Cellar base, high aims

Dream: Paul Blakeman at Club 60, his underground studio.
Dream: Paul Blakeman at Club 60, his underground studio.
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OVER there? That’s the chair which Richard Hawley sat on for the front cover of his third album.

And in that corner? That’s where Alex Turner stood getting wasted on his 21st birthday. Oh, and upstairs right now? It’s Reverend and The Makers mixing their latest record.

Welcome to Club 60, the underground recording studio which has attracted more Sheffield musicians over the last few years than a tour bus full of groupies.

And which, after five years of plotting, planning, blagging, building and, yes, plenty of famous faces dropping by, is finally set to release its first record.

“It’s a testimony to patience,” says Paul Blakeman, the 40-year-old of Derbyshire Lane, Meersbrook, behind it all. “It’s been hard work but we’ve been building something of quality down here, where musicians can come and make something great.”

That first release, then?

Plenty of artists have recorded at Club 60 - based in a cellar in Shalesmoor - but this will be the first time the studio itself has published something.

The limited edition double seven-inch vinyl will feature just four songs but it is the culmination of a remarkable Sheffield tale.

It begins with Paul - a veteran of various bands including Millions Of Honey - sleeping on couches as a 24-year-old learning the ropes at legendary Sheffield studio FON, in Brown Street.

“Mainly,” he says. “I was making cups of tea but I remember thinking, yeah, I want to do this forever.”

Soon after it closed in 1997, he went to Hallam Uni to study software engineering, got a degree, and then got a job in Germany. Although he was earning well, he still dreamed of being behind that recording desk.

“It was the first time I’d had disposable cash and I was just buying studio equipment even though I didn’t have a studio,” he laughs.

On a trip back to Sheffield, friends offered him and a collective of musicians - including future wife Sarah, Michael Eden and Jonny Dean - the chance to set one up in a disused cellar. The deal was that if they cleaned the place up and did something worthwhile, it came rent free for a couple of years.

“So I went for it,” says Paul. “I knew I could get by doing odd music jobs while getting things going.”

That was 2006.

Paul again: “I remember we’d come in some days and find fungus sprouting on the amps and stuff, and when we got the place sandblasted the dust came up to our knees.”

Today, the dust is gone - replaced by couches, table football, a fridge, carpet, oh and some recording equipment and instruments - but all those musicians keep coming back.

And once that first record is out there are plans for a whole series of split-singles showcasing Sheffield music.

And you know, however long it takes, Club 60 will do it.

First record featuring Oblong, Black Cats White Cats, Michael Eden and The Don Genes released in April. Details at www.club60music.co.uk