The Story Behind Abbey Road’s New Studios (Pt.2)

19th June 2017

The completion of construction of two new recording studios, The Gatehouse and The Front Room, as well as a Shop and Mix Stage for film post production marks the biggest expansion to have taken place at Abbey Road Studios since it first opened its doors for business back in 1931.

In the second of a two part post, Abbey Road’s Head of Technical Services, Simon Campbell, the man tasked with executing this mammoth and historic feat of construction at the studios, tells the story behind the building work, the meetings with operational, technical and commercial experts and gives his personal thanks to all the people involved in the development of the new spaces.

"Throughout this, the external building work commenced in the garden for our Dolby Atmos equipped mix stage as well as, on the other side of the site, our sub-station and one of the new recording spaces, later to be called the Gatehouse. The sub-station is housed in a newly built structure while the Gatehouse is a pre- existing building that has been gutted then built up from what were historically three listening rooms/production spaces.

Given the Dolby Atmos mix stage and the world of film audio post production is a little removed from what Abbey Road has been known for over the years there was a fair amount of investigative work required to make sure we were making the right decisions (or at least not the wrong ones) throughout the process. This mainly consisted of sitting down with many operational, technical and commercial experts throughout the film audio post industry, chatting over a cup of tea, metaphorical or otherwise. Indeed, in October 2016, whilst the teams here continued to pull everything together, Abbey Road MD Isabel Garvey, Studios Manager Fiona Gillott and Head of Technical Services me, headed off to California for a week. In LA, in between the strawberry daiquiris, we visited (in chronological order) Disney, Universal, Amblin, Fox, Lantana, MGM, Warner Bros, Paramount and Sony before heading up to Skywalker Sound in Marin County.

A huge thank you to everyone, over there and over here before and since you’re been so damn nice, helpful, supportive and generous with your time that what we’ve achieved here is yours as well ours and we look forward to working with all of you.

Anyway, back to the building sites as they transformed from the shell and core stage through the mechanical and electrical fit outs to the acoustic treatment installations. As 2016 turned into 2017 what was left of the enchilada was in full swing including the second of the two new recording spaces - since dubbed the Front Room - with the works to the garage and the landscaping of the garden bringing up the rear.

With the opening dates for the Mix Stage, Gatehouse and Front Room fast approaching the technical team assumed the position and once again played a blinder, pulled it out of the bag and smashed it out of the park. Miles of cable, thousands of connections, much perspiration and no little inspiration were run, soldered/crimped, shed and struck respectively . The horn/soft dome switching feature on the screen speakers found in the Mix Stage or the iPad monitor GUI devised by our very own Dan Cole and Ian Taylor in the same space - from Dan’s incomparable work on the whole monitor chain here -  maintains the level of invention which has long been a trait at Abbey Road Studios.

With Dan, Ian, Dave and our newly appointed Sound Mix Technician Kobi Quist largely if not wholly occupied on the Mix Stage at this stage, elsewhere on the technical front, and without sounding like an unfinished game of Cluedo; Zoran Veselinovic was in The Gatehouse, Jim Jones and Gareth Bowsher were everywhere else while Matt Kingdon and Leon Marks were in The Front Room and everywhere else.

If this were a pirate radio station the amount of shout outs to everyone at Abbey Road that made all this happen would preclude the time available to play any solid gold bangers, but special mention should go to Isabel of course, the aforementioned Ian H. who has been with me and all over it since the pre-planning days, Matt Mysko for his work on and in The Gatehouse and Front Room, everyone I’ve already mentioned and not least of all everyone I haven’t, past and present.

Finally a big thank you to all our clients, visiting artists, musicians and guests who have been so patient and understanding with all the building work that’s been going on throughout the place.

P.S. below is a non-exhaustive list of 3rd party associates that helped us get to where we are today so thank you all:

• Colliers International • Porta Planning • Munro Acoustics • Asset Heritage • Heyne Tillett Steel • MLM Building Control • Barrell Tree Care • GDM Partnership • Chapman Waterworth Architects • AROS Architects • G&A Electrical • United Facilities Management • Level Acoustic Design • Nick Whitaker Electro-acoustics • Miloco Builds • Paragon Interserve • Kingly Developments • HHB Communications • FX Rentals • KMR Audio • Kazbar Systems • Jigsaw 24 • Bell Theatre Services • AKA Design • AMS Neve • Frozen Fish Design • Powell Cinema Engineers • HYMO Lifts • VDC • Belcom • Langdale Technical • Partners In Retail • Lumsden Design • Appleton & Co Design • Desmond & Sons •