Recording duet vocals with Alison Cooper at Westpoint Studios, West London
In January 2019, we hired Westpoint Studios to record vocal overdubs for the song "Better Place" featuring Alison Cooper. The song appears on the 'Something from Nothing' album and documentary DVD (2019).
The control room at Westpoint Studios in Acton, London, UK.
Back in December 2018, the 'Something from Nothing' album was pretty much completed. The song "Better Place" was one of the first songs we recorded for the album with Manny Charlton behind the dials, but I never was really happy with my vocals on it. I always felt that the song was a bit too slow, and that my vocals didn't fit the song well.
The lyrics for "Better Place", a song originally written by Glen Campbell for this final album Ghost on the Canvas from 2010.
Getting Alison Cooper involved
As I was planning to visit London in early 2019, it occurred to me that I should contact my old friend Alison Cooper to see if we could sing a duet on this track.
Alison Cooper at Westpoint Studio, London, 15th January 2019: duet vocal overdubs for the Something from Nothing album.
Alison is a great singer and is responsible for me starting with music in the first place. She was the organisator behind the "Stars in the Bar" charity events in West London in 2003, which eventually led me to meet Ian Robinson with whom I created The Fluffy Jackets band in 2006.
As I was making a documentary film about The Fluffy Jackets, I thought it would be a really nice touch to reconnect and sing on this track together. So I got in touch, and asked her if she'd fancy it, and luckily she agreed.
Finding the recording studio
I did a search on the internet, and found, as luck would have it, this amazing studio in West London (Acton) not far from where The Fluffy Jackets had their humble beginnings in 2006. The studio looked very professional, so after a quick call with Shane Shanahan (the studio owner) the deal was done.
At the centre of Westpoint's control room is an SSL 48 track 4K G Series and a ATC SCM 200 monitoring system. For multi-track recording, the studio has the latest Pro Tools HDX system with 64 i/o via apogee symphony converters.
Most people do not realise how much organising that goes into recording music, especially if you also make a documentary. The main trick is to be well-organised, and make sure that you do not forget stuff at home. First off, all the camera and sound equipment need to be powered up, charged and also wires and the right connectors need to be brought along. Not forgetting camera stands, lyric sheets, and different versions of the backing track. Luckily, since we would only do vocals on this session, I did not have to bring any guitars with me, which was a relief (I hate travelling with my guitars on airplanes).
Westpoint Studios is located in West London and promises an unforgettable recording experience with results that are hard to beat.
Documentary filming - the session (music video) and the interview
We met up at the Hilton Hyde Park hotel in the top right hand corner of Hyde Park in January 2019 to do some filming. As I was pretty well-versed in creating documentary films at this point, I was there a day early to shoot the B-film, including shots of the London Underground, the London bus outside the hotel, etc. You can see these snippets in the film, during the interview with Alison, which I think is a nice touch. After that, we travelled by tube to Acton, where we met the lovely and experienced engineer Shane Shanahan.
Aside from being the Westpoint Studios' owner, producer and engineer, Shane Shanahan is a highly respected drummer and percussionist, with training from both Trinity College and Sheffield University.
Music-making experience worth gold!
Shane is an Irish born record producer, songwriter, mixer, engineer and owner of Westpoint studios. Specialising in composition, production, recording & mixing, Shane has worked with countless artists, engineers and producers since 1999, and has a lot of experience of making records.
Some of the equalizers and equipment at Westpoint Studios, London.
Let me tell you: the experience of the kind Shane has is priceless when it comes to making records. First, it saves a lot of time when it comes to mixing, cutting, etc. Then, and perhaps most important, Shane has a nice (and very patient) way of telling the artist what he is looking for in the vocal takes. He is also aware that the song should be built up in terms of vocals, so that each chorus is slightly different, changing the vocal pitch, attack and so forth.
When it comes to vocal takes, this is by far the most professional studio I have recorded at. Basically, Shane has all the various modern vocal tools that are cutting edge today and, importantly, he knows how to use them.
The vocal booth at Westpoint Studios where the vocals for "Better Place" was recorded in January 2019. The album 'Something from Nothing' is available via Amazon and other good music outlets. It comes with a two-hour making-of documentary.
Shane is good when it comes to giving constructive suggestions on how to improve the song. As a trained musician Shane is quick to get up from his chair, test harmonies and come with helpful suggestions on how to add new vocal parts. This helped really make the vocals stand out.
Relaxing at Westpoint Studios while the vocal mixed by Shane.
It took us all day (8 hours) to record the vocals for "Better Place" on Pro Tools, after which is was sent to producer Manny Charlton for his approval and final edits.
In the vocal booth at Westpoint Studios, recording duet vocals for "Better Place".
Technical info: Recording the documentary interview
The documentary filming was done on a iPhone 6 and a Canon EOS 600D, and the film audio (interview) was taken from the iPhone (!) as I the sound was good enough for the film. I also had a handheld ZOOM H4N (professional audio recorder) but could not be bothered to sync up the audio - seeing that the iPhone audio was almost just as good.
More information available
1. You can read about the all the episodes in the 2019 Fluffy Jackets DVD documentary 'Something from Nothing' HERE.
2. You can purchase a CD + DVD containing the Fluffy Jackets song "Better Place" at Amazon (external link)
About Westpoint Studios
Westpoint Studios is a boutique recording studio in London and has been at the cutting edge of music creativity for the last 25 years. Westpoint Studios' client list includes the likes of: Jeff Beck, Mumford and Sons, Adele, Kayne West, Frank Ocean, Emeli Sandé, Dave, Krept & Konan, J Hus, Sampha, The Script, Kylie Minogue, Take That, and many more. Precision built by 'Recording Architecture', the studio is a unique blend of state-of-the-art recording facilities combined with a airy white interior design. Natural light floods the 22-foot control room through tall frosted glass windows and is made homely by the relaxed feel in every room.
Westpoint Studios Ltd
GA 39 to 40 Westpoint Building
Tel: 020 8735 2863
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