The Brain Recording Studios is nestled in the heart of the thriving cultural precinct that is St. Peters. Moving from their previous Surry Hills location in 2016, Head Engineer Clayton Segelov and engineer Matt Clarke have made it their business to understand the needs of musicians and artists. Being musicians and artists themselves, their mission is to produce the highest quality recordings and maintain an ideal home for their creative network of freelancers, musicians and clients.
Offering a creative home for recording, mixing & mastering, The Brain has amassed a tasty array of world class vintage analogue and the latest digital equipment, but are still experience- and environment-focused.
The Brain have established themselves in the Australian music scene with standout recordings at the heavier end of the guitar spectrum. Their creative output is certainly not limited to this genre, but check out recordings by Full of Hell, Columbus, Antagonist A.D. or Graves to get a taste of the sharp work this collective is doing.
We caught up with the guys and asked a few questions about the operation
How long have you been at The Brain Studios?
We opened The Brain Studios back in 2000 at our original location, Surry Hills.
Mid last year we started putting together the new studio in St Peters and made the move across at the end of 2016. We are fully nestled in to the new space and firing on all cylinders!
How many people do you have working in and out of there?
We have two studio staff - Matt and myself make up the core team. The studios get used by a few other producers in a kind of “Mothership” model, where they have spaces that they work out of and just use The Brain to fill the gaps in their needs. This can range from tracking an entire project at the studio and taking it home to mix, or just using us to track drums or a vocal.
I see that there has been some legendary people record in the room - What is the history of the space?
The space has a long dark and checkered history hahaha. This might be hard to answer because of the recent move to the new studio. The old space certainly had an Oz Rock Pedigree being the home base of Billy Thorpe.
What are the dimensions of the tracking room, and how do you normally lay it out?
Last year we looked to update more than just the equipment at The Brain, we wanted to address any acoustic limitations we had come across in our Surry Hills facility, as well as taking careful consideration toward the current industry and playing to its strengths.
Ceiling height was the big must, as well as having the ability to change the character of the room. The new tracking room is 35m2 with a 4m ceiling. Drums sound great almost anywhere in the room, however we usually have one of the studios kits set up facing diagonally across the room which is a great starting point to fine tuning a drum sound to fit whatever track we are working on.
What would you say is the ‘sonic character’ of the live room?
Smooth, fat, no buildups of harsh frequencies and very customisable. It can be dry and punchy or have a long and smooth decay making it great for just about anything. But glorious for drums and strings.
Sounds like your studio has quite a vibe to it - do you see that as the most important factor in achieving great recordings?
I think so, vibe and mood are super important! There’s nothing to be gained from
recording while you’re in the wrong headspace. Good vibes and a great attitude are incredibly powerful tools that go a long way to making great music.
Does this set Brain apart?
Haha, I like to think so. I want people to feel comfortable to be themselves
when they perform. A comfort that can be missing in some of the larger facilities of yesteryear. We certainly looked at all these factors and deliberately worked them into the plans for our new space.
How would you describe a good day at the studio?
Every day is a good day in the studio! It’s an honour to work in this industry, with so many talented humans!
And a bad day?
There are bad days?
The Brain Studio Background
What led you to recording music?
Necessity! Like a lot of engineers I started out playing in bands. When it came time to record, we couldn’t seem to find anywhere locally that could make us a record that sounded like our idols of the time. So the research on how to achieve these sounds began. All the changes in the industry and the technology that have happened along the way have kept me hungry to learn, and to this day I am both excited and fascinated by where we are heading. Every day I think that there has never been a better time to make music than today!
In the bio it says the staff and engineers at Brain are all musicians. There is an impressive array of guitars & amps on call at the studio - is it mainly guitar that you all play?
Not at all! The staff have a lot of experience with all sorts of instruments. I will say that we tend to work a lot with guitar driven artists and songs, because we have a lot to offer in the guitar centric genres.
There is also a swath of cool mics and preamps at your disposal - are there any favourites or combinations that you like?
The equipment selection has certainly taken a while to settle on, and I’d be lying if I said the state of the industry hasn’t affected our selection here. My go-to vocal chain hasn’t changed in a long time, (Manley Vox Box > Distressor in Opto mode > 1176) but
our drum tracking changed when we acquired the Quad Eight. Now we almost exclusively track drums through the Quad Eight, it’s a gorgeous front end. I certainly feel spoiled that we have it here!
(The Brain Studios replaced their AMEK Mozart desk with a re-capped Quad Eight 2082 in 2016).
How do you find the sound?
It makes me grin ear to ear.
How does it work with the Amphions, and previous speakers?
Well, for a start I can actually hear what it’s doing! I can hear much more subtle differences in saturation and transients are presented in a way that I can get a handle on. I always found that tricky with other monitors.
What line-up do you have now across the two rooms?
Studio 1: Amphion Two18s with the matching amp, Yamaha NS10s with a Bryston Amp, mono Avantone MixCube, various laptop style speakers
Studio 2: Dynaudio BM-15s,Yamaha NS10s, mono Avantone MixCube
What was it that led you to choose Amphion monitors over other premium models?
We actually tried them. We had a large selection of monitors set up over about a month here at The Brain. I won’t mention brand names, but they were in the same price range, or in some cases more expensive than the Amphions. We did mixes and got client feedback. After all, we’re in the business of providing a service. In this case the choice was made by which set up yielded the best results.
Have the Amphion changed the way you work?
Absolutely, I may sound like a broken record, but they allow me to work longer and decisions get made much faster.
Do you keep the NS10s alongside the Amphions? - Love to hear your thoughts here.
I do, I have a “roster” of monitoring solutions that I use that are equally important to my workflow.
Do you master on the Amphions?
I do, I love mastering! and I love what I can achieve with the Amphions. In a strange way, the Amphions have made a larger impact on my work than any single piece of analogue hardware. I have been able to achieve much better results “ITB” and find myself leaning on
outboard less and less since working this way.
Is there a project you’ve worked on recently at the studio that has been exciting or tricky? Perhaps a recording that could only have been captured at The Brain or a session that utilised all the studio’s resources?
This is a tough question, because all our sessions are equally exciting, and the new studio was put together to eliminate the things that we used to consider tricky. We often are working on multiple sessions at once and that is nothing new to us. Its not uncommon to have the team working on 4 full length albums at any one time.
With all that great gear, how much mixing do you do ‘in-the-box’?
I love working in the box! I do insert an analogue mix bus chain which is the standard compression/ EQ and a little bit of saturation. Nothing crazy. But the results we can achieve in the box these days are fantastic! While there will always be a love and niche for analogue mixing, ITB mixing is the new normal. This is something that we have embraced and we couldn’t be happier!
What plug-ins are exciting you right now?
Ooooooh, thats a tough one. I’m not one to get sidetracked by shiny new things, but I do think the Plugin Alliance stuff is amazing! Definitely worth a look at if you’re not
going to head down the UAD path. And of course everybody knows the Fabfilter stuff! Those plugins are just fantastic.
Whats next for The Brain?
Well, its full steam ahead, doing what we love, helping artists turn their vision into reality and connecting with their audience through fantastic sounding records!
For over 15 years, the Brain Recording Studios has and continues to work with some of the world's best musicians including the likes of Daniel Johns (Silverchair), Antagonist A.D. (NZ), Life’s Ill, Underminer, The Lovely Bones (ACT), Columbus (QLD), The Zen Haircuts, Endless Heights, Dear Seattle, Graves, Corpus, Allay The Sea, Sleepwell (QLD), Vices, Perspectives, Endless (Qld), Full Of Hell (USA), Safe Hands, Machina Genova (ACT), Purity (ACT), Justice For The Damned, UNFD, Sony, Broken Hive Records, CJ McMahon (Thy Art Is Murder), Sam Carter (Architects – UK), Bert McCracken (The Used – USA), Will Yip (Producer/Mixer), Will Putney (Producer/Mixer), Henrik Udd (Producer/Mixer), Brian Hood (Mixer), Jay Maas (Producer/Mixer) are just some of the artists, businesses and producers The Brain have worked with.