Cotton Press Studio: A look inside one of Bombay’s most progressive studios
There’s much to be said about the relationship between the space within which a piece of art is created, and the piece of art itself. The same is true for music. Attribute it to sound proofing, or ambient lighting – music is still only as good as the space within which it’s made.
We’re tipping our hats to Something Relevant boys and Rohan Ramanna – who’ve taken it upon themselves to create a space equally vibey as it is acoustically treated. One which is promoting a rather organic style of audio recording and band-culture – building musical blocks, rather than breaking them down, and addressing musical nuances in context to where their roots lie.
Here’s what they’ve been up to:
We’ve been hearing great things about the vibe at Cotton Press Studio. As the founders, what would you guys attribute that to?
Tanmay: CPS is a joint venture by Something Relevant (STR) and Rohan Ramanna. Our philosophy is to always put the music first, everything else is secondary. STR always had an inclusive community-oriented vibe, so that’s reflecting in CPS too. But mostly, the vibe is good because it’s a great sounding and comfortable room, and all of us here are crazy about music.
Is CPS simply a recording facility, or can bands expect to have hands-on producers shape their sounds and mould their releases? If so what would that entail?
Rohan: All the members and owners of CPS are musicians, we met at music school. We personally don’t feel that to be a great musician you need to go to music school, but it sure helps when someone is just a verse away from a great song and writers block suddenly hits. This is where we come in – either through experience or academics we have remedies to these problems.
Apart from education in orchestration, and arrangement we also have years of programming experience when it comes to synths, drum machines, soft-synths etc. So providing bands and artists with new sounds and sonic inspiration is something we love doing. That being said, we know our boundaries, when we are asked to say, simply mix a project, we do that, but when there is room for creativity, we all have things to bring to the table.
Would you promote the idea of bands coming in for recordings only once they’re ‘studio-ready’, or does CPS act as a platform for that creative stage of the process too?
Rohan: We feel like bands who want to record an album, need to have at least some sort of vision of what they are trying to say or how they want to sound. If there is need for the material to be developed, we factor rehearsal time into the budgets of the album.
Tanmay: It’s good to work with artists who know what they want – it helps us to facilitate things easier. CPS is a great place for pre production and rehearsals – it’s a very creative space, and that definitely aids the writing process.
How important to you guys has it been to keep the recording room ‘dry’ ? Any word on acoustic-treatment-myths CPS may have dispelled?
Rohan: The live room at CPS is a 1000sq ft room with different ‘grades’ of reflection with the use of sound traps. This was done on purpose, for the louder/harsh instruments (drums) we have shorter reflections and more high frequency absorption, and for more vibrant live sounding instruments we can place them around the room depending on how much air we need to capture for the song; that being said, we can move around the instruments depending on the sound we want, some bands want a very big open drum sound, and surprisingly that requires us to move the kit only a few feet away from the ‘dry’ spots.
A little natural reverb helps glue in the sound especially if the band wants to record together in one take. For completely dry recordings we are building a vocal booth right next door along with our new control room.
Tanmay: The rooms at CPS have been designed by Munro Acoustics. Kapil Thirwani is the acoustic engineer for Munro here in India and is the person responsible for its beautiful sound. We paid special attention to giving the room a sonic character and ambience. Dead, lifeless rooms are just plain boring. Nobody listens to music in an anechoic chamber, reverb and natural reflections are a big part of everyday life!
With indie bands taking their production a lot more seriously these days, you guys must have your hands full. What does an average day in the studio look like?
Rohan: Well for one, CPS is a 24 hour facility, so the work never stops. We usually track bands in the morning and stick to more composing, engineering, programming tasks at night. At the moment we are trying to find the right balance between commercial work and recording bands.
Tanmay: We’re currently involved in album productions, mixing projects and even some Bollywood composition stuff. So there’s a lot of work and no set ‘average day’.
Take us through the studio – what’s the setup like in the tracking room?
Tanmay: CPS has two rooms – a 1000 sq ft recording room and an adjoining mixing and mastering room. We record to Pro Tools on a Mac Pro, using the UA Apollo for conversion and an SSL Nucleus for DAW and monitor control. We’ve got some Neumann and Sennheiser microphones mostly besides the standards like the 57s, 58s and a really cool Royer R121 ribbon mic – which sounds great! Our preamps – UA 4-710d, 2xSSL Superanalogue, SSL Alpha VHD, API 3124 and 4xUA pres onboard the Apollo. For monitoring, we use the sE Electronics Munro Egg active system and Adam A7s and Al’s car system for reference!
All the acoustic treatment at CPS was custom designed, we’ve used Rockwool, Rockfon ceiling absorber tiles, massive amounts of Texsa sheets (for bass and mid range absorption), tons of foam, wood and fabric. We spent a lot of time on the design and look of the acoustic treatment too, because we wanted it to be not too apparent and kind of blend in. A tip for people who are setting up home studios – use blankets! – They’re cheap and super effective.
With a full fledged jam-band band running the show, surely the studio’s kitted out with loads of instruments and toys lying around?
Tanmay: There are two drummers and a percussionist at CPS, so there are tonnes of drums, cymbals and drum accessories! Rohan has a vintage 1972 Les Paul custom available on demand and we’ve got a Pearl Reference series kit for recording, whose heads we change really often. We have a beautiful B Steiner upright piano and we’re working on restoring an old Fender Rhodes. We’ve got a Fender Deluxe reverb tube amp which is an absolute essential. We’re always working towards getting more instruments in the studio. However, most of the time the musicians who come in here get cool instruments – Brad from The Colour Compound brought in a Martin Messer open tuning dobro style guitar which was amazing; Apurv from The Family Cheese even brought in a pedal steel guitar for some sessions, it’s still at the studio!
Studio wish-list items for 2013?
Tanmay: Pro Tools Eleven for sure, once it’s out in May. We’re going to upgrade our channel count and also work out a really good stereo headphone monitoring system for the musicians while they’re recording, or rehearsing. We want to track bands completely live, but with the band members getting amazing headphone mixes. That is our goal!
Rohan: Barefoot mini main 12s! Thermonic Bustard Summing mixer
Tanmay: If I win the lottery, then a Telefunken 251 for sure! Also some UAD2 plugins and a Bricasti reverb unit.
Keep an eye out for their sessions here.
written by Sanaya Ardeshir