We started building the studio in 1988 after the band Kids in the Kitchen split. Craig Harneth (The bass player) and I thought it would be a great idea and the opportunity to lease a place out in St Kilda became available. I also had loads of recording gear left over from when I built the Jam Tin in the early 80's, which was a great starting point.
I’d been reading loads of books on building studios and I had a pretty good idea on how we were going to build it. I also sought advice from David Flet, who was known for designing studios at the time, he created a proper layout for us to follow.
I worked out a plan to build the studio with floating walls, floor and ceiling. From there, we sourced loads of wood, plaster, steel and Rockwool to start the build. We even floated the AC system ducting and had them internally lined to keep it quiet and it all worked as planned. The studio was also on the first floor so we had to reach out to all our mates to help carry all the materials up two flights of stairs.
All that was left was the console. For months, we really couldn’t find anything to fit our budget and the ones that did, just didn’t feel right. The Jam Tin had a Yamaha 2408 inline recording console; which was ok, but not grand enough for the studio we wanted to build.
That’s when I came across a Neve 8024 console and bought it from Billy Fields (Paradise studios in Sydney), who had purchased it from Harry Vanda and George Young from Alberts Studios, as they were moving from their city studio to the north shore.
When I picked up the console in Sydney, I pulled all 1073 modules out and packed them into cardboard boxes. Every module in the console was self-contained so it was easy to pull apart. We needed the console as light as possible to carry the frame. To think we travelled it in the back of a 5-ton truck with the PA gear!
Looking back on it now, it was crazy that the console was in the local Sydney trading post magazine for over 3 months with no one buying it. One day I just thought I might as well get it, at least it was the best back in 1970. But, little did I know, classic gear would become so sort after.
About a year after buying the Neve, I got a few calls from the states with people asking “do you have the Neve console with the serial number 123 from Alberts” and offered me crazy money for it. They’d done their research and knew the extensive history of the console.
We had the console manual with the serial number and all the part numbers, and back in the 80’s and early 90’s we would ring a company in the UK called Shep associates. Shep had taken over the Neve factory and we were able to buy brand new parts to fix certain things. They were all original parts from the 70’s, it was amazing you could still buy them. To this day, Shep still make the 1073 reissue modules.
That console and studio was a part of some massive Australian acts like AC/DC, John Paul Young, Dragon, Angels, Rose Tattoo and many more during the 70’s and 80’s.
I also imported an MCI 24 track 2” tape machine from the states. I think we managed to have all 24 tracks working at the same time! I’d hate to think what 2” tape costs these days, but back then it was $150/roll.
My Father, Keith Johnston, was a major help in building the studio and we couldn’t have built it without him. Keith had built a few houses in his day and was very handy on the tools. Also we had help from our good mates Mark Gason and Andrew Chapman and many others. Jan Johnston did all our interior design and made all the fabric paneling and more. Craig and myself spent many hours there on the tools.
Click the images below to view progress photos of the studio build
Visit the HOTHOUSE Studio Website at www.hothouse.net.au