George Martins AIR Studios

AIR studios is a coveted destination on the recording bucket list for many musicians, composers and producers. Recently, the composer duo Mark Cousins and Adam Saunders had the chance to make their way to AIR studios, and told us what makes AIR studios so special and how their sessions there went down.

Why did you choose to record at AIR studios?

Mark & Adam: We’ve recorded the last few orchestral projects for Sonoton Music at Abbey Road’s Studio 1, which has been great, but we wanted to try the hall at Air Studios for this one. Obviously, Lyndhurst Hall has got a great reputation as Hans Zimmer’s studio of choice, but we were intrigued to see how our music would work in that space. All studios have a significant (and unique) imprint on the music that’s recorded within their walls, so it was a great opportunity to try something new.

What were your impressions of AIR studios?

Mark & Adam: Sonically speaking, Lyndhurst Hall has a nice balance between it being a large space, with a natural reverberance, without the sonic details being sacrificed in anyway. A lot of the space in the room is vertical and, thanks to an adjustable ‘cloud’ system that floats above the recording area, you can somewhat fine-tune the sound of the room to the music you’re recording.

Control Room @ AIR-Studios

What distinguishes AIR studios from other studios?

Mark & Adam: To be fair, all the big London studios – including AIR, Abbey Road and Angel – are a fantastic convergence of technical excellence and the creative arts. The quality of the musicianship, the innovation in the recording practices – these are world-class in every respect! AIR, of course, is arguably one of the newer facilities – being first opened back in the early 90s – so I think there are aspects of its design and layout that are a good fit to modern recording practices.

What does the history of the studio – being founded by Sir George Martin – mean to you?

Mark & Adam: Sir George Martin had a massive input on the evolution of the recording studio and practices used within it, with AIR arguably being the culmination of all those years in the business. There’s also Sir George Martin’s close association with Neve, helping develop many of their consoles, which led right through to the Neve 88R at the heart of Lyndhurst Hall. When you’re working at AIR you can feel that history surrounding you, not to mention the great music that’s been recorded there over the years.

How would you describe the cooperation with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra?

Mark & Adam: The RPO is one of the finest orchestras in the world and is known for its incredible versatility. The musicians are just as at home performing classical greats in the world’s concert halls as they in the recording studio, recording film soundtracks and popular albums. The players are always an absolute delight to work with and what better occasion for them to join us for a Sonoton Music Production! We experienced ‘Royal Music’ being played by a ‘Royal Orchestra’, something that sounds like a one-of-a-lifetime occurrence.

Lyndhurst Hall

The sessions were conducted by Pete Harrison. What makes him such a great conductor?

Mark & Adam: As well as Pete being a world-class conductor – both in the concert hall and recording studio, we have developed a great friendship with him. Over the past decade, in many occasions we were the three of us working together. We now consider Pete to be the ‘house conductor’ for our productions in London and Europe as he has a total understanding of our requirements and way of working when we are in the studio together. Pete is much-loved by the orchestral musicians, most of whom have known him for many years. Pete is also a regular conductor of Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, he made it for very pleasant sessions, with many smiling faces in the orchestra! He has a great way of producing the highest results – but also making it enjoyable for the players with his subtle sense of humour and fun!

How was your experience working with the sound engineer Paul Golding during the sessions?

Mark & Adam: Paul is a vastly experienced engineer, having worked on countless film and TV soundtracks, along with a long list of album recordings over the last 35 or so years, including the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Downton Abbey TV series and movies. He is always a pleasure to work with, having a friendly and calm personality which is matched by an incredible knowledge of recording skills that has earned him a reputation of the highest respect in the music business. It’s always a pleasure to work with Paul and we are always assured of an amazing recording.

From left to right: Jedidiah Rimell, Paul Golding, Pete Harrison, Mark Cousins, Adam Saunders, Gianluca Massimo

What can you tell us about your project “The Royals”?

Mark & Adam: It has been an absolute joy to write the music for “The Royals”. The concept was originally suggested by Gerhard Narholz to tie in with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year, but we soon realised that the scope of royal music was quite vast – from serious documentaries about real-life royalty to fantastic tales of princesses and enchanted kingdoms. In keeping with this, there’s a range of musical styles that takes us from vibrant royal brass fanfares, through to sumptuous and stately strings creating a sense of duty and honour. What ties all of this together is the sound of the RPO and the studios at AIR, which give the music a real sense of sophistication, poise, and class. In fact, it’s been such a delight to write and record we’ve even started talking about a second volume…so watch this space!