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Microwave kills the studio star

2011-02-03 07:06
Why is it that every second person you meet these days have their own amateur music video clip on YouTube?

No joke! It has become fashionable for young musicians to use the web to promote themselves even prior to releasing their first CD.

When I was young, we used to do things the other way round. You first had to be noticed by a record company mogul, then sign a contract, etc., before even thinking of a marketing campaign.

Artists didn’t promote themselves by having a buddy taking video clips of them strumming their little sisters’ nylon string guitars at home in their own kitchens between the microwave and the fridge.

Speaking of which: there’s another silent revolution underway. I would not have known of it had (Channel24's) Jean Barker not pitched up at my house one day three years ago with her laptop computer to help me record the very first version of "Die Fokkol Song"  … in my own lounge.

Everyone's doing it

Now, of course, everyone’s doing it. Increasingly simple and cheap new IT-technology is in fact rumoured to one day replace recording studios completely!
I have mixed feelings about this. I know studios don’t come cheap, but personally I love them. The product they deliver in the end is – at this stage of technological evolution - still infinitely superior to what can be achieved in my own kitchen.

However, with the recession, and what with album sales dropping because of piracy and free downloads, more and more ouens are forced to take shortcuts. Ever since Bruce Springsteen released Nebraska, this new dawn has been beckoning.

Will the great studios of rock ‘n roll, with their huge cockpits with rows and rows of dials and knobs and incomprehensible diagrams on gigantic screens one day become as extinct as hand-held guitar tuners, combed hair and tie-dye T-shirts? Boney M will turn in their graves the day that happens!

There’s absolutely nothing like the feeling of walking into the studio on the first day of working on a new album. My favourite studio – Sunset Studios outside Stellenbosch - is simply a heavenly place to work in.


It has become a tradition to hire them once every year or two. Once the sponsors have been lined up, the songs all written and approved by the producer, and with new strings on my guitar, I would get in my car and drive there on a winding path that leads through vineyards and past mountain peaks.

I would park, usually next to a horse or some livestock – the studio is on a farm, as you have gathered – and dodge a few dangerous-looking dogs to walk in the front door, where the smell of freshly-brewed coffee would hit me in the face.

In the cockpit, my pals – the engineers, arrangers and fellow musos - would all be waiting, bright and breezy and enthusiastic to begin.

Psst: between you and me, rockers love working in studios. It’s their only time to ever feel as if they’ve got a respectable day-time job, like a lawyer or a dentist. It is certainly less draining on the spirit than all these late night gigs with too much dop and too much vroumense. (Ask Anton Marshall if you don’t believe me.)

Anyway, in the future, all this may change. Every time inspiration hits me, I will just walk into my kitchen and switch on the laptop. Recording a new album will be as easy as making a cup of instant coffee.

But hell, there will be days when I’m sure going to miss the smell of Sunset Studios' home brew…

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