different.
Miloco: Was it part of the vision to make the artists feel really at home by surrounding them in such a rare quantity of backline gear?
Alan: Very much so. That was one of the most foremost thoughts. Flood had a place in Kilburn, The Bedroom, which had an atmosphere to it that all the artists really seemed to like. It wasn't corporate, but it was light and homely. That's why it was called The Bedroom. So that was something that was very successful, and so we thought we should bring a bit of that in to this.
Flood: But also for producers and engineers, who can walk in and see straight away all the staples that you would expect, are there. So it's there to cater for both engineers and producers, and artists, when you find that most studios are normally designed to cater only for professional engineers and producers, and not so much for artists.
Miloco: Do you think a large choice of backline is something artists are looking for more and more at studios?
Alan: I don't think they're particularly looking for it, I think if its there it's great. But a lot of the time it might not be used - they might have their own stuff they want to use. It's just useful so that if they want to try something else, it's there.
Flood: It just gives people a range of different things to experiment with, as if you go somewhere else, a more conventional place, it's just not there. So a lot of artists find that appealing, even if it distracts them from the job in hand!
Miloco: So people will probably spend a lot of time experimenting with pretty much any thing up there that they can get their hands on...
Flood: Well we've only been doing one session, but having said that they have already started playing around with lots of different things and setting up two side rooms, so one room does all the keyboard stuff, and the other room they've been banging out b-sides in.
Miloco: About the synths. A lot of the focus on the Miloco website regarding the collection are the 2 very rare Roland System 700 Modular Systems. Only 40 were ever produced...
Flood: yeah when I read that I was intrigued. I never knew that!
Miloco: ... well we're intrigued to know how you managed to get your hands on two of them!
Flood: Well there was a period of time when I was looking to buy a small modular system.
Flood: Well, smallish then, compared to some of the enormous ones. And the guy who invented the old Wasp synth was selling his 700 for relatively cheap. So I bought it. And then about 4 years later, maybe 3, another one came up and at the same time so did the Moog modular. And they made me an offer, which was considerably more than what I paid for the first lot, but it still seemed good because it meant I could keep one in situ, and the other one I travelled with a lot. They don't like travelling too much so I just flight-cased one of them up to travel with. That was part of the reasoning. The other part was just, "well why not?" I could afford it at the time, and it's better to have them in use than just have them sat around doing nothing.
Miloco: What is it about these original synths that set them apart from their soft synth competitors?
Flood: It's a different animal. The soft synths really have their own place. I think it's a bit foolish to try and judge them as the same thing, or even as one being a facsimile, they're very different things. I mean the thing about old synths is that they're so tactile. You operate them in a completely different way, and they've all got their own sound, just as much as if you've got half a dozen guitars in a room - they all sound different.
Alan: I think also with soft synths you're likely to go through the pre-sets and tweak them from there. Whereas having the old thing there you've got to build it from scratch. So as Flood says, they sound slightly different obviously, but it's the way you approach using them that makes a lot of the difference.
Flood: A lot of people for instance use all of the synths more as modular filters and processors, and don't even bother with the oscillators, because you've got ring mod, filtering, reverb, phase, delay, you name it. You know, shove a Moog filter in front of a person who knows about it, sweep it through X, Y and Z and they'll cream themselves on the spot. So you don't have to use all the oscillators you know. As Al said, it's just a different way of working.
Miloco: So in that sense it's a lot more creative...
Flood: Well I suppose it means that you have to be creative, because it's a bit like starting from a blank canvas. Whereas with the soft synth, it's a bit like saying somebody's done the line-drawing, and it's how you tweak that. But with say the Moog modular, there really isn't going to be any sound coming out of that unless you know what you're doing, and you know how to patch it up and just go for it. But then that might lead you down a path you've never been down before.
Miloco: Are there any tried-and-tested combinations of guitars, pedals and amps up there which you personally like enough to keep going back to, because you know how good the sound will be?
Flood: Not really, no. I would say though that the Audio Kitchen amp, which people won't know about, but you've got to listen to it to believe it. It's just like the best sounding amp I've heard in years.
Alan: Yeah, It's this bespoke amp, made by this company Audio Kitchen. Tiny 7 watt amp, but for driven, clean and clear sounds, I've never come across anything like it...
Miloco: So how about everything in the control room then. You've obviously got a massive selection of outboard in there as well, with all of the mic amps particularly standing out. What are your particular preferences with the mic amps at the moment?
Alan: I think I love those Helios the most
Flood: Yeah, they're my favourites as well
Alan: We're still looking to add to the mic amps though really.
Flood: Yeah in an ideal world. But what have we got up there at the moment? Summits, TLA, Focusrites
Flood: Yeah Tridents, Helios.. So what we now want to add is probably API's - either 1073s or 1066s. Maybe even the digital versions - but yeah its something we're looking at adding to...
Miloco: You've of course put a Neve VR60 up there now as well. What was behind choosing a Neve for the room?
Alan: The price. The price probably did it for me!!
Flood: Ha ha ha ha!!!
Alan: Ok but seriously. I suppose we were looking for something different. We've got an SSL down here, and Neves are good tracking boards, and, well it's true. It was good value for money! It's a big board!
Flood: We looked at vintage consoles, and basically for three times the amount of money, you get half the amount of channels, and all the other crap that goes with it. We wanted to make it something where there was a huge degree of flexibility. To have 60 channels ready to go, and you don't have to go, "oh god is that not working today? I've only got 30 channels to do a full live band and orchestra this afternoon..." Yes you get the sound, but with the right mic amps you can get that flavour if you want from desks that aren't vintage. And as we said we're adding to the mic amps...
Alan: We originally thought we were going to get a vintage board. But looking into it, 1) it was cost prohibitive, because if we got the board we wouldn't have been able to get all the other things we did, and 2) we'd both been using vintage desks elsewhere and had been having numerous nightmares with them going wrong. So in the end we just thought sod that! It's also not what we're about. Some people are prepared to pay over the odds for stuff, because of the name and all the emotional attachment to it that people put on. But we're not like that, we just judge everything on what it is. And as Flood said,you get the best of both worlds with the Neve.
Flood: It's getting vintage though. I'd say it's a vintage Neve board. '91 or something...
Miloco: And Alan, you already knew this particular desk having worked on it for a Monster Magnet album...
Alan: Yeah I'd mixed Dopes To Infinity on it and I thought it sounded great.
Miloco: Did that go a long way in persuading you that this was the desk for the room?
Alan: Well. I know there are lots of different opinions to this argument and debate, but we think that all boards sound different. Every board has its own individual characteristic sound. So it's reassuring to have worked on a console before you bought it and liked the sound you got from it. Flood did a blind test on numerous boards.. what were they again?
Flood: It was 2 VRs, 2 APIs and 2 SSLs, and basically what I did for one Pumpkins album was we put 2 tunes on multi-track, and I went to the studios that I was checking out to see where I wanted to mix it, or should I say where Alan was going to mix it, and basically they all had the same tape machine, which was an 820. And so what I did was I put all the faders in a straight line, and then just recorded that straight onto a DAT, and then try and get a balance in the room, and then put that on the DAT as well. We then went back to HQ and had a listen. So theoretically, outside of wiring, the only difference between each room was the sound of the board, and I mean it was like night and day, night and day! There was one room where everyone complained about the bottom end which sounded really weird in the room, and we'd actually tracked in that room beforehand, and it was fine. But all they'd done is changed the board, and when we'd got the mix tests back, that particular room was so bass light, really bass light. It was just like "whhaaaat???" And the differences between the 2 E4000 SSL consoles - they just sounded totally different, totally different.
Miloco: You must have been extremely surprised by that...
Flood: I was! That was the thing. But then if you think about it they are all hand built, I mean I know a lot of it is just production line. So somebody's got to actually install it and put all the wiring in and the rest, and somebody might have a bad day and get one of the major buses down a bit, you know...
Miloco: So you've mentioned your plans to expand on the mic amp selection, but is there anything else you are thinking of adding to the studio in terms of equipment? It must be hard to imagine there's anything missing!
Flood: We're sort of looking at a few other staples, like a couple of other reverbs maybe. We tend to base everything on our own tastes, and we really like Eventide stuff a lot, and there's loads of Eventides up there, but there isn't a 224 or a 480, so that's the next thing we'll probably go for. But as you go along you might see something and think, "well I quite fancy that..."
Miloco: The huge presence of Flood's analogue gear at the studio offers a dream scenario for producers and engineers whose preferences steer towards classic vintage gear. In contrast, Alan, we hear you are always very keen to keep up-to-date with the latest tools, mac specs and so on. Bearing in mind the ever-growing shift towards digital methods in recording studios, do you think Assault & Battery 2 will too become increasingly digitaly orientated, or will you endeavor to maintain a healthy balance between digital and analogue options?
Alan: I think it is pretty digitally-orientated. The idea there is to have the best of both worlds. My view is that both are good, and its undeniable that tape has a place, and I really love the sound of tape. So the idea is just to keep them both. We like the idea of just being able to decide, "right today I want to use tape", 'cos you think it might be the best for the project, or that you are just bored, and you need something for a change. But everything will be available to you so you can choose.
Flood: It's the flexibility. There's loads and loads of plug-ins, samplers etc so the digital stuff is just as up-to-speed as the analogue.
Alan: And that will be stuff that we add to as well just as much as analogue. We have plenty of stuff we've got our eye on that we want to experiment with, so that will definitely progress as well.
Flood: I think it would be foolish to say that one way is better or worse than the other. There's good things from both. It's down to you and how you want to mix and match, or just exclusively do one thing or the other...
Miloco: Of course another clear-cut attribute which the studio possesses, and which the vast majority of other tracking rooms in London don't, is the sheer amount of space spread across the huge live area, and the two very large isolation booths. Drawing from your experiences, what will bands, producers and engineers get most out of working in such an unusually expansive and spacious environment?
Alan: Let's face it, I think it's always a good thing to have a bit of room. You'll be surprised how quickly it all gets taken up, you know, if the room's there you'll use it. We're trying to set up the main playing room so that if you didn't want to, you don't have to keep going back into the control room. We're going to try and have it so we have the monitoring in the playing room so everyone can almost stay in there. We want to make a really nice atmosphere in that playing room, so that bands feel comfortable in there to hang out, and not just to play. So we want as much comfort in there as in the control room.
Miloco: Well in terms of London, there really aren't many that size. So do you think a lot of artists who aren't used to that much space might find it refreshing and beneficial in a creative sense?
Flood: Well there aren't many these days, no. I guess it's down to how they use it though really. You can end up in an enormous room like that, but block it off down to a tiny little bit, if that's what you desire. But at least you've got the option. The problem with a lot of places now is that you just don't have the option to have that size.
Alan: But having said that we've both been saying that it would be interesting to use the bottom-end booth, and stick the whole band in there, to see what it sounded like just in that little room. It's a deader room, so that could be another option. Ok, you could say "for this song lets have a more claustrophobic sound" and put everyone in. Because you can fit a whole band in that booth, and can record like that, with all the spill really tight. But then for the next song, you might want a liver drum sound so put it in the main live room. So yeah, it's the choice.
Miloco: Besides comparing it to London studios, we should obviously note that you've both worked in studios all around the world. We were wandering if you'd seen anywhere in particular that had a direct influence on what your vision was for Assault & Battery 2. Did you see anywhere where you thought, "this is a great idea, we should do this back home..."?
Flood: Its probably more, "this is not what we want".
Alan: Yeah it's probably more the negative.
Flood: 'Cos that's the thing, you go around somewhere and it's a great place but you can never mimic that because it is individual. But you can easily go around to places and go "umph, I'm not having that in my place".
Miloco: Did you ever think backing the late 1980s when your first collaborations came about, that in 2008 you'd both have your own studio?
Flood: Probably not!!
Alan: Well probably not, but we probably wouldn't have been surprised either. Because we have talked about this for, well, even when we were at Trident. So it is something we've always talked about, but as you say, would we have envisaged this? Probably no.
Flood: I think it's more to do with the fact that neither of us actually wanted to run a studio. The idea of being in a creative environment with lots of different people around was something that always really appealed. But hopefully we're not now like the big bad bosses!
Alan: Yeah, to be honest, I don't think either one of us actually wanted to own a studio!! But then you get caught up in it. Once you've got all this gear, then where the hell are you going to put it?
Miloco: So how might the future look for the Flood & Alan Moulder partnership? Now you have this incredible tracking studio together, and of course you both have one of the best mixing rooms in the world downstairs, can we expect many more collaborations to come?
Flood: I suspect that in the next six months or so there might be a few things where I'm recording them, and Al might end up mixing them. There might be one thing, if they ever get back to me, but yeah there might be a possible one..
Alan: Yeah it will be very handy, certainly how Flood works, in that you'll be recording in one room, and the mixing can be going on downstairs. So we can really keep things moving and ticking over. It's handy being in the same building.
Flood: Mmmm. It's down to my bad time management, that I have to run four studios at once in order to get the thing finished!
Alan: But that's the great thing about this place, even if this mix room (Assault & Battery 1) is busy, or whatever - it's like what we're planning to do in September - Flood's going to be recording in Assault & Battery 2, and then mixing in Alpha Centauri (an SSL mix room located in the same building run in partnership with Miloco).
Miloco: Are you looking to be based at Battery as much as possible, or will you be still looking at places elsewhere?
Flood: Basically the idea is to do as much stuff here as possible. Certainly from my point of view, although I'm going to probably be in the States a lot during the Autumn...
Alan: It's harder when you're producing and recording to dictate, because there are always certain factors that the band might want. The band might well want to record in their hometown if they've been touring for two years, and stuff like that.
Flood: Yep. But you know there's a large family of people who are all clubbing together - The Miloco group are one, there's my management company who look after quite a few people, as another, and so there should be a lot of people who all come through the building...
Miloco: Flood, you've obviously been in there straight away with The Hours. How's the early band feedback been?
Flood: Good. Funnily enough they knew the building before when it was the old Battery studio, and they, as they put it, "used to live here with Joe Strummer" - they worked on a lot of Joe Strummer records, so they know Barney the maintenance guy, and everyone else. But they've been really positive with the feedback. They're saying the building has kept the great vibe but everything's been brought up to speed. They like the studio so much so that they've said they want to do the whole record in there, so...
Miloco: Thank you both for your time, we just have one last question. You've now joined allegiance with Miloco Studios in the operation of this very exciting studio. It would be foolish to finish off the interview without asking you about what you think Miloco will be able to bring to Assault & Battery 2?
Alan: Well I think they've already brought a lot to it. From setting up the studio through to everything else. There's a lot of people with a lot of expertise down there. If there's ever a problem or question we have, they seem to be able to bring someone in to look at it the next day. Their efficiency and order and infrastructure is remarkably well run and well thought out.
Flood: I think it's a combination of about three things that we've talked about. The professionalism and attention to detail on things that normally people would not even worry about. Like with the maintenance, just being able to log your faults onto the site, it's looked at, and then sometimes when I get into the studio the fault's been fixed. That's brilliant. That is absolutely brilliant. Secondly it's the knowledge that like-minded people are trying to do something different in this sort of turbulent time, in a positive way - moving forward. And the third thing is that thing we've been talking about - bringing people through. It's something that me and Alan have talked about for years, and one of the reasons why we set up Assault & Battery in the first place was so that people could train. So what we know, we can pass onto people. There is nothing like learning in a working studio. When you are sat there in the hot seat, with a session that's going pear-shaped, there is no substitute for experience.
Alan: I think Miloco are very like-minded to us, their attention to detail, technical professionalism, and the fact that they work bloody hard.
Flood: But it's all to the common good. It's not like we've set up a fascist dictatorship where everyone feels like their going down the mines when they come through here. This project is here so that people can come on, and that we can actually make a difference. And Miloco are perfect to do it with.
Flood and Alan Moulder were talking to Miloco in August 2008.