kohlekeller studio

Studio Profile: Kohlekeller Studio, Germany

We speak to Kristian “Kohle” Bonifer, Founder of Kohlekeller Studio, Germany about the set up of his studio – specialists in recording metal bands – and his other projects.

How long have you been running and why was your space set up?

I started Kohlekeller Studio in 1999 in the same building where it still is today. I basically turned the sleeping room of my house into a control room back then. I had two Alesis ADATs and a Tascam 24 channel analog mixing console which was the perfect setup to start recording a bunch of local metal bands. From there on the studio grew over time and more and more rooms of the house were turned into either control or live rooms. In 2010 we added another building with our big live room. Today the studio consists of two main control rooms, an editing suite, a vocal booth and the live room.

Who helped you build, tune or upgrade your space?

The live room was designed by Thomas Jouanjean from Northward Acoustics who has designed a bunch of very famous mastering studios (like Sterling Sound Nashville) and has a very interesting concept with no high frequency absorption at all. The main control room has a DIY acoustic concept and was improved over the years and sounds great. The second control room was designed by Fritz Fey, a well-known German studio designer who is also the founder of the German “Studio Magazin“.

kohlekeller studioWhat artists, presenters or other creators pass through your doors?

We mainly do heavy guitar music here at Kohlekeller. Recording, producing, mixing and Mastering. This covers a wide variety of styles. Power Metal bands like “Powerwolf” over Modern Metal bands like “Electric Callboy” up to very extreme Death Metal with bands like “Aborted” have come to Kohlekeller over the years.

What’s your USP as a studio based on feedback from artists and completed sessions?

It’s about being passionate. I think it is how we treat our clients and how much we care about the product! I’m sure you wouldn’t find many bands we have worked with in 20+ years that would say we didn’t give everything to make the recording, mixing or master as good as we possibly could.

Who’s on the team?

It’s me (Kristian Kohle) and my two colleagues Kai Stahlenberg and Daniel Claar. We do all kinds of jobs here – from editing drums to mixing and mastering.

Studios have experienced massive change in the last few years and there are many different types – where do you fit in?

It’s the same for us. We hardly do full productions anymore like we did back in the day. Bands mostly come here to record drums, mix / master their records or because they want my creative input as a producer. Typically we start with recording the drums here and continue with re-amping the (home-recorded) guitar and bass DI tracks later before doing the final mix.

kohlekeller studioHow would you describe the overall vibe of the studio and what’s the balance between creating a great sound vs a great vibe – can they exist hand in hand without compromise?

These days the vibe has become more and more important. Great sounding rooms and fancy gear are still crucial for great sounding productions, but home recording has come a long way. That means that studios need to find additional reasons to convince clients to book them. A great vibe and a creative atmosphere really help here! Artists will only book your studio if they believe they can perform better compared to any other place out there. Kohlekeller Studio sits in a beautiful landscape, offers daylight and a very cozy atmosphere. Many bands tell us that it feels like coming home. And we’re also working hard to not only offer great sound but also our creative input and ideas. That’s the other reason so many artists want to work here.

How do you feel about remote collaboration in your studio with apps such as Audiomovers, do you embrace it or does it change the magic in the room?

We work together with a lot of other studios these days but haven’t used any of those apps yet. This is something we still have to check out.

Can you share a list of the gear you have and the room types and dimensions?

We do have a nice combination of analog and digital gear in all control rooms. Outboard from API, Cranborne, Chandler, Crane Song, Heritage and many others. We also have a pretty big mic collection of mics from Neumann, AKG, Austrian, Gefell, sE Electronics including many ribbon and dynamic mics especially for recording guitars.  We work with Steinberg’s Cubase and use SSL MX4 audio interfaces. We mainly use monitors from Eve Audio and Amphion.

We also have a large collection of drums, cymbals and guitar tube amps and cabinets. We strongly believe that it’s more important to get things right at the source, so for example, we have always preferred to invest in good cymbals instead of a good EQ to fix it later. Many guitarists and drummers like to work here because they know they have a big collection of great instruments and gear to choose from and this is is more important to them than the studio gear.

kohlekeller studioCan artists stay at your studio and if so what’s the set up?

Yes. We have a little apartment where musicians can live during the production. It includes everything they need. Feels like home!

Talk us through your rooms and why they are designed in the way they are.

Since the rooms are a part of a normal house and they weren’t built as a music studio we had to deal with the dimensions that we’ve got. We worked hard on making all rooms sound as linear as possible in the low end, but from what our clients tell us all rooms have a great translation to the real world. The only room that was designed from scratch is our live room. It was designed with drums in mind. We avoided any high frequency absorption to give it an open and aggressive sound that is great for rock and metal drums. Thomas mainly used angled walls, diffusion and some bass traps to get that kind of sound. Drummers love to hit their drums hard in that room!

What’s your dream recording project or client?

My dream would be to travel back in time to witness how rock and metal was produced back in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. I believe we can learn a lot from those days before the digital revolution.

Do you have any other projects going on?

Oh yes! I have just launched my own recording, mixing and mastering academy called Kohle Audio Kult! I’m doing this together with Warren Huart from Produce like a Pro and this is the Heavy Metal version of it. It’s not only me teaching as part of the Kult – there are many other world-class producers (like Jens Bogren, Erin Hamidovic or Bob Marlette) there too. So if you wanna learn how to produce heavy music people should check out: kohleaudiokult.com