Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, June 17th, 2021  

Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm

Studio: Abramorama
Directed by Hannah Berryman

May 27, 2021 Web Exclusive
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Rockfield Studios is not the household name say, Abbey Road is. Nor is it in a major music metropolis such as New York or London. But starting 50 years ago, numerous landmark British albums were recorded at this unique farm-turned-music-studio in the Welsh countryside. Rockfield’s amazing history is spotlighted in Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm, the documentary directed by Hannah Berryman and produced by Catryn Ramasut of ie ie productions, co-founded by Ramasut and Gruff Rhys.

To put the importance of Rockfield in context, it is where Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody, Stone Roses recorded their seminal debut album, Black Sabbath unintentionally invented heavy metal, Simple Minds became superstars and Oasis recorded their early (and best) albums.

Brothers Kingsley and Charles Ward inherited the working farm from their parents but not the love for a farmer’s life. After trying, and failing, to become rock stars, the two slowly transformed the farm and its buildings into recording studios. At the time, there weren’t any commercial studios outside of those associated with major labels. Instead of jumping into spending big money to convert their spaces, they took advantage of the natural echo chambers, using pig feed bags as acoustic treatment and curtains as baffles. These affordable options kept costs low and the studio operational. They did invest in competitive, state-of-the-art equipment and turned their buildings, one-by-one, into professional music studios.

Rockfield is also the first residential studio. Its remote location, coupled with multiple buildings meant the musicians recording at the farm also lived there. Far-removed from the trappings and restrictions of a big city, bands stayed in the farmhouse, becoming part of the family, however temporarily, or in the case of the Stone Roses, for over a year.

Stone Roses’ extended and legendary time at Rockfield financially saved the farm and made it a destination studio for many British bands of the ‘90s. Many of them who made career-defining albums at Rockfield are in the film with priceless present-day interviews. Among these, Liam Gallagher and Bonehead of Oasis telling classic stories, including one of Noel Gallagher recording “Wonderwall” on an outside wall at Rockfield to Simple Minds remembering their first interactions with Iggy Pop and David Bowie, members of the Charlatans sharing painfully honest accounts including losing their keyboard member, Rob Collins, Manic Street Preachers speaking of creation in this space, Coldplay’s Chris Martin describing how he wrote “Yellow” inspired by the sky over Rockfield and an animated—if incomprehensible—Ozzy Osbourne.

The documentary follows the prescriptive approach of archival images and footages blended with current talking head interviews. What makes Rockfield different is its casual and conversational nature. This comes across as charming when the irreverent brothers Ward and their no-nonsense families, including daughter and studio manager, Lisa Ward share their memories. When musicians reminisce about their time at Rockfield, there is an excited storytelling quality that swerves the nostalgic element. What comes across instead is a solid dose of genuine affection for the place and their experiences there.

Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm is, understandably, more exciting for fans of the Britpop era. But the documentary’s comprehensive portrait of the space, neatly arranged and smoothly edited mixture of old and new footage, plus the breathtaking views of the beautifully-situated farm accompanied by an understated yet emotive score makes it a film that is accessible to everyone. And, it opens a window into the creative process in the context of creative spaces.


Author rating: 8/10

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Iqrar Abbas
May 28th 2021

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