Technology has advanced so much in recent years that you can record music almost anywhere, yet when most artists think about laying down some new tracks their first choice of recording venue is the studio.
Many great albums have been recorded in more interesting – or downright weird – environments. Johnny Cash, for example, recorded two albums within the walls of prisons: At Folsom Prison in 1968 and At San Quentin (which featured A Boy Named Sue) in 1969.
The White Stripes made De Stijl in Jack White’s living room (why leave home if you don’t have to?), the Orphan Brigade recorded an album in a haunted house in Kentucky and Nine Inch Nails created The Downward Spiral in Charles Manson’s old mansion (a bit macabre we know, but you get the point).
One long-time fan of recording outside the studio is producer Ben Hillier (U2, Blur and Nadine Shah). In an interview with iSing he said: “Some people feel a sense of validation when they record in a big studio. They like having someone sitting on the other side of the glass. I enjoy working in different environments. A lot of vocals are recorded in dead, controlled spaces, chosen to allow the engineer and producer to do what they need to do. It’s hard to be inspired in a place like that. You run the risk of getting a dead, dry vocal.”
Hillier worked with Blur on Think Tank (made in Marrakech, Morocco) and with Nadine Shah on the Mercury Prize nominated Holiday Destinations (recorded in a curtain warehouse).
Choosing a venue with interesting acoustics, or one that makes you feel inspired or creative, can add an extra dimension to the final product.
“My advice is: find an environment that makes you feel special,” Hillier says.