Rudi Dobson: Recording at Abbey Road, Air Lyndhurst and Sarm West

Rudi Dobson: Recording at Abbey Road, Air Lyndhurst and Sarm West

Rudi Dobson has made a name for himself as both a musician and an engineer. He has played keys on tour with the Bee Gees, Billy Joel and played with Paul Simon. As an engineer he’s had the good fortune to work in some of the finest studios in the world - during the era of the super-studio where huge consoles and synced tape machines defined the craft of recording. We caught up with Rudi to find out what it was like to work in Abbey Road, Air Lyndhurst, Sarm West - and what he’s up to today...

 

MPS
You have quite a history as a performing musician, can you list a few of the acts you’ve worked with over the years?

RD
I started off in the 80s playing with acts such as Dennis Greaves and the Truth & Nine Below Zero” - who was managed by Mickey Modern. Later on I toured the U.S with Billy Ocean before joining the Bee Gees in 1991. I playing gigs throughout Europe with them and spent some time in their unique studio in Miami.

MPS
Can you tell us a little bit about your own musical projects?

RD
I made my own album in 1994 “Tribute to Audrey Hepburn” and donated the profits to Unicef. It was recorded at Swanyard studios -  then owned by Margarita Hamilton - which was a massive studio in Highbury Corner in London, where the Pet Shop boys, Nick Kershaw Paul Weller and many other musicians had made records before me.

MPS
What do you find more satisfying, playing with established stars or working on your own music?

RD
Honestly, I prefer creating my own music - playing other people’s music is kind of like going to the office!

MPS
You have worked in some of the world's most famous studios can pick out some of your favourites?

RD
My favourite studio is Air Lyndhust in Hampstead North London, I worked there as a recording artist and an engineer. The building is an ex-Church and the acoustics of the Live rooms are amazing. Another of my favourite studios is Sarm West, which is Trevor Horn’s place in Notting Hill. This was the where the original Band Aid track was produced in 1984 and was the recording venue for some of the best known records of the 1970s and 80s. I also did some mastering at Abbey Road studios which I like because of it’s very special atmosphere.

MPS
Can you tell us more about working in big production studios in the 80s and 90s?

RD
Well the outboard was the same in all of them - standard issue. For example they all had  Drawmer noise gates, bell delays, AMS reverbs, LA2A’s, Yamaha SPX 90’s and DBX compressors. Obviously they all recorded to tape but some of the 2-inch machines would have Dolby and some wouldn’t - and you’d have to pay extra for Dolby! Personally I never liked recording with Dolby, you lost the detail and I prefer the whole sound rather than the muffled results you got with Dolby. If you get your levels right you don’t have those artifacts anyway.

MPS
As well as touring with the Bee Gees you worked in their studio in Miami, can you tell us about it?

RD
They had a Neve desk with flying faders you could automate your levels and mutes. This was preferable to the SSL consoles that were installed everywhere else at the time. Also, they had 2 Mitsubishi 32 track tape machines running a total of 64 tracks - which was possibly the first digital studio. Normally you’d find a 24 track 2-inch Otari tape with another machine slaved to it.

MPS
Fast-forward to present day, what are you working on right now?

RD
I’m currently working with a Latvian artist called Janis Stibelis. I have worked with him since 2005, his last album was called “Secret Mission” and we’re recording more material together at the moment. He went to Hollywood Institute of musicians and is a truly incredible singer. His Latvian roots were part of the reason I was interested in using Blue microphones as they share the same heritage; although it’s now based in the California, Blue actually stands for “Baltic Latvian Universal Electronics” and was co-founded by a Latvian engineer.

MPS
Your go-to microphone for this project is a Blue Kiwi, what are you using it for?

RD
I’m using it to track all the vocals, and I also find it great for recording acoustic guitar.

MPS
What made you choose the Kiwi?

RG
We’r making an 80s style album with a twist - so the Kiwi’s characteristic sound is perfect for this kind of project. Running through Logic 9 can give quite a hard, digital results. Kiwi adds some softness and warmth to the sound of the vocals.

MPS
Can you tell us a little more about your signal path?

RD
Another reason I chose the Kiwi is because it sounded great through the Neve 5052s - I also put it through the Robbie on a couple of tracks. As far as converters are concerned using the Antelope Audio Orion 32in 32out (which sounds great) and an Antelope master clocking system.

MPS
What’s your approach to processing when tracking?

RD
Everything goes into the DAW clean and most of the processing is done in the box, the main exception being the DBX 160SL compressor / limiter.

MPS
What kind of space are you using as a live room?

RD
It’s a purpose built space. It sounds good and I like to record the ambience of the room and add that back into the mix - I use a pair Kiwi’s as they are nice and sensitive.

MPS
Just to satisfy our own keyboard voyeurism, what have been your favourite synths and keyboards over the years?

RD
My favourite keyboards of today are the Korg Kronos and King Korg. I use them with the “Soundtower” synth editors, these guys make flawless editing software, not just for Korg but also for Dave Smith, Moog and Kurtzweil hardware. I’ve worked with Korg keyboards for many years and I’ve found Korg to be consistently innovating with their synths. I think my favourite Korg of all time is the DW8000 then later the Korg M1. Another favourite synth is the Roland JX10, I even prefer this to the Jupiter 8!

MPS
What advice can you offer people starting on their own musical journeys?

RD
Don’t start off with ambitions like “I want to sound like…” and replicate them, instead find out who their influences were. Find the teacher of the teacher and start from there. In short, don’t try and sound like someone else, use their sound as part of your experience and develop your own sound. I’ve spent a lot of time working with keyboards and synths over the years and when it comes to sound design, make synths sound like something new rather than emulating something else. A synth is its own unique sound - it’s own character. Use this  to create your own sound, don’t use presets!

 

 

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