Not Your Average Recording Studio
It’s not unusual for these creative minds to record outside the studio – castles, exotic locations, houseboats and haunted estates. But as the cliche goes, there’s no place like home even if you’re a huge rockstars. Of course it goes without saying that it has its pros and cons but in the end, they all have their reasons why they opted for houses.
They probably want to go back to their roots and keep it simple or just a change of environment because they’ve gotten bored of seeing the same studio for years. Or maybe, it’s because they practically have no other choice on the matter and they needed to record ASAP so they eventually went for the next best thing available.
Either way, today’s bands could learn a thing or two from these musicians. Keep in mind that back then, they didn’t have the kind of home recording equipment we have today so it was more challenging and they had to be innovative to pull it off.
5. Foo Fighters – “Wasting Light”
Foo Fighters’ seventh album is an epic masterpiece. Dave Grohl wanted to retrace their roots and stay away from digital recording so they ended up in Grohl’s garage in California and used only analog equipment. The result was rawer and heavier music – something Foo Fighters fans absolutely loved.
So it didn’t really come as a surprise that the record was a commercial success and it topped the charts in several countries too!
“We’ve gotten so huge, what’s left to do? We could go back to 606 and make a big, slick, super-tight record just like the last one. Or we could try to capture the essence of the first couple of Foo Fighters records.” – Dave Grohl
Grohl wasn’t a huge fan of digital tools because he believed that “it kinda sucks the life out of music” which we absolutely agree with. They may have used outdated techniques and had to rehearse for weeks (because there was little room for mistakes) but in the end, it was worth it.
4. Bob Dylan and the Band – “Basement Tapes”
In July 1966, Bob Dylan was injured in a motorcycle accident. But just because he wasn’t seen in public didn’t mean he stopped making music. On the contrary, he and his backing group The Hawks (which eventually became The Band) had several informal recording sessions at the Big Pink which Rick Danko rented in 1967.
It was nothing serious, they were merely having fun and killing time. They set up microphones, a recording unit, tape recorder and stereo mixers in the basement.
“That’s really the way to do a recording—in a peaceful, relaxed setting—in somebody’s basement. With the windows open … and a dog lying on the floor.” – Bob Dylan
Whether they knew it at the time or not, they raised the bar in rock music. The rawness, vibe and intimacy – it was everything. It may not have the best sound quality but all in all, it’s still a great record.
3. Nine Inch Nails – “The Downward Spiral”
It’s fairly easy to get lost in this album. The theme is pretty dark because the record details a man’s ‘downward spiral’ to his suicide attempt. And they moved into a luxury home at 10050 Cielo Drive Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles which was the very same house where actress Sharon Tate was mercilessly murdered while heavily pregnant by members of Charles Manson’s family.
She was stabbed sixteen times.
“While I was working on [The] Downward Spiral, I was living in the house where Sharon Tate was killed. Then one day I met her sister [Patti Tate]. It was a random thing, just a brief encounter. And she said: ‘Are you exploiting my sister’s death by living in her house?’ For the first time, the whole thing kind of slapped me in the face. I said, ‘No, it’s just sort of my own interest in American folklore. I’m in this place where a weird part of history occurred.’ I guess it never really struck me before, but it did then.” – Trent Reznor
Still somehow, Nine Inch Nails ended up with one of the greatest albums ever made. It was heavy, intense, raw and terrifying all the same. Especially if you know where it was recorded, the songs will feel like they have a whole new meaning to them.
2. Bruce Springsteen – “Nebraska”
One of Bruce Springsteen’s finest work is criminally underrated. And he took a huge risk because it was stripped down and had an overall somber feel. Instead of a recording session, Bruce Springsteen recorded in the bedroom of his home in New Jersey. It was just him, his instruments and a four-track cassette machine.
It’s hauntingly beautiful to say the least and everything paid off nicely.
“Technically, it was difficult to get it on a disc. The stuff was recorded so strangely, the needle would read a lot of distortion and wouldn’t track in the wax. We almost had to release it as a cassette.” – Bruce Springsteen
It’s a demo but it’s as good as it gets. It’s partly due to the fact that it’s raw and unpolished which gave it a certain appeal. The mood and content were both dark which is why he didn’t go on tour in support of this album.
1. The Rolling Stone – “Exile on Main St.”
When life handed The Rolling Stones lemons, Keith Richards made sure to put them to good use by grabbing tequila and salt.
One of the greatest albums of all time was recorded while the band was on tax exile. Keith rented a villa in Nellcôte, France and they converted the basement into a makeshift studio. It was a challenging time because unlike the recording studio, everyone could do pretty much anything they fancy – drugs were coming in left and right and they had several visitors too.
“Not everyone turned up every night. This was, for me, one of the major frustrations of this whole period. For our previous two albums we had worked well and listened to producer Jimmy Miller. At Nellcôte things were very different and it took me a while to understand why.” – Bassist Bill Wyman
And after all their shenanigans, the result was one of the finest albums ever made by the group. Keith Richards must be incredibly proud.