No Studio is a DIY recording studio in Manchester ran by Pijn and former Old Skin guitarist Joe Clayton. The studio is quickly becoming a sought-after place for independent bands to flock to, with recordings being praised for their depth of sound and atmospheric qualities. We caught up with Joe to ask him about life at No Studio.
When did you have the vision to start No Studio and how did you go about bringing it to life?
I wouldn’t say there was necessarily a vision to start off with, I think I just happened to find myself in a position where I didn’t want to reapply to medical school, I wasn’t enjoying working as a teacher, and so I put much more time and effort into DIY recording, which felt like a very stupid idea at the time. But I really enjoyed it, and I was driven enough to keep working at it until I could quit my job and do this as much as possible.
Is it mainly yourself who runs No Studio, or do you have a team behind you, and is it something you are able to make a living off?
No Studio is a one-man operation, but I’m surrounded by so many supportive friends that it doesn’t really feel like it. The network of people around me has grown, be that bandmates who spread the word about my work, or people who keep coming back to record with me, and especially fellow engineers. It can be an extremely isolating job, and to make a living you have to work anti-social hours and make plenty of sacrifices.
You’ve hosted artists such as Pijn, Wren, Leeched, VOW, Archelon, Natural Orthodoxy and more. When you record with bands do you also like to take on a producer role, or is that up to the artists?
I like to take that session by session. Some bands come in with a specific idea of how they want to sound, but if a session will go more smoothly with me being a bit more heavy-handed directing a band then I’ll go with that.
Records that have come out of No Studio tend to be praised for their atmospheric qualities, which is evident in your own band Pijn, is that something of a signature of yours?
I’ve spent so long comparing my work to the likes of Kurt Ballou, Matt Bayles, Lewis Johns and many more that I didn’t think I’d have a “signature sound”, more just a slightly shittier version of any of those guys! But when it comes to making records I do really enjoy working on atmospheric aspects. Maybe this stems from obsessing over records by ISIS, Cult Of Luna and Godspeed You! Black Emperor for too long. I like to try and make a record immersive, and put things in to try and catch the listener’s ear on repeat plays. If a band comes in and there is a running theme for the record, or their sound has been defined by the location they have written in, it can be really cool to layer in some textures or background noise of the place to really instil a sense of character.
Do you have a particular favourite record that has come out of No Studio (other than your own), perhaps one you are most proud of?
This is a horrible question [Laughs]! It won’t be any of my own band’s records as I am terrible for hating those as soon as I print the mixes. I love Earth Moves’ The Truth In Our Bodies. That was such a fun album to make and it is still incredibly powerful. The Glarus album Then And When was another incredibly satisfying one. The Gerrard Bell-Fife album that will be out soon is something I can see myself listening to forever. Or the Exxxekutioner album where I stuck about 30 guest divebombs in.
Who would be your dream artist to come and record at No Studio?
I think I would like to have a band where one of the members is an engineer as well, to try and sneakily learn from them. So probably Converge so I could get Kurt Ballou here and see if he gets angry seeing me fuck up their sound. But I would also like a band like Dawn Of Midi because they are outrageously talented musicians and I think it would be an inspiring process. Or Young Widows so I could hear the best bass tones in real life.
What are the future plans for the studio itself, and are you able to say who is scheduled to record there soon?
There’s a lot going on, I’ve got some big plans for the next year or so that I need to keep under wraps for now, but I just hope to keep plugging away making cool albums. I will say to keep an eye out for the Ithaca album, this was recorded a while ago and hopefully will see the light of day soon.
You are incredibly active with Pijn who frequently tour. How do you manage running a studio amongst all your other plans, and do you ever sleep?
I know I always look tired but I’m quite happy with the lack of sleep. Tours are my holidays, and Google Calendar is my master.
Check out No Studio here.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French