Music studio’s still hitting the right note after 25 years

Jarvis Cocker
Jarvis Cocker
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EVERY council across the country can boast a library service, refuse collection and a fancy park here or there.

Not many councils can claim to run a recording studio.

Take That

Take That

Except in Sheffield.

This month sees the 25th anniversary of the opening of Red Tape Studios, now known as Red Tape Central - one of the few, if not only - council-run recording studios in the country.

And, while the long concrete-clad building that runs along Shoreham Street is part of Sheffield’s furniture now, in its early days it resembled a small revolution.

The Star on September 10, 1986, reported: ‘The studio project, in Shoreham Street, is a progressive step for the council, because it is the first time that a public body has put contemporary music on the same standing as art, theatre and classical music.’

Heaven 17

Heaven 17

But the studio wasn’t just a council initiative - its establishment was thanks to support from the Human League’s Phil Oakey, who still rents a studio on the site.

And today, Red Tape’s still going strong. Tutor Omith Mukherjee said: “It’s great for young people who want to get into the music industry - all the staff have worked as professionals in the industry and students get to record in a real recording studio.

“We cover DJ technology, music business, composition and even how to set up in business.”

Omith has worked in the music business since he was in his early twenties - a drastic diversion from his degree in medicine.

The Spice Girls

The Spice Girls

“My dad’s a typical Indian father - he wanted me to be either a doctor or a dentist!” he said. “It was a girl I was dating at university who said, ‘You’re not going to be a doctor’. I was doing biochemistry at the time but she knew how much I loved music.”

She was right. Omith rebelled. But he rebelled well, playing as a session musician for acts including Shania Twain and Lionel Richie.

“Lionel Richie was a real laugh and I was lucky to play with him - I remember him bouncing me on his knee because I’m so small!

“And Shania Twain was just achingly beautiful.”

Red Tape Studios,Shoreham Street, 25th Anniversary...Pictured is Studio/Programme Manager Omith Mukhergee

Red Tape Studios,Shoreham Street, 25th Anniversary...Pictured is Studio/Programme Manager Omith Mukhergee

Omith was first introduced to Red Tape Studios in 1987, barely a year after it opened, to record some songs.

“The recordings were on a cassette tape and I’ve still got them,” he says.

Now, after a star-speckled career as a session musician, Omith has been teaching at Red Tape for 21 years - a job he wouldn’t swap for all the money in the world. And it shows. Passion and enthusiasm ooze from his voice as he tours the studios.

“It’s absolutely brilliant working here - this must be the only council-owned studio in the country and it’s still used by people like Human League and Pulp.

“Sometimes while I’m eating my lunch the Human League will be in and earlier this year Pulp were rehearsing here before their reunion show at Glastonbury.

“Where else can you be teaching music while Pulp are rehearsing in the same building?”

Other acts to have graced Red Tape’s soundproofed space are the Spice Girls, Take That and the Steel City’s electro pioneers Heaven 17.

Red Tape’s student alumni is equally impressive.

“We’ve had one student go on to work at the prestigious label Def Jam Records in New York and lots of others go on to set up as producers working for themselves.

“The music industry made £1.1 billion profit last year - parents cautious about their children wanting a career in music should be taking that into consideration.

“We’re in a recession, but people won’t give up buying music.”

Red Tape is serious in its mission to provide the music industry’s movers and shakers.

Its studios are kitted out with Mac Logics, state-of the art sound systems, sound proofing, DJ equipment, mixing desks, slick performance spaces and wires as thick as tree roots. “This is a professional set-up,” says Omith.

Originally the studio was established to help the city’s unemployed people as well as budding musicians.

Now that ideal has been formalised, with nationally-endorsed courses and nationally and internationally recognised qualifications.

“You name it - if it’s to do with the music industry, it’s covered here,” says Omith.