July 19, 2022
INSIDE TRACK: Silver Shark Studios
Silver Shark Studios is based in South London and offers one of the best synth rooms we've seen in ANY recording studio. We speak with owner Grant Strang about how his ambition to create one of the UK's best facilities for synth recording came together…
How long has Silver Shark been running?The studio has been around for 20 years and was originally set up by the producer Pat Collier (Primal Scream, Wonderstuff, Robyn Hitchcock & The Vibrators). I took it over 4 years ago and was keen to put my own mark on the place. My big love is synthesizers and the studio gave me an opportunity to build something utilising my own collection of vintage synths and outboard while retaining the original drum room and live space so I can record guitar bands and other genres.
The synth room here is really outstanding! What made you want to set it up in the first place?I’ve run studios for over 10 years and I always wanted to set up a commercial facility offering artists access to a wide range of classic high-end synths which they can use in their own projects. It’s something I’ve never really seen done properly anywhere else. I’ve collected synths over many years, but I was adamant that I didn’t want Silver Shark to just become a “synth museum” – I really want this to be an active working facility with the synths in regular use. Some of these synths are old and notoriously unreliable and that brings its own set of problems as they need servicing and repair more than newer models. It's one of the reasons we have a broad mix of old and new synths here, it gives us a good balance but also ensures that if any of the old classic instruments are away being serviced there is always plenty of kit here for people to work and be creative with.
There are some lovely vintage pieces here – I haven't seen a Waldorf Wave in a very long time! How easy is it to keep that stuff maintained these days?Yes, we have a great selection of vintage classics here including the Roland Jupiter 6, Jupiter 8, Juno 6, Prophet T8 and what is probably the main attraction - our Roland System 100M modular wall. It can be challenging but there are some great synth techs out there and spares are still available for most of the older kit. I guess if it was easy to keep these things in good shape then everybody would be doing it – it’s a labour of love to a large extent and regular servicing goes with the territory.
The Roland System 100M modular system is a beast – how long did it take you to put that together?Yes, it’s one of my favourite things here. It took me a few years to get it into its current form. I now have at least one of every module that made it in to production. I started off with the classic D system consisting of five modules and a keyboard which I bought about 7 years ago from a shop on Denmark Street and it has grown since then. I was particularly lucky to find someone who was selling quite a few modules a few years ago and it's then grown via the usual auction sites and swapping modules with other 100M users. The Vemia auction site has been a good source for System 100M gear. It’s becoming harder to get now though and seems be gaining in popularity again. Rightly so, it sounds absolutely huge!
In addition to your lounge areas, the studio is made up of three spaces – live room, synth room and control room. How do the rooms interact?The control room houses all the newer synths as well as the classic Jupiters and Prophet T8. It's linked via audio and MIDI lines to the synth room - we call it the “70s Synth Room” given the age of a lot of the gear in there! The modular wall is in that room along with the Yamaha CS80 and older Korg synths. Everything can be run independently or can be run back into the control room. All audio runs through a digital mixer which also serves as a USB audio interface giving you 16 channels of I/O allowing you to plug in a laptop and start recording. You can also just plug in a SD card and record a live jam if you wanted. Everything is clocked and synced up so it’s possible to trigger from a project in the main room or from your own laptop. I have made these rooms as flexible as possible while trying to ensure everything remains simple to use. You can book this room and use it completely independently if access to the synths is all you need. We also have the live room and drum booth which houses our vintage 60s Ludwig kit. The kit is usually set up and ready to go so if you have a synth project that wants live drums then it’s straightforward to record – it’s a great sounding kit and we regularly get complimented on the drum sound from that room. Because the rooms can be used independently, if people just want to use the modular set up while another member of the band is editing or mixing in the control room, they can do that easily and keep the vibe and production process moving along. Seeing the studio back in action after the pandemic, it’s hugely rewarding to see the space being used as I’d hoped - it all works together really well.
You've got a tidy SSL G-Series console and a well-chosen range of outboard – what sort of recording projects do you have coming in?I’ve thought of getting rid of the SSL, but it’s such a useful centrepiece and even if you just think of it as a summing mixer with EQ’s, it would cost a fortune to replicate that functionality with outboard, so it's staying put for now. We do everything here from full band recordings to voice overs. Recently we have had producers and writers in using the synths, bands doing drums and live tracking sessions and a choir recording tracks for their new album as well as regular work from Miloco, record labels and artist management. I’m hoping that as labels become more aware of what we can offer that this will become a “go-to” facility for synth recording.