perjantai 2. syyskuuta 2011

Prehistory of Studio Kekkonen: The old place

So, this year Studio Kekkonen as it's known these days has been in its place for five whole years. There will be more posts to come on the subject, but we'll kick off by looking at the very beginnings of what has become one of the finest studios in Helsinki (if you don't mind me saying that).

So here we go:

Prehistory of Studio Kekkonen (From 2003 to 2005)

Back in 2003 or so, Mikko and Janne were looking for a shared studio space (Juppu joined in a little later). They even had a starting point: Janne had previously done some work for a real character called Toni, a keyboard player who was a known figure in the Finnish scene of traditional popular ("Iskelmä") music and a kind of gear collector. Any gear. As in ANY. He had a few (rather grotty) spaces in Pitäjänmäki, north west Helsinki. Some of the spaces were for storage of his stuff and one was a office space, converted into a studio. Well, the converting had consisted of putting a window on one of the walls, running a multicore and calling the other room "control room". Really, it was a room with speakers and other recording gear in it. We knew this, but were happy to have something. These days a lot of people call that kind of space "a studio", but that's another story. This place was dirt cheap and it was something.

The gear we had in the beginning was a PC, a pair of Genelec 1030's, NS-10's, Digidesign Digi 001 (later 002), a few instruments (guitars, amps and keyboards), a few mic stands, cables and semi-pro mics. So really, nothing to write home about. By then we had already been around the block enough to know that it wasn't much. But then we had Toni's gear, of course. Now when I said he collected gear is a bit misleading. He really just gathered stuff. Any stuff. In the dark corners of his storage rooms you'd find a dozen 12"-17" VGA displays, none of which worked, some sort of automatic line mixer they use in malls, karaoke machines, PC components, semi-pro patchbays, bits of PA systems. Et cetera. Rubbish. Junk. Stuff. But there in the middle of the stuff, there would be a Neumann U47 (arguably the most wanted mic on the planet, besides the ELAM 251). Or an AKG BX-20. Or ANOTHER Neumann U47. Then another 4 broken VGA displays. Then a RCA 44. I kid you not. He had absolutely AMAZING vintage mics and outboard gear, yet it was all stashed in with the rubbish. Then he kept praising some dreadful Spirit digital console or a pair of hideous-sounding Russian mics. He REALLY is a character. So we got to use this weird mix of very pro-sumer, average stuff and this amazing, classic but poorly maintained gear (one of the U47's was later named "Frankenstein") included in the rent. Just a few years later we were fortunate enough to acquire some fantastic vintage equipment of our own, but only one mic - the Neumann CMV-563 - was originated from Toni's "collection" - I actually found it fallen and forgotten in the back of our mic "locker" (and even that (and some cash) we traded for a stereo pair of the same type). That was mostly due to two factors: firstly Toni didn't really keep his gear in great shape and secondly he was very difficult to deal with - purchasing that one mic from him required about thirty phonecalls, three meetings where he just didn't show up and when he finally did, the first thing he did was drop the mic on the parking lot (in its case and only from the car floor height, so it wasn't damaged - miraculously).

Another great feature of his was the fact that you NEVER could guess whether the gear would be there when you got to the studio. Twice I remember walking into the studio and to my horror see that the mixing desk (yes, that same horrible Spirit digital thing) was MISSING and once I got there seeing that it was not only missing, but replaced with a Behringer desk. Toni had other strange habits, such as suddenly changing languages in the middle of the sentence. Even in the middle of a word. Finnish, English, Swedish all happily mixed up. At the time these things were both hilariously funny and extremely annoying, but later I've thought that my life wouldn't have been quite as fulfilling had I never dealt with this guy. He's a warm-hearted and well-meaning chap and secretly we all really liked him despite his certain absurd traits. Plus we had access to his great gear.

Mikko left the place at some point in 2004, cause he got accustomed to working in places like HIP Studiot and Finnvox and the now-defunkt Crystal Sound and did not really need the old place any longer. Juppu and Janne continued working there until the summer of 2005 (that's when the dub collective next door started rehearsing a bit too often for comfort) and then began the hunt for the new studio - what we thought would be just a "slight improvement" to the old premises. Little did we know...

I wish I could post pictures of the Old Kekkonen here, but there is only one known picture of that place (Janne has it, I'll post it when I have it). That sort of tells something about that place. It wasn't really too photogenic... If any reader of this blog has any pics from the old place, send them to us!

Stay tuned for more history!


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