John Waterhouse & Our Recording Process

Left to right: Paula, Jess, Rasha, John Waterhouse.

“Set in a back street in the heart of leafy Clifton Village, Christchurch Studios started life as a brewery and eventually became a church hall for Christchurch in Clifton. The BBC acquired it sometime in the 40’s, before converting it into “Europe’s best radio drama studio” in the 1980’s. It was bought by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 1998 to serve as one of their teaching facilities and is now returning to service as a one of the leading recording spaces in the UK. It’s probably the largest dedicated studio facility in Bristol. Run by a group of seasoned professionals and music lovers, Christchurch is perfect for any recording task. Packed full of vintage gear and world class spaces, it is one of the best equipped studios in the UK.

Over the years the studio has served a number of recording artists including Van Morrison, PJ Harvey, Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage), Liz Fraser, The Fratellis, Goldfrapp, Massive Attack and Andy Sheppard. For film and TV, it has been used by most British TV channels (BBC, Channel 4 and countless others) for soundtrack, post production and ADR recording.” – Christchurch Studios

Having played many gigs and recording a good demo, we really wanted to record an album, but we were not signed. We all trained in music technology, but we didn’t have the digital facilities or space to record our own album. We also knew the value of having a great producer to collaborate with to develop our recorded sound, to give it coherence and style in stereo. This potential really excited us as we already understood the creative possibilities of production, recording and the mix. We met few female engineers at the time. Women working in studios or producing was, and still is to this day, a rare thing.  

Finally, we met John Waterhouse (producer) in Bristol, and the creative possibilities of recording an album were realised and explored. The experience of making two albums was unforgettable. We really enjoyed both the live and studio experience.

With a local profile we were on many occasions invited to perform and do an interview on local radio stations including BBC Bristol. Gary and Richard from local station Star FM were supporters of our music and they introduced us to John Waterhouse. This is where being connected to the local music community and radio was essential to develop an audience and gain some momentum to record and distribute. Bristol as a creative city is small enough to be able to navigate through, accessing musical communities and local media who are approachable, encouraging new talent and artists who are creating their own undefinable sound.

Meeting John Waterhouse at Christchurch Studios was an incredibly special meeting of minds and opportunity. He became our fifth band member, collaborator and friend, producing both albums. He inspired us and opened our ears to his original ideas, creating our sound in the studio. It was so great to hear our songs finally recorded, produced and listened to loud, through large studio speakers.  Recording an album and having studio time without a label was also a unique opportunity; downtime was a word we were all familiar with and even that was a luxury.

During this experience our relationship with John developed into an enriching creative collaboration. He gave us so much of his time where he shared new mixes and new creative ideas throughout the process opening up new possibilities for the songs and album. This included mixing backing vocals, transforming and rearranging sections within the song. This process felt natural and experimental. We recorded both our albums with John and the second album was recorded live over two days. This was an exciting collective musical experience, developing our music at this level.

John at the mixing desk, with Mooz looking on

Our first meeting with John was an invitation to Christchurch studios to record music for video for the students at the Old Vic Theatre School to practice their sound and filming techniques. The studio we used at the time was owned by the school. We decided to record the song Pigeon.

After recording this video John wanted to work with us on our album and offered us downtime. He took us under his wing and allowed us to explore our sound, playing different instruments, building up layers of sounds and bringing in other musicians including saxophone player Andy Shepherd who had a studio in the building at the time and wanted to play on our track S.I. The creative energy in the building had presence; it was a wonderful and magical experience. John was a unique and very experienced and creative professional; his dedication and generosity will never be forgotten.

The studio was memorable; ‘the mothership’ recording booth overlooked a large studio hall with the added benefit of its remaining features when it was a BBC Radio Drama studio including Foley, echo chambers, doors, locks, gravel and a great box of ‘toys’ to record.

Once ensconced in the studio Mooz went experimental crazy …

“We used all sorts of sound effects,” says Paula. “Gravel, children’s toys, drainpipes. Our producer decided to record our songs through a drainpipe. He is brilliant at that, encouraging us to do unusual things and play around with sound.” – The Big Issues, 2002, “Schmoozing with Mooz”, Will Simpson

During our musical journey on the first album together as a band, we shared and used a variety of different instruments and sounds including didgeridoo, clarinet, mouth organ, guitar, flute, puppets, glass rims, horns, ball bearings on chord harp. Other musicians contributed to this album on ‘Seesaw’ Saw player (Peter Nicholas), Flugel (Pete Judge) and Saxaphone harmonics (Andy Sheppard) both on S.I., clapping, backing vocals (John Waterhouse, Ian Humphreys) also on S.I.