Studio Profile: Tileyard Studios

Jake Young gets together with Nick Keynes and Chris Walls to take a look at the ever-growing Tileyard complex.

“Hilariously I am an ex-creative,” laughs Nick Keynes, who runs Tileyard Studios, a creative hub in London’s King’s Cross. “I used to argue I was ahead of the curve because I had a totally minimalist setup, all in the box.” Opposed to its manager’s former modesty Tileyard Studios has a selection of 72 standard and large-sized studios, hosting the likes of Chase and Status/MTA Records, Gearbox Records, Mark Ronson, Spitfire Audio, and The Temper Trap.

The story of Tileyard is fantastically brief. Off the back of being in late 90s band Ultra, Keynes set up a music production company called Goldust with band mates Michael Harwood and Jon O’Mahony (which still exists today albeit under in-house music company Tileyard Music). O’Mahony has since moved on from the business and is now the owner of LA Sound Studios in west London, but three years ago Keynes and Harwood relocated to Tileyard after starting a partnership with property developer Paul Kempe, with the idea to build a creative community out of an unassuming brick business park.

Tileyard started with 10 rooms and a one-page business plan, and bespoke offerings for clients became very much the blueprint of the complex. “It wasn’t a get-rich-quick scheme but it just about stacked up,” says Keynes, whose job it was to fill the empty space with companies and individuals. “To this day we’ve never yet built a space, whether it be an office space or a studio space, speculatively.”

Keynes used Studio People to design and build phase one, then brought in Chris Walls (then of Munro Acoustics) as design consultant for the next stage of development, which happened to be an entire floor for British electronic dance music twosome Basement Jaxx. Built by Davies Design & Construction, Walls has since carried out all of the design, acoustics, drawing, project management, and monitoring set-up for every studio at Tileyard and since leaving Munro Acoustics in late 2013, has continued to work with Keynes on studios at Tileyard under the Level Acoustic Design banner. “A lot of acousticians are almost a different species but Chris was like a normal human being,” says Keynes. “From Basement Jaxx onwards Chris has designed every single space, and we have really raised the bar.”

Since the not-so-early days (the first 10 studios were built in 2011) the complex has moved onwards and upwards and is currently in phase 15, with every studio still bespoke to its client. The momentum and energy is apparent as soon as you step foot on the property and is now attracting more and more high-profile clients.

According to Keynes, when musician-cum-Grammy Award-winning producer Mark Ronson came to him looking for a new space, he wanted to create an environment that felt like it had been at Tileyard forever. Co-designed by Nashville-based acoustic engineer Steve Durr, the studio definitely delivered on Ronson’s brief. Behind the brick wall and plain steel door, the studio’s black and white checkered tile floors and walls covered in gold and platinum records feel in line with any studio that lived through the golden era of the 60s and 70s.

Mark Ronson has made his home at Tileyard

Control room

Ronson’s control room feels equally ‘worked in’, and features an MCI-500, UREI 813 and ATC SCM25ASL Pro monitors, and an impressive offering of outboard including a stereo Fairchild compressor. EMT 140 and 240 plate reverbs are supplemented with stereo reverb sends to the toilet for a ‘toilet reverb’ (which Walls claims gives the classic plate reverbs a run for their money).

A machine room off the back of the control room houses a Studer A800 2in and a Scully eight-track tape machine while the large live room, which is easily viewed though a massive window in front of the console, contains a serious amount of vintage kit from drums and guitars to amps as well as a separate booth for cabinets, drums, or any other isolation needs.

“The thing that we need to be sure about is that it’s built and designed properly. It’s all about creating a space that you feel good in. This was a really interesting one. It took a while – it was a slower process – but Mark loves what he’s got and hopefully he’ll make some really important records in here.”

Behind another similarly unassuming steel door and up a flight of stairs is the home of MTA Records, the label formed in 2008 by electronic music duo Chase and Status.

Inside is a far cry from Ronson’s vintage-inspired room where a Pro Tools system plays out into a pair of massive, soffit-mounted Genelec 1034As acquired from their previous studio at County Hall when it closed last year.

Traversing the car park and heading up another flight of stairs you’ll find the personal studios of film, TV, and games composers Paul Thomson and Christian Henson, the founders of high-end sample library company Spitfire Audio. If the entirely custom nature of Tileyard wasn’t already apparent, walking into the Spitfire studios makes it perfectly clear. The two rooms feel more in line with a Soho post-production suite rather than a business park in King’s Cross, with spacious rooms in a red colour scheme and a wild variety of synths, keyboards, and outboard kit sitting on furniture made from reclaimed wood and metal.

Spitfire Audio founders Paul Thomson and Christian Henson have studios in the complex

Credit: Alicia Light Photography

The complex has got 10,000ft coming back this year and 30 people on the waiting list. “It shows you there is an audience and I think the more you build the more compelling being here becomes,” says Keynes. “We thought that there might have been a saturation point but actually the more you build the more people want to be here. It just feeds itself. It’s a monster.”