Studio Focus: Damien Gerard Studios
From live bands to streaming and beyond, there’s something for everyone at DG
Damien Gerard Studios is one of Australia’s oldest continuously operating recording facilities and some of the biggest names in the Australian music industry and beyond have come through the doors to find out why they have been the benchmark for recording ever since. almost 40 years.
We spoke with studio head Marshall Cullen to learn more about Damien Gerard Studios.
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Can you tell us a bit more about Damien Gerard Studios. How long has the studio been open?
The studio was established in 1983 and started as a ‘demo’ studio where bands like the Divinyls, Hoodoo Gurus, Spy vs Spy, The Models, Icehouse and many more used the studio for songwriting , pre-production and often follow-up. . By the late 80s the studio was recognized as the most affordable high quality studio for recording the end product in Sydney and many bands like Noiseworks, Rose Tattoo, The Maybe Dolls and Died Pretty created full length albums in the original Ultimo Sydney space.
After joining Balmain in 2000, the studio continued to grow its customer base and reputation. We even had international producers such as Ken Stringfellow (REM), Jeff Baxter (Steely Dan) and others using the facility while touring Australia. The studio moved an hour from Sydney in 2019 to a massive new facility owned by Jason Stenning who became the company’s new partner from that point on.
What services do you offer?
DG’s is a full-service studio, so we offer live album lock type recordings for large bands (the concert hall is 160 square meters), single, album and EP offers for indies, demos and pre-production.
All of our vintage guitars, drums and amps are available for sessions, and mixing and mastering is a big part of what we do. We also do work such as voice overs, audio for video, podcasts, live events and live streaming.
How did you get into production/engineering?
I started in school mixing live bands, then started touring live, from there I transitioned into studio work after moving to Sydney from Tasmania. I had good contacts through touring with many of the great Australian bands of the day, which helped me transition into the studio world. Learn more here.
What is your configuration at Damien Gerard?
We have a large living room, with three iso spaces, a backline room, a kitchen and a bathroom, a large control room and a technical room.
- Pro Tools on iMac.
- Lynx Aurora 32 I/O
- SSL Origin 72 Fully Analog In-Line Input Console
- Original Neve 1073 and 33115 preamps.
- Original LA2a and Pultec Tube outboard.
- Original Ampex 351 tube mic preamps
- MCI JH 24-track 2″ tape recorder
- Revox B77 2 track taoe recorder
- Urei, DBX, API, Neve, MXR, Shadow Hills, Vocal Stressor, TL Audio Comp/Limiters
- Lexicon PCM60, Roland SDE2000, SPX90 classic digital effects
- The monitoring is Yamaha NS10, Focal Twin 6 and Avantone.
- l Acoustics high quality sound system for live events/
What separates the DGs from other studios in the region?
Thirty-five years of experience with all types of music. Our engineers are very experienced and can act as producers if required. We also have a huge range of very high quality vintage guitars, drums and amps from the early 60’s available on all sessions. Our mic locker is also full of vintage units such as 1950s and 1960s Neumanns, Reslo tapes, AKGs, and more.
Is there a Damien Gerard sound/workflow/approach that stands out to your ears?
With Damien Gerard, it’s about capturing the artist’s best performance. So first, that means they need to be comfortable in our space, not intimidated by the technology we have. Lamps, lighting, comfortable sofas and the general ambiance of all our studios up to the new one is always the main thing artists talk about. It also means that if a singer is more comfortable on a hand-held sm58 instead of wearing headphones singing in a $25,000 vintage Neumann, that’s what we’re giving them.
We find that this approach makes the session workflow very fast, especially since we can follow all group members live and still separate them if necessary. Having a big room makes a huge difference, we spent a lot of time tuning the live and control rooms for the best possible audio experience for both our engineers and the artists and producers. Things like drums sound amazing in the room before you even add the mics. Things like drums sound amazing in the room before you even add the mics. The feedback we receive bears witness to this.
Are there any projects in particular that you remember fondly?
Recently the Little Quirks live album was released in the UK (because during covid they couldn’t get there) we had 12 players in the venue plus 5 cameras and it all worked out great . Also on a similar day for the Hoodoo Gurus album release earlier this year which was streamed live around the world, we had to mix 17 songs in one day after the day of shooting. Finally, The Church album was recoded in 2019 when we first moved here, then the rest of the project was delayed by covid and we just have to mix it earlier this year.
You arrive to find the studio on fire (knock on wood!) and only have time to save a piece of equipment. What are you taking and why?
The great Telefunken/AKG ELAM251 condenser tube microphone from the 60s. This mic is worth between $30-50k, it’s a legendary unit and there are very few of them in Australia – one of the most renowned vocal mics all time !
Our unit was the original calibration mic from the factory in Germany against which the others were measured, so it is a unique and very special unit. We have singers like Steve Kilbey who deliver just to use it.
What are you working on at the moment?
We have Ben Gillies from Silverchair doing drums (his own project) at the moment. Next, we’re getting ready to mix Steve Kilbey/Martin Kennedy’s new record. There are lots of young Central Coast bands playing every week as well as a local podcast that records with us every month.
Head toward Damien Gerard Studios to learn more about their services, staff and more!