Guerilla Studios stakes a claim to be the studio for underground bands in Dublin. Bit Thompson caught up with John ‘Spud’ Murphy and asked why they set up a recording studio when the arse has fallen out of the industry.
Well, how’s it going? So tell me how youse got started in the recording business?
Well it started when I was in a band called Ilya K and we’d won the Murphy’s Live competition. We went around pricing studios and they were mad expensive. We all had a background in engineering and said “Fuck that, let’s set up a studio in the gaff. We already have some stuff and we can take our time and do it our own way.”
So we did that and the first people to come in were Los Langeros and we did the Ilya K album, this was all in Cork by the way, then we had Percolator down and got on really well with them and that’s when I met Ian and asked him to help out and learn a bit on the job before starting into a college course. But even then, even with all the weird or leftfield bands there wasn’t that much music. That was just before the crash and there was still a bit of money about but it was crap. We were still getting paid in cans of Galahad for doing the Picnic.
So I guess the setting up of a recording studio was born from necessity?
Yeah. The first focus was really to do the Ilya K album and take it from there. We’d a little cottage where most of the band lived and we recorded everything there. I was offering to lend a hand in studios just to get some more knowledge. So it was probably a necessity on a couple of different fronts.
And were youse actively seeking out bands to record or how does that work?
We just kept getting asked to do more and more recordings as the word got around. We’re not trying to rip anybody off and I was working in a studio in Cork, so all that money was going back into building up Ilya K/Guerilla studios and maybe people just got wind of that and bought into that type of idea.
So, bands like Ten Past Seven and Percolator saw that the main interest was the sound and equipment rather than just making a bit of cash. We’re lucky enough, so far, to be involved with a great underground scene so a lot of the stuff we’ve done is stuff we’re really interested in and love so that we put everything we have both in terms of time and care, into making the best possible recordings for who we work with.
This was all in Cork, yeah? How did youse end up in Dublin?
Yea, so Ilya K split and that studio got divided up but there was all these other spaces we could still use, but it was basically pouring all the gear into my van and bringing it to where it was needed. So I was recording stuff all over and mixing it in my room.
Yea, so the mobile studio was interesting as we were doing all the weird shite, everything from string quartets to drummers to orchestras and shit so there was a lot of experience to be gained. But everything was mobile and we were just after bringing out Katie Kim’s Cover and Flood and we wanted to get the next album done. But I was driving from Cork to Dublin the whole time to rehearse with her and it was costing a fortune and was really impractical so I was like, “Fuck it, I need to move to Dublin.”
How difficult was it to find a space to set up in Dublin?
I had a few contacts and there was a friend who met someone about taking over a huge space in Rathmines. It seemed to be a goer and Anna was going to run a café out of it and a gig space for ambient stuff, film screenings and we’d be set up in the rest. It was some cleaning/security company.
We had started cleaning out the room and getting it ready and I was chasing yer man for a set of keys and after ages they just got back and said you’re not allowed do it anymore…. Shit!
We had just got a gaff in North Strand so we were freaking out. We were back on Daft that night and by chance there was a place just off North Strand, a few streets from the gaff, that came up. It was the cheapest by half, everything else was €1,200 or more a month and out in the suburbs. It was part of a garage in an arch underneath a train line. So we took it and burnt through all my money setting it up which probably took about 4 months!
There was a huge backlog of stuff due to all the delays. Crayonsmith was supposed to be recorded in Rathmines and there was probably a year’s worth of mixing from the mobile days to be done… fuckin’ nuts… So we had to bring stuff back to Cork just to get stuff done whilst the studio was being built and it was absolutely mental, mental, probably one of the worst times in my life…
Now yizzer set up, in a fairly unlikely location, was it tough to get people into record?
We had stuff lined up, Hands Up Who Wants to Die, The Jimmy Cake, the next Katie Kim album was there. All within the first few months of being in the arch. There was nothing there really, a table, a kettle and that’s about it and we just had to get on and track all this stuff. That’s after we had cleaned up all the oil and garage shite and divided the place into three rooms. There was so much pressure that as soon as there was four walls with a roof on it we just had to go for it. We had to just go with and try to improve the place as we went along.
Apart from doing regular long form recording you’ve also done some live recordings and there’s been a good few videos shot in the studio, tell us about some of that?
Yea, so, we had known Sean Zissou from before and it turned out he was living on the same street and after a few pints the idea was hatched to do some videos in the space. We did The Jimmy Cake thing live, that was a twenty minute track. And that led to doing videos for The Practice Tapes with bands like Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp, Ten Past Seven, Don Vito, Molossus and a load more like Underline which was a three band live set that ran for over hour.
So what does the future hold for Guerilla Studios?
Well I guess that the music that we’re into and the stuff that we record are on the periphery and wouldn’t generally get that much airplay on national radio so it’s fairly underground. So far we’ve really been lucky to work with some great bands in that particular scene and we have some idea of what those bands want and we try to record things to the highest possible standard. Because the development of the studio has been quite organic and we take our time over each tracking and mixing we’re still building this thing and investing in the space and the gear. It means that right now it’s more a labour of love than a steady income.
I guess what we’re trying to do is develop along with the underground and expand the spaces and relationships and get more Irish music heard, both inside and outside Ireland. I’d say that the studio is probably seventy five percent. For the future, I guess, we have to strike the right balance between getting paid for doing the things we love and turning around more recordings but for now we have to keep the day jobs to pay the bills…
Check them out at guerrillasounds.com