Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia



Below is an article published in the magazine
from January 1989.





A Brief History Of Kings Lane Studio


When The Aliens (with Pierre Baroni) moved up to Sydney from Melbourne in late 1980 we were looking for somewhere to rehearse. Our friend the artist/sculptor John Ladyman (and brother of my wife Jude) had a studio on the second floor of the old abandoned Sargent's Bakery in Darlinghurst which was bordered by Bourke St., Burton St., Palmer St. and Kings Lane. He told us about the old refrigeration room out the back in Kings Lane that was being used as a rehearsal room by a band called "Atla" and when they left we took it over. Although it seemed barely habitable, we did a bit of cleaning up and that became our rehearsal room.

Then The Aliens broke up and although unaccustomed to manual labour, I went away and worked on a building site for a few months and saved enough money to renovate and refurbish the place, building walls and installing air-conditioning, carpets and soundproofing. In the brief period before the studio became a recording facility it was a rehearsal room. I had had unending noise complaints from "Ian The Potter", who lived in the derelict terraces above us, so I was determined to seal it properly.

The first band ever to use the brand new space was a trio called Viola Dana which consisted of Peter Blakely - vocal/guitar, Mal Green (ex- Split Enz) on drums, and Chris Bailey (ex-Angels) on bass. The new varnish inside the airtight studio hadn't quite dried when I rented them the room and I must say they emerged a little shaky with a greenish tinge when I came to let them out three hours later. Jude and I rented a house at 58 Thomson St. Darlinghurst which was at the top of Kings Lane on the other side of Bourke St. which was very convenient.

I had heard through Bryon Jones (pre- Rockmelons) of a fellow called Gary Kurzer who owned a lot of recording equipment. Gary was an architect but he was also a musician and we came to an arrangement where by I provided the space and he provided the gear and we split the proceeds. His original 8-track and later the 16-track (Fostex B-16) was a great improvement on the 4-track cassette deck I had been using to that point. Although I'd never had any training as a sound engineer, I learnt as I went along.

Although the dream of owning a recording studio was primarily about having somewhere to record my own music, it became so popular so quickly that all the paid recording I was doing for others plus my live band commitments left me scant time to use it for my own ends. In fact by 1985 I was touring with GANGgajang so much that I had to bring other people in to run it for me. Initially it was the inspiring Jeff Cook (who also did some engineering) and later Ian Amos, who tried in vain to run a tighter ship and increase our return. I produced an album at Kings Lane for Ian's band, "Some Kind Of Justice" featuring Peter Millynn. (Peter and I would later have a hell of a lot of fun writing a film script together called "Feedback" ).

We also added two new engineers. Brian Hall who was a very quiet, intelligent and sensitive guy who was quite technical in his approach and was a very good engineer and Chris Betro, who was also a very good engineer but was much younger and more open to the spontaneity of the moment. Greg Webster, Mal Green and Dorian Dowse also stepped in as engineers from time to time. We recorded so many demos, singles, EPs and albums for bands over the eight years. It was almost never empty.

Next to the bunker like rooms of our studio, there were four other rooms which people (usually with the help of Jeffrey Cook) managed to renovate and turn into studios. At various times these studios were occupied by Music Key, the music software development team of Ray Lade and Jeffrey Cook doing incredibly innovative work for the time, Gary Pepper's Music Studio, Greg Webster's cave-like studio where I seem to remember he polystyrened the walls. That was later taken over by Frank Kerestedjian and expanded and augmented, (as only the K-Meister can!) There is no stopping Frank once his mind's made up and he took over the adjacent garage laying wooden floors and walls and it ended up looking and sounding "fully professional."

When an artist called Franco Marinelli and his mate Craig Hemmings opened a very cool cafe on the corner of Bourke and Liverpool St. and it proved to be a godsend for the studios. Great coffee and food almost any time you wanted it and you just had to run up the stairs and you were there. It was also some where for us to take a break and you'd run into people like journalist/editor/musician Toby Creswell or the writer Bob Eagle. Perhaps you'd chat to the inimitable Jeff Duff or musician/actor extraordinaire Simon Eddy from "The House" on the opposite corner. (The location for GANGgajang's "House Of Cards " film clip).

There were a couple of natural disasters along the way. The studio (or the cold storage room as it used to be) was literally dug into the hill and unbeknownst to us, next to "the tank stream". This was an underground stream that ran down to Circular Quay, and one particularly wet winter in 1986, it burst it's banks and flooded the studio. No one was in there at the time and the next morning it was an eerie feeling to open the door to see so much of our electronics underwater and our horrified faces reflected in the small lake that was the floor.

At the other end of the diaster spectrum there was a fire in 1988 that completely gutted the place. It was really terrible. Mercifully no one was hurt, but it melted everything. It was like a Salvador Dali painting. Melted everything. Desks, chairs, monitors, everything. When we were finally able to get it up and running again, we went all out, with new gear, new couches, new everything, and it was a great little studio to get very creative in.

From the famous to the infamous and the not very famous at all, so many people from that time in Sydney used the studio in one way or another. GANGgajang, Sean Kelly, Chris Bailey (from the Saints), Concrete Blonde, Wendy Matthews, Gyan, James Baker, Box The Jesuit, Wall Of Voodoo, Some Kind Of Justice, Gulf Club, Pump and many many more. I suppose it culminated in Peter Blakely writing his number one hit single and Aria award winning song of the year "Crying In The Chapel" down there.

By mid 1989 we had word that "The Japanese" had bought the building and demolition of the old Sargents Bakery, in fact pretty much the whole block, was imminent. We were out of there by October that year, and it was indeed the end of an era...the eighties in fact.

A view of the original Kings Lane Studio can be seen on The Complete GANGgajang DVD in the "extras" section of "Gimme Some Loving".