Martin Smith’s Mu Studios at The Laundry Rooms, photo courtesy of The Laundry Rooms

The story behind Sheffield’s independent recording studio – The Laundry Rooms

Sheffield Unchained guest contributor, Thomas Lebioda, meets with one of Sheffield’s independent recording studios, The Laundry Rooms. Thomas uncovers the story behind the studio’s connection to internationally renowned bands The Prodigy, Gomez and Bombay Bicycle Club.

Armed with a voice-recorder, a notebook and a strong sense of anticipation I took a stroll along Abbeydale Road. My destination was The Laundry Rooms recording studio. Being a musician I’ve had the chance to see many a music studio from the inside and sound studios in particular, I once even helped to build one. This recording studio, as a matter of fact, has been built into the premises of the old Snow Bright Laundry and not only for that reason has it piqued my curiosity.

Established in 2008, The Laundry Rooms is still quite a young enterprise but it has become one of Sheffield’s most cutting-edge facilities for music production. Its owners Dave Hadley and Jon Burton have both been sound engineers for decades, mainly in the live business. Having spent many years on the road, they have been working as the front-of-house eminences for internationally operating bands such as The Prodigy, Gomez and Bombay Bicycle Club.

Their expertise, affinity for and accumulation of the finest equipment, together with a growing demand for the mixing of live recordings at low cost, eventually led them to the idea of putting their own small studio together. The initial plan went as far as a mixing room with a small vocal booth. In the end the result was a successfully operating high-end studio with five control rooms and a live room big enough to host a band.

Main studio at The Laundry Rooms, photo courtesy of The Laundry Rooms

Main studio at The Laundry Rooms, photo courtesy of The Laundry Rooms

Preoccupied with such staggering advance information and the inquisitive notion that this story could quite possibly make an interesting writ for Sheffield Unchained, I rang their door bell.

At my arrival, co-owner Dave Hadley and his colleague and permanent tenant Martin Smith (producer) welcomed me hospitably with about a gallon of (very strong) freshly brewed coffee. A rigorous conversation about the music industry and its metamorphosis, contemporary music consumerism, the asserted erosion of quality in music and production, the death (and rebirth) of “The Album” and the idiosyncrasies of crowd sourced fundraising, got me so immersed that I completely forgot to turn on my voice-recorder or make notes.

Only when we took a short break because we found that we had to brew more coffee, did I remember that I purposefully arranged this interview to find out more about this amazing place and their dedicated representatives.

Listen to Thomas talking with Martin Smith and Dave Hadley about how The Laundry Rooms came about…

The ambitious task of designing five fully functioning studio rooms with full access to one live room was delegated to Roger D’Arcy, a luminary studio designer of international reputation. The architectural structure and acoustic design of the compound as a whole, as well as every individual room, has been crafted very intricately. All the control rooms are acoustically isolated from each other and the live room, despite being right next to each other.

Besides the two owners, The Laundry Rooms currently hosts three permanent tenants, of which every individual specialises in a different genre of music:

Jon Burton – sound engineer and part owner, currently on tour with The Prodigy as Front of House

Dave Hadley – sound engineer and part owner, Tour Manager and Front of House of the band Gomez and Ben Ottewell

Martin Smith – producer, songwriter and guitarist, several projects in various genres of pop music

Steve Nichols – writer, producer, re-mixer “Shake Aletti”

Lahroiya – producers and DJs of trance music

Martin Smith's Mu Studios at The Laundry Rooms, photo courtesy of The Laundry Rooms

Martin Smith’s Mu Studios at The Laundry Rooms, photo courtesy of The Laundry Rooms

As an upshot, The Laundry Rooms struck me as an exceptionally open, flexible and friendly environment. The main impression I got was that it is more than just a resource for producers who simply need a good recording facility for their projects.

As well as continuing to work with well established and successful artists The Laundry Rooms team is also constantly on the lookout for bands and projects as well as individual musicians from the local scene who are keen to work to an exceedingly high level.  They have supported and worked with many a talented young artist and helped them to reach the next level and are always open to new ideas.