In Part 1 of 'How NOT to build a recording studio' Gavin talks about how it all started.
Parts 2 to follow next month
by Gavin Hyatt
We have just reopened after 13 months of forced closure, by no means our first disaster, and not likely to be our last.
GreenRoom Studios has been established for almost nine years and growing since day one. And, what a rollercoaster it has been! There are lots of twists, turns, euphoric highs and crushing lows to our story. This is the cut down version, the paperback, the mini-series!
GreenRoomStudio started out as a green-screen video production facility for one of my other businesses, Oxford Television Limited. But that doesn’t really do the story justice, so I guess we have to jump back a few years to add some meat to the bones. It also allows me to dispel myths that I am just really lucky and have just come across this gem of a business by accident.
I played music from a very young age and was always interested in all things musical. My grandparents said I was ‘gifted’, in truth, for me it was far more enjoyable to sit for hours on end with headphones in, playing tunes, than to go and play football. It was more interesting, I enjoyed it, but I played for hours every day. That’s not a gift, it’s dedication, it’s hard work and anyone who can make a career out of something like music has probably put in 10,000 hours of such hard work before they see their first financial reward, and several years more before they even begin to break even.
I never really found a job I enjoyed, although I have always worked. In my teens, I swept the joinery workshop near my house, worked on market stalls and in supermarkets. When I finished college, I started working for Rover the next day. I joined Witney Fire Station in 2000, following in the footsteps of my grandfather, father and older brother. I got a job in a plumbing shop which allowed me to leave at a moment’s notice to attend fire calls when my pager went off, moving back to car production when BMW Mini came to Oxford. I got married and started a family, doing all of the grown-up things. I then took over my dad’s plumbing business when he went in-to semi-retirement. I stayed with this for about 6 years!
I was in several bands growing up and eventually this led to the formation of ‘Longweekend’. I was the front man, Richard Kibbey played bass, Andy Pugh on guitar and Jon Sawyers on drums. We were pretty handy and very popular in pubs, at weddings and all sorts of events.
Within 6 months of being in the band, we suffered the 2008/9 financial crash. Plumbing work dried up, clients went bust owing me money, my marriage was on the rocks, I left the fire service but, in the end, moved out of the family home and became homeless.
I got a tax rebate as I had paid tax on account for that year based on projected earnings and actually made a huge loss. I used the tax rebate money to buy a video camera and Apple iMac and started learning how to use it. I worked hard, day and night, still did a little bit of plumbing but on the whole life was a struggle. I had my kids at weekends, but my life was made very difficult. If you take all the good luck I have had in my life and subtract all the bad luck, I’m pretty sure you get an average of Zero. No Luck. Yes, I’ve had rewards for my efforts, now have a beautiful, loving, caring wife and great kids, but I’ve worked hard, been a good person and helped out anyone who ever asked me for a hand.
Throughout the turmoil, the band was my constant. We rehearsed one or two nights a week, played pretty much every weekend, sometimes several nights back-to-back. I was often sleeping on Richards sofa throughout this time as well as spending time at my grandparents’ house and sleeping in my van. Me and Richard had several business ventures and all of them successful in their own way, WitneyTV and Oxbox both took off and we actually launched our business (Oxford Television) to bid for the new local TV channel for Oxfordshire. Our research and gut feelings held us back from making a bid and in the end, we let the opportunity pass us by, concentrating instead on making business web videos to promote on our Oxbox Platform. After making a handful of such videos, it was obvious that a green screen studio would be a huge advantage. A space was available and all I had to do was make a few videos for the guy I was subletting from instead of actually paying him any rent.
It was just one, sub-let room in an industrial unit and I built it myself over the summer. It needed to be as sound sterile as possible and as a result, gave us a rehearsal room for my band, who were at the time gigging most weekends. I managed to form a small office/control room which was a kind of airlock between the studio and rest of the building.
Word got out and very quickly, other bands were using the room in the evenings, taking over as a core business activity. Less than 9 months later, our landlord was locked out of the building for not paying the rent and we were out.
That could have been the end of the story, but thanks to a helping hand from the building owner, we managed to salvage lots of the install from the first studio.
We moved just over the road, this time into Burnham House, a 1970’s builders’ workshop, warehouse, and offices. We were offered a choice of two small office rooms at the front of the building and took both, which I converted into a live room and a control room/office.
The landlord was incredibly supportive and intrigued as to what I would do to the space.