Damien Gerard Studios is one of the oldest, continuously operating recording facilities in Australia and has had some of the biggest names in the Australian music industry and beyond walk through the doors to find out why they’ve been the recording benchmark for almost 40 years.
We spoke with Studio Manager Marshall Cullen to find out more about Damien Gerard Studios.
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Can you tell us a bit about Damien Gerard Studios. How long has the studio been open?
The studio was established in 1983 and began as a ‘demo’ studio where bands like the Divinyls, Hoodoo Gurus, Spy vs Spy, The Models, Icehouse, and so many more used the studio for song writing, pre-production, and often tracking. By the late ‘80s the studio was renowned as the most affordable high quality studio for final product recording in Sydney and many bands like Noiseworks, Rose Tattoo, The Maybe Dolls, and Died Pretty created complete albums in the original Ultimo Sydney space.
After moving to Balmain in 2000 the studio continued to build its clients and reputation. We’d even have international producers such as Ken Stringfellow (REM), Jeff Baxter (Steely Dan), and others use the facility while on tour in Australia. The studio moved an hour out of Sydney in 2019 to a massive new facility owned by Jason Stenning who became the new partner in the business from that point forward.
What services do you offer?
DG’s is a full service studio so we offer live album lockout type recording for large bands (the live room is 160 square metres), single, album, and EP deals for indies, demos, and pre-production.
All our vintage guitars, drums and amps are available for sessions, and mixing and mastering are a big part of what we do. We also do work such as voice overs, audio for video, podcasts, live events, and live streaming.
How did you get into production/engineering?
I started at school mixing bands live then moved into live touring, from there I moved into studio work after relocating to Sydney from Tasmania. I had good contacts from touring with many of the bigger Aussie bands of the time so that helped me transition into studio world. Find out more here.
What’s your setup at Damien Gerard’s?
We have a large live room, with three iso spaces, backline room, kitchen and bathroom, a large control room, and tech room.
What is it that separates DG’s from other studios in the area?
Thirty-five years of experience with all types of music. Our engineers are highly experienced and can act as producers if needed. We also have a huge range of very high quality vintage guitars, drums, and amps dating from the early ‘60s available on all sessions. Our mic locker is also full of vintage units such as 1950s and 1960s Neumanns, Reslo Ribbons, AKG’s, and more.
Is there a signature Damien Gerard sound/workflow/approach that stands out to your ears?
At Damien Gerard’s, it’s all about capturing the best performance from the artist. So firstly that means they need to be comfortable in our space, not intimidated by the technology we have. The lamps, lighting, comfy couches and general ambience of all of our studios right through to the new one is always the main thing that artists talk about. It also means that if a singer is more comfortable on a hand held sm58 instead of wearing headphones singing into a $25K vintage Neumann that’s what we give them.
We find that approach makes the session workflow very fast especially since we can track all the band members live and still separate if needed. Having a great room makes a huge difference, we spent a lot of time tuning both the live and control rooms for the best possible audio experience both for our engineers and for the artists and producers. Things like drums just sound amazing in the room before we even add the mics. Things like drums just sound amazing in the room before we even add the mics. The feedback we receive is a testament to that.
Are there any projects in particular that you remember fondly?
Recently the Little Quirks live album stream to the UK (as during covid they couldn’t get there) we had 12 players in the live room plus 5 cameras and it all worked very smoothly. Also a similar day for Hoodoo Gurus album release earlier this year which was live streamed around the world, we had to mix 17 songs in one day following the shoot day. Finally The Church album recoding in 2019 when we first moved here, then the rest of the project wqas delayed through covid and we have only just need mixing it earlier this year.
You arrive to find the studio on fire (touch wood!) and you only have time to save one piece of gear. What do you grab and why?
The Telefunken/AKG ELAM251 Large Condenser Tube Microphone from the ‘60s. This mic is worth somewhere between $30-50k, it’s a legendary unit and there are very few in Australia – one of the most renowned vocal mics ever!
Our unit was the original calibration mic in the factory in Germany which the others were measured against so it’s a unique and very special unit. We have singers such as Steve Kilbey book in just to use it.
What are you working on at the moment?
We have Ben Gillies from Silverchair doing some drums (his own project) right now. Then we are about to mix the new Steve Kilbey/Martin Kennedy record. There are plenty of young central coast bands coming through on a weekly basis as well as a local podcast that does their recordings with us each month.
Head to Damien Gerard Studios to find out more about their services, staff, and more!