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Students help produce Dutch Uncles single in former soundtrack studio

Friday 6 January 2017

A single which is currently playlisted on BBC6 Music was recorded by University of Salford staff and students in a studio once used to record classic TV soundtracks.

Dutch Uncles’ latest single Big Balloon – currently on the music station’s A list and championed by DJ Marc Riley – was recorded at Low Four Studios off Quay Street in Manchester city centre.

Along with the album of the same name, the single was co-produced by the University’s Studio Production lecturer Brendan Williams, with visiting lecturers Phil Bulleyment, Jamie Birkett and students from programmes including Popular Music and Recording and Creative Music Technology.

Robin Richards, the band’s bass player and primary writer, himself graduated from the University with a first class degree in music in 2011 and chose to record there after having worked with Brendan on three previous albums.

He said: “We recorded our second album Cadenza at the university in the summer 2010, and have worked closely with Brendan and Phil ever since. Since graduating, Salford has still been a real hub for myself and the band.

“Gaining access to the incredible space up the road at Old Granada Studios through Brendan gave us an excellent place to work on and record the latest album. Low Four is a hidden gem of a studio, and the experience the students will get using the equipment there will be invaluable.”

Low Four Studios was set up last year in an abandoned space in the Old Granada Studios which was once used to record Halle orchestra musicians performing soundtracks for dramas such as Jewel in the Crown, Brideshead Revisited and Sherlock Holmes.

Now, the forgotten studio has been transformed into a performance hub where musicians can record using state of the art equipment.

It is also being used as a space where up and coming acts, along with established touring bands, can play to smaller crowds while performances are filmed to be streamed live and archived.

Artists such as University of Salford graduates Everything Everything, Canadian singer songwriter Haley Bonar and Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor performed there last year, with students working on every aspect of the performances, from setting up beforehand to mixing the live sound and – under the guidance of visiting lecturer Dan Parrott – operating cameras.

Dutch Uncles perform there on February 18 – the day after their album is released and ahead of a UK tour – while new band Koalas will be showcased on February 3.

The studio has also created a scheme in which they develop Greater Manchester’s most promising new artists by providing a full free day in the studio to enable them to record and work with one of their producers.

Brendan Williams, Programme leader for Creative Music Technology at the University of Salford, said: “Robin Richards is one of many successful musicians to have developed his skills here in Salford and it was wonderful to have been able to work with him again in this incredible arts space. The experience it provided for our current students was unparalleled.

“Low Four Studios is fast becoming a platform for excellence, enabling us to promote the best new music in a way which isn’t being done anywhere else, but it’s also a unique collaboration with industry.

“It’s sometimes hard for students to get professional experience in a working studio, and so for them to be able to work on recordings which they can then hear played on national radio, or be seen by tens of thousands of people online, is an opportunity which doesn’t really exist elsewhere.”

Lee Aston, an MA Music student who has been working at the studio, said: “Low Four’s been a great opportunity for me to get hands-on experience setting up and working in a high spec studio.

“It’s given me the chance to work with high profile artists, engineers, and producers. It’s helped further my knowledge and understanding of live engineering too, as well as studio recording and production. It’s like having an internship but better – and I don’t have to make brews!”

Visit or follow @LowFourStudio