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Metropolis Round Up: Collaborations with Squid, Alfa Mist, Amber Run, The Streets and More!

It has been a busy period for Metropolis Studios…

For this year’s 2021 Record Store Day Announcement, we hosted and sculpted an ambitious live to vinyl live broadcast to Steve Lamacq’s 6 Music show with Warp Records act Squid. The band masterfully scored and presented new versions of their tracks ‘2010’ and ‘DFM’ both featuring string and horn sections. The two tracks were cut to lacquer by Stuart Hawkes for a subsequent 12” vinyl release available exclusively from independent record stores on Saturday 17th July. See the full list of release drops here!

One of the best projects we have ever worked on was our collaboration a few weeks back with Alfa Mist set up with his manager Ian Merchant from Black Acre and Alfa’s excellent record label Anti/Epitaph. To mark the release of his new album ‘Bring Backs’, we live-streamed a performance the evening before with his incredible 12-piece band and guest vocalist Lex Amor. Featuring all-new material, this was the first public road-test of his new music and the first time he had performed in well over a year. Both Metropolis crew and fans alike were completely blown away by the deep, intense show which you can still see at the link below. Big up to Metropolis Recording/Mix Engineer Alex Robinson, Assistant Engineer Maher Woo-Sheer and the brilliant film production crew at Anattic Matt Page, James Copson, James Stier and Jake McAllister.

Late last year, Fred Perry launched a new Music Grant programme in collaboration with designer Nicholas Daley and Metropolis Studios. A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of spending a weekend working with campaign winner and artist Eden who earned herself a two-day recording and mixing session with Alex Robinson followed by an enviable Mastering masterclass with Stuart Hawkes. Eden will be releasing her tracks in due course but we are delighted to be working with such a classic brand like Fred Perry who as Eden eloquently puts it “play a critical role in empowering and protecting musicians who otherwise might have no other means of support”. More from Eden and about the Fred Perry project here.

Last week we announced the next in our series of Live to Vinyl experiences in partnership with Mastercard / Priceless Cities featuring the band Amber Run. Ticket holders get an intimate look behind the scenes at Metropolis and get to see bands cut two tracks direct to lacquer which are in turn pressed on a limited edition run of 10” coloured vinyl and sent out to guests/fans attending the experiences. The series is well into its third year, our vinyl archive featuring the likes of Kodaline, Gabrielle Aplin, Lewis Capaldi, Jimmy Eat World, Frank Carter, Portico Quartet, Nothing But Thieves, The Big Moon, The Vamps and Tom Walker. We have live-streamed the last few shows without guests in attendance (for obvious reasons) and we plan to deliver a similar hybrid format even when we can get guests back on site but in the meantime, grab a ticket to see what it’s all about. It’s by far the best music studio experience out there and designed specifically for music fans. Learn more here.

In the midst of all the post lockdown activity last summer, The Streets came in to record a wicked Amazon Original session in Studio A. We had a very small window of opportunity in which to make this happen as the band were spread around the country and only in London for a very short time. The unforgettable session featured two live performance mash-ups, ‘Has it come to this / I Wish You Loved You’ & ‘Fit but you know it / Take me as I am’. Recorded and mixed by Metropolis Chief Engineer Paul Norris, the audio released last month is available exclusively on Amazon Music (ask Alexa). Big shout to Chris Koegen and Jack Lowe from Amazon Music UK. You can watch the session below.

Get in Touch

For Metropolis Studio Bookings and queries please contact our Studios Team. Email studios@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

For Metropolis Mastering enquiries and bookings please contact our Mastering Team. Email mastering@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

For Metropolis Partnership enquiries please contact Gavin. Email events@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

Metropolis Studio Engineers Produce 63% of ALL BRIT Awards Domestic Nominations

Having recently worked with the likes of Dua LipaYoung T & BugseyHeadie OneJ HusAJ Tracey & AitchCeleste, Bicep and Arlo Parks, we had the pleasure of speaking with our team of world-renowned studio engineers on the artists they helped produce. Discover what our celebrated studio engineers had to say and why 63% of ALL BRIT Award domestic nominations were recorded, mixed and/or mastered here at Metropolis Studios.

“We are so proud to have recorded, mixed or mastered nearly two-thirds of all the domestic nominations for the 2021 Brit Awards. All we do is provide the environment for our clients to reach their full potential and do their best work. It’s clearly working and we congratulate all our nominated clients.” – Richard Connell – CEO, Metropolis Studios
Celeste has been nominated for Mastercard Album, Breakthrough Artist and Female Solo Artist. Her no. 1 debut album, Not Your Muse, was mastered by  John Davis!
“Celeste is an incredible artist, her debut album showcased her terrific songwriting and mastery of both pop and jazz influence. Well deserved nominations – Good luck, Celeste!“
Nominated for Female Solo Artist, Breakthrough Artist and Mastercard Album, Arlo Parks’ Collapsed In Sunbeams album was mastered by Metropolis Mastering Engineer, Matt Colton.
“We mastered this track by track over several months and it was great watching the album develop over that period of time. It really gifted me an insight into the creative process of the incredibly talented Arlo. A tip of the hat to A & R maestro Mike for leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of making the best album we could.” Electronic DJ duo Bicep has been nominated for British Group and Breakthrough Artist. Their latest album Isles was again mastered by Matt Colton. “I love working with Bicep, whose music is always on point and never overworked. We made a decision during the mastering of this record to let it breathe a bit and not slam it too hard, which can be the temptation with dance music. I think that sonic really leaves a space for the emotion to come through; it’s never forced. The record has really resonated with so many people.” Finally, nominated for Mastercard AlbumFemale Solo Artist, and British SingleDua Lipa’s Club Future Nostalgia (DJ Mix) album was also mastered by Matt Colton. Her track Boys Will Be Boys was also mixed in Studio C!
“Dua is such an incredible songwriter and vocalist, so it was very cool to work on these interpretations of Future Nostalgia that make up the Club Future Nostalgia project. Special mention to Midland for turning Pretty Please into a banging garage joint – windows down, system up!“

Stuart Hawkes – Metropolis Mastering Engineer

Stuart Hawkes, Mastering Engineer Metropolis’ Stuart Hawkes has mastered a wide range of acclaimed artists work, including J Hus‘ Big Conspiracy album (Nominated for Mastercard Album and Male Solo Artist), Headie One‘s Edna album (nominated for Male Solo Artist with two nominations for British Single), Young T & Bugsey’s Plead The 5th album (nominated for British Group, Breakthrough Artist and British Single), Regard and RAYE’s Secrets (nomination for British Single), 220 Kid & Gracey‘s Don’t Need Love (nominated for British Single) and Lianne La Havas‘ eponymous album (nominated for Female Solo Artist)!
“A pleasure working with such talented artists all producing great music!”

Get in Touch

For Metropolis Studio Bookings and queries please contact our Studios Team. Email studios@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

For Metropolis Mastering enquiries and bookings please contact our Mastering Team. Email mastering@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

For Metropolis Event enquiries and bookings please contact Gavin. Email events@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

Metropolis Masters New “The Montreux Years” Albums from Iconic Artists

Metropolis is proud to have mastered Montreux Jazz Festival and BMG’s new Nina Simone and Etta James’ live albums as part of The Montreux Years series. Nina Simone: The Montreux Years and Etta James: The Montreux Years uncover rare and previously unreleased performances by the music icons from the festival’s 55-year history. Simone and James’ albums are the first releases of the series, available on Friday 28th May 2021, both mastered by Tony Cousins from Metropolis Studios. Each collection has been MQA encoded and will also be accompanied by exclusive liner notes and previously unseen photography.

Tony Cousins - Metropolis Studios
Tony Cousins – Metropolis Studios
Founded in 1993 by Ian Cooper, Tony Cousins and Tim Young, Metropolis Mastering continues to lead the industry to a standard never previously achieved, working with iconic artists including Adele, George Michael, Seal, Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Robbie Williams and Massive Attack, just to name a few. Tony Cousins’ latest work on The Montreux Years series demonstrates his credibility and reputation within the industry, delivering his prime objective of retaining the integrity of the music while enhancing it to some degree. As part of an interview with MQA, Tony explains how and why he got involved with this project:
“I knew Fraser (Kennedy – Executive Producer) and about 10 years ago he asked me ‘Are you interested in meeting some of the team from Montreux to talk about the possibility of doing something with the catalogue?’ To which I replied ‘Of course!’ which led to an initial meeting at The Dorchester with several Swiss gentlemen.” “It’s been a highlight because it’s music I know from a musical perspective. After I left school, I joined a band and we ended up playing in Morocco for a couple of summer seasons in the late 1960s. By happy coincidence, the owner of the Moroccan hotel where we were performing was a huge Nina Simone fan and he managed to book her for a week. We were in awe of her, so dumbstruck. Seeing Nina Simone in ‘68, she was really at her peak.” “The Montreux archive is astounding and unique, and it’s been fantastic to be able to revisit it. It’s been an amazing listening experience.” 
Nina Simone Montreux Years The live albums, which will be available in multiple-format configurations, including double LP and two-disc CD editions, feature sublime collections of the musical icon’s finest Montreux Jazz Festival performances, including previously unreleased material, all restored to their full glory and more. The audio will also be available on digital download and streaming services. Nina Simone’s story from the late sixties to the nineties can be told through her legendary performances in Montreux. Taking to the Montreux stage for the first time on 16 June 1968 for the festival’s second edition, Simone built a lasting relationship with Montreux Jazz Festival and its Creator and Director Claude Nobs and this unique trust and electricity can be clearly felt on the recordings. Simone’s multi-faceted and radical story is laid bare on Nina Simone: The Montreux Years. From Nina’s glorious and emotional 1968 performance to her fiery and unpredictable concert in 1976, one of the festival’s most remarkable performances ever witnessed, the collection includes recordings from all of her five legendary Montreux concerts – 1968, 1976, 1981, 1987 and 1990. Featuring rare and previously unreleased material from Claude Nobs extensive collection of recorded material (Montreux Sounds), Nina Simone devotees worldwide will be thrilled by the inclusion of the powerful I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, poignant and fearless Four Women and Simone’s hauntingly beautiful performance of Ne Me Quitte Pas. A spine-tingling version of Janis Ian’s searing and potent Stars, which Simone covered for the very first time during her 1976 Montreux performance, sits alongside her bold and electrifying re-imagine of Bob Marley’s ballad No Woman No Cry in 1990. The collection closes with the encore of Nina Simone’s final Montreux Jazz Festival concert and one of Simone’s most-loved and best-known recordings, the exuberant My Baby Just Cares For Me, showcasing the deep and multidimensional facets of Simone’s life and music. The CD edition of Nina Simone: The Montreux Years will also include Simone’s 1968 landmark concert in full, the first time the full concert will be available on CD. Etta James Montreux Years Etta James: The Montreux Years is a treasure trove of timeless classics, powerful and electrifying performances and raw, soaring vocals by one of the greatest ever female vocalists. The collection, featuring recordings from James’ live at Montreux concerts in 1977, 1978, 1989 1990 and 1993, encapsulates and reflects Etta’s dynamic artistry and long-lasting impact. Spanning performances from across three decades, Etta James: The Montreux Years offers deeply personal and intimate snapshots into James’ acclaimed musical journey, highlights and her phenomenal career. From one of Etta James’ earliest successes, the infectious and endlessly elegant Something’s Got A Hold On Me, a medley that consist of At Last, Trust In Me and Sunday Kind of Love, which is a fusion of highlights from the early 60s, to the raw and emotional I’d Rather Go Blind and soulful horn-driven Tell Mama. The collection closes with Baby What You Want Me To Do, James’ homage to Jimmy Reed and the encore of her 1979 concert.

In 1975, Claude Nobs captured a significant moment of musical history – Etta James’ very first concert in Europe, performing at the festival’s 9th edition. The CD edition of Etta James: The Montreux Years will include highlights of this special landmark concert, held at Montreux Casino on 11 July 1975.

Thierry Amsallem, Claude Nobs’ Universal Legatee, Chair/CEO of Montreux Sounds and Chair of Claude Nobs Foundation, says:
“The Montreux Jazz Festival has always been a leading showcase for the international music scene, as well as a meeting place for musicians and music lovers. The magic of Montreux lay in the encounters between musicians. There were unique events that will never be repeated. The idea was to allow artists to get off the beaten track and avoid replaying their usual repertoire. But here, we treated them like royalty and offered them the best conditions in the world, in terms of sound quality and audio-visual recording technology.”

Pre-order ‘Nina Simone: The Montreux Years’ and ‘Etta James: The Montreux Years’!

Get in Touch

For Metropolis Studio Bookings and queries please contact our Studios Team. Email studios@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

For Metropolis Mastering enquiries and bookings please contact our Mastering Team. Email mastering@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

For Metropolis Event enquiries and bookings please contact Gavin. Email events@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

Alfa Mist’s Free Live Stream Concert From Metropolis Studios

Ahead of the release of his new album Bring Backs, out April 23rd via ANTI-, London based producer, pianist, bandleader and MC Alfa Mist today shares his new single Teki. The release of this track is accompanied by the announcement of a full UK tour for November/December 2021, including a very special headline show at The Barbican on December 4th. To celebrate the launch of Bring Backs, Alfa will play a free-to-view concert, streamed live on YouTube at 8PM BST / 9PM CEST on Thursday 22nd April. Recorded here at Metropolis Studios, the stream will see Alfa play through the new album accompanied by a full 12 piece band!

Teki is the opening track of Bring Backs and is the third single to be taken from the album. Last week, Alfa released a solo session version of previous single Organic Rust with COLORS, while the album’s first single Run Outs earned a B List placement at BBC Radio 6 Music.

Bring Backs marks Alfa’s first release for the label ANTI- and is also the most detailed exploration of his upbringing in musical form. The album’s nine tracks of groove-based intricacies, lyrical solipsism and meandering fragmentations are tied together by a remarkable poem written by Hilary Thomas expressing the sensuous realities of building community in a new country. Entirely written and produced by Alfa, the album was recorded in London with a core band of longtime collaborators including Jamie Leeming (guitar), Kaya Thomas-Dyke (bass and vocals) and Johnny Woodham (trumpet).

Over the past 5 years, Alfa has steadily established himself as one of the most dynamic and consistent talents to emerge from London’s widely celebrated jazz reformation. Building on long-standing affiliations with the likes of breakout star Jordan Rakei, Alfa has always carved his own lane, following a distinctly outsider’s approach and free from the trappings of a traditional musical training. Having arrived at jazz in search of samples for his teenage hip-hop productions, Alfa eventually taught himself piano by ear and quickly developed a unique style, with hip-hop rhythms driving throughout the improvisational forms, all bound by a pervasive sense of melody. His first three solo albums ‘Nocturne’ (2015), ‘Antiphon’ (2017) and ‘Structuralism’ (2019) were all released on his own label Sekito and were interspersed with countless collaborations and side projects, highlighting a prolific work ethic and true versatility across piano, rapping and production that has established Alfa at the centre of an amorphous cohort of talented musicians to emerge from London.

Alfa recently reworked Eddie Henderson’s jazz fusion classic Galaxy for the celebrated Blue Note Re:imagined album, as well as collaborating with the London Contemporary Orchestra on a new version of his track Confliction as part of a documentary with Spitfire Audio.

‘Bring Backs Live at Metropolis Studios’ Band Line-up

Metropolis Studios

Band: Alfa Mist – Keys, Kaya Thomas-Dyke – Bass/Double Bass, Samuel Rapley – Tenor Sax/Bass Clarinet, Jas Kayser – Drums, Jamie Leeming – Guitar, Junior Alli Balogun – Percussion, Johnny Woodham – Trumpet/Flugel

Guest Vocal: Lex Amor Amika

String Quartet: Peggy Nolan – Cello, Lucy Nolan – Viola, Simmy Singh – Violin I, Laura Senior – Violin II

Check out Alfa Mist’s full list of tour dates and tickets available to buy and remember to tune in to the stream live at Metropolis Studios on Thursday 22nd April!

Get in Touch

For Studio Bookings and queries please contact our Studios Team. Email studios@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

For Mastering enquiries and bookings please contact our Mastering Team. Email mastering@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

For Event enquiries and bookings please contact Gavin. Email events@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

Metropolis Dominates The BRIT Awards 2021 Nominations

We are incredibly proud to announce that an unprecedented 63% of ALL BRIT Awards domestic nominations were either recorded, mixed and/or mastered here at Metropolis. Congratulations to all of our clients! Learn more about each artist, category and how Metropolis has impacted this year’s crop of nominees, including the likes of Headie One, Young T & Bugsey, Little Mix, Arlo Parks, Bicep, J Hus, AJ Tracey & Aitch, Celeste and more.

“We are so proud to have recorded, mixed or mastered nearly two-thirds of all the domestic nominations for the 2021 Brit Awards. All we do is provide the environment for our clients to reach their full potential and do their best work. It’s clearly working and we congratulate all our nominated clients.” 
Richard Connell – CEO, Metropolis Studios

Headie One

Headie One has been nominated for Male Solo Artist with two nominations for British Single. His latest album Edna was mastered by Metropolis’ Stuart Hawkes and recorded in Studios A and B!

Young T & Bugsey

Mastered by Stuart Hawkes and recorded in Studios A and B, Young T & Bugsey’s latest album Plead The 5th has seen the group be nominated for British Group, Breakthrough Artist and British Single (‘Don’t Rush’).

Little Mix

Little Mix has been nominated for British Group this year after releasing their latest studio album Confetti, recorded in Studio E with sound engineer Paul Norris.

Arlo Parks

Nominated for Female Solo Artist, Breakthrough Artist and Mastercard Album, Arlo Parks’ Collapsed In Sunbeams album was mastered by Metropolis sound engineer, Matt Colton.


Celeste has been nominated for Mastercard Album, Breakthrough Artist and Female Solo Artist. Her no. 1 debut album, Not Your Muse, was mastered by Metropolis’ John Davis!

Aitch & AJ Tracey

Having recorded at Metropolis’ Studio B with Grammy-award winning sound engineer Liam Nolan, we’re excited to announce AJ Tracey’s nomination for Male Solo Artist, alongside two nominations for British Single (‘Rain’ with Aitch and Headie One’s ‘Ain’t It Different’ ft. Stormzy).


Electronic DJ duo Bicep has been nominated for British Group and Breakthrough Artist. Their latest album Isles was mastered by Metropolis’ Matt Colton.

J Hus

Nominated for Mastercard Album and Male Solo Artist, J Hus’ Big Conspiracy album was mastered by Metropolis’ Stuart Hawkes.

Dua Lipa

Nominated for Mastercard Album, Female Solo Artist, and British Single, Dua Lipa’s Club Future Nostalgia (DJ Mix) album was mastered by sound engineer Matt Colton. Her track Boys Will Be Boys was also mixed in Studio C. 

Regard and RAYE

Regard and RAYE’s Secrets was mastered by Metropolis’ Stuart Hawkes, with a nomination for British Single!

220 Kid & Gracey

220 Kid – Don’t Need Love (with Gracey) was also mastered by Metropolis’ Stuart Hawkes, nominated for British Single. 

Lianne La Havas

Well done to Lianne La Havas for her Female Solo Artist nomination! Lianne La Havas’ eponymous album was mastered by Metropolis’ Stuart Hawkes.

Get in Touch

For Studio Bookings and queries please contact our Studios Team. Email studios@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

For Mastering enquiries and bookings please contact our Mastering Team. Email mastering@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

For Event enquiries and bookings please contact Gavin. Email events@https://www.thisismetropolis.com

Metropolis Studios’ Power House 120 Years Anniversary

Marking exactly 120 years since Chiswick’s Power House officially opened (April 3rd, 1901), Metropolis Studios celebrates the building’s history which once provided power for the London Tram System.

The Power House

In 1985 the Metropolis team had the good fortune to encounter the Chiswick Power House. The Power House had been empty for nearly 70 years, being used only for storage. Because of its enormous empty hallways (the main hallway was 50 meters long, 20 meters wide and 25 meters high), abundant natural daylight, massive structure and classic design, the empty building provided an outstanding shell in which to build a completely new complex.

Unlike most studio projects which have to be fitted into the structure of an existing building, the Metropolis team were able to complete a completely new structure within a covered site. This allowed for ideal studio shapes, comfortable relaxing areas, abundant daylight in all studios, the best layout of machine rooms, technical and games areas and a fully fitted bar and restaurant.

Metropolis Studios

It was the management’s objective to go beyond imitation of other good studios and develop a studio that in every detail would set new standards for the industry and the way recordings were made in the ‘90’s. After a year of interviewing architects and acousticians, the final choice of team was highly original and contributes to Metropolis’s unique design. The team was originally led by Metropolis directors, Carey Taylor, Karin Clayton and Gary Langan, who have extensive experience with the world’s greatest studios, architect Julian Powell-Tuck, whose work consistently won design awards and press coverage in the UK and Japanese acoustician Sam Toyashima.

After three years of painstaking design during which time dozens of ideas for the complex were explored, construction work began in January 1988. Opened in May 1989 the final result, a £7 million, five studio recording complex, has been widely praised in both the international design and music press and in the design community, having been nominated for a prestigious A&D award.

Squid to Record Brand New Record Store Day Release Live from Metropolis Studios

Towards the end of 2019, Metropolis and Record Store Day joined forces to work on the RSD 2020 launch party which took place last March. Off the back of our live to vinyl series with Mastercard Priceless Cities, the collaboration felt like a no-brainer so went about devising a plan which ended up being a big media launch event at the studio, featuring a very unique live to vinyl experience with The Big Moon and a 60 guest strong silent disco. Little did we know then that that would be pretty much our last event at the studio before the first lockdown.

Fast forwards twelve months across a horrendous pandemic and an unrecognisable live landscape from which we are all slowly emerging. Metropolis has been very lucky to have been able to continue operating over the last 12 months but we have had to make some serious changes to the way we do business. It has not been easy but we have worked hard to support our clients and staff safely and in turn, the clients and brands that we work with regularly have trusted us to find alternative ways and means to forge onwards.

One of those partnerships which we are supremely proud to nurture is with the wonderful Record Store Day. Our friends Megan Page, Phoebe Scott and the rest of the ERA team worked tirelessly last year in the most challenging of circumstances to support independent vinyl retailers up and down the country, something that Metropolis finds both inspiring and aspirational.

The ambition has certainly not diminished this year. We are attempting to pull off an eleven-person live to vinyl experience with the awesome band Squid on Warp Records, featuring strings and horns and other delectable delights. We will cut two tracks live to vinyl, fully analogue, taking a feed direct from the Live Room in Studio A up two floors to Stuart Hawkes in Mastering where he will cut both racks in real-time on to lacquers which will in turn, be an official RSD 2021 release. Just to make things super complicated, we are going to broadcast one of those tracks live to Steve Lamacq’s show on 6 Music. So if you want to experience the tension yourself, tune in to his BBC 6 Music show on Wednesday 7th April from 5-6pm.

Arthur from Squid, said ahead of the recordings:

“We’ve been busying ourselves away on some scores, arranging orchestral versions of two of our favourite tracks from Bright Green Field. The process is the same as ever, starting off with no clue of what we’re doing, stumbling along together, each inputting our ideas into the music until it starts to take shape. We’re so excited and also quite terrified to release this little gem for Record Store Day 2021.”

Gavin Newman from Metropolis Studios said:

“as you would expect, Metropolis has had to go above and beyond Covid protocols over the last 12 months in order to operate effectively and support our incredible roster of clients. Being able to provide that safe platform from which artists can create, perform and broadcast has been overwhelming. We sincerely hope that this live to vinyl experience with our friends at RSD, Warp Records, Sound Performance and BBC 6 Music will help kickstart the wider live community with a newfound confidence for the year ahead.”

Remember, tune in to BBC 6 Music on Wednesday 7th April from 5pm to watch Squid’s live to vinyl session!

Metropolis Asks: Pianist, Composer and Metropolis Resident, Neil Cowley


Here at Metropolis, we love nothing more than hearing from and learning more about our friends and clients. With this in mind, the “Metropolis Asks” blog series aims to shine a spotlight on some of our diverse community. To kick things off, we turned to Metropolis based contemporary pianist and composer, Neil Cowley. Neil is known to be one of the country’s most highly regarded musicians and composers working as part of the Green Nuns of the Revolution, Fragile State and Neil Cowley Trio. Winner of the BBC Jazz Best Album award (Neil Cowley Trio – Displaced), Neil has just released his debut solo album, Hall of Mirrors. Metropolis Head of Studios, Emma Townsend, spoke with Neil recently to discuss everything from his favourite lockdown album to his experiences working at Metropolis during the pandemic.

  1. As we speak the government has just announced the route out of lockdown. Can you think back to this time in 2020, as we locked down for the first time, and describe how you felt looking ahead to 2020.

I remember sitting in my studio here at Metropolis and watching Boris Johnson’s TV address as we entered the first lockdown. I remember the emotion both in my studio and outside on the street, like the nation was pulling together to beat an unseen enemy. By ‘eck we’ve come an awful long way since then and attitudes have changed enormously.

As I remember it we had very little time to prepare, possibly only a few hours. I had to get my stuff together and clear out, so I packed the car full of stuff in order to create a makeshift studio at home. I took it pretty seriously.  As I drove down the motorway out of London it very much felt as if people were making their ‘last journey’ before an apocolyptic moment. It was reminiscent of moments from ‘When The Wind Blows’ by Raymond Briggs. A bit of a dramatic portrayal perhaps but I can honestly say it felt like that at the time.
That gave way to days and days of rather blissful weather in the garden and I guess I thought 3 months would see this problem off. How wrong was I?

So in answer to your question, I guess I kept thinking that 2020 would suddenly take an upturn, and yet I found my rather optimistic predictions to be wrong. I made the mistake throughout of getting my hopes up and thinking we’d be home and dry in the not too distant future. To have my natural optimism eroded like that and for it to turn in on me was very hard to bear. Two steps forward and 19 steps back at every turn.

  1. Many people discovered new skills or rediscovered old ones during the first lockdown. Did you suddenly learn how to bake, or did the piano in the corner of the room suddenly feel like an old friend?

Well, I followed the pattern of many people at that time I suspect. First thing was to clean everything to within an inch of its life. When the local dump first opened after first lockdown it was the closest thing to a rush hour that anybody had seen in months. Then my attention turned to ’the autobiography’ which lasted for about ten minutes and two chapters. Then I decided to learn Ableton as I’ve traditionally been a Logic man for many a moon. That was quite cool.

Then (like many an musician) I indulged in a series of lockdown gigs from my back garden, streamed live. So far so cliche!

The thing about the piano in the corner of the room suddenly feeling like an old friend is connected to my new album, ‘Hall of Mirrors’, which I have just released. But then that was happening before there was ever any talk of a pandemic. I’d taken a change of musical direction a few years back and in my desperation to discover a new voice I’d somewhat forgotten my lifelong friend the piano. More of that later….

  1. Music has played a major role in getting people through all of this, was there a piece of music or album that you found yourself returning to?

I think in all honesty I turned to film rather than music for a large chunk of this period. I subscribed to the BFI archive website and explored it to the ‘enth degree. Like many people I think, I’ve checked out of terrestrial TV and even the usual TV subscription channels have begun to bore me. I’m looking for a deeper engagement with my TV watching, and I found that the BFI Black and White collection alone kept me occupied for many a month. On the musical side I’ve leant towards the more deeper ambient electronic side of things. There’s an album called ‘Works’ by Abul Mogard which I’ve permanently listened to in order to reflect my mood. Plus Eliane Radigues long tracks of monophonic synth noise have been nice to listen to at night to quieten the mind. But then, to counter that, when I’ve needed to dance and lift myself up I’ve opted for Duke Ellington’s New Orleans Suite. Both Duke Ellington and Erroll Garner have the ability to sound like pure ‘happy’… and there’s been a desperate need for that!

  1. You are clearly a touring musician and come from that community, has it been difficult not being able to play live and to see the devastation it has caused to the ‘circuit’ and all those involved?

Oh my oh my. It has devastated me not to play live, to the point of feeling like there was no return. To have one’s purpose and validation removed in this way has been unbelievably hard to countenance. In addition, not being able to interact with like minded musicians who’ve suffered in equal measure has made the whole experience all the more lonely. I appreciate that it’s hard to get any sympathy out of people at the best of times for a musicians plight, but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with. I’ve gone through periods of deep depression over it, interspersed with raging anger and sadness. Perhaps understandably, people have decided that we are simply the industry that had to go first and will come back last. That never seems to get questioned which is really difficult to take, because the presumption is that anything we put our hands to equates to some kind of super spreader situation. I disagree with that, though I would wouldn’t I?

The other day, when our road map out of this was announced I received notice of three gigs later in the year. I literally was reintroduced to a feeling in me that I hadn’t felt for a year or more. I think I would define it as hope. Hope is definitely the fuel that ignites a rather wonderful and exciting fire within me.

  1. Metropolis has been able to operate throughout the year. I remember a moment when you were playing the piano in the bar one summer’s day and it is one of the highlights of the year for me. You have a studio here, how have you found working with the team during the pandemic?

Well, I’m not just saying this (promise!) but the team here and the attitude of the management to make the best of this and ultimately beat this has been an inspirational little cornerstone to the other elements of my life as I’ve traversed this ridiculous year. I love my studio space. It is testament to the importance and the effectiveness of the room I have here that there have been a handful of occasions when I’ve forgotten the world outside and the plight we find ourselves in and those have all occurred in my studio at Metropolis. There are so many perks to being surrounded by such a great group of people. For example, Jake in the tech department has even been able to assist me in putting together my live show (for when we have live shows!) by using his days off to invent an amazing system for operating and effecting TV’s from my piano.

…and everyone is extremely kind and accommodating here on a daily basis so that I never feel like I’m just renting a space and shutting my door. There’s always a subconscious connection to all the other things going on around the building and that gives you a feeling of true support.

  1. Has the last year informed your writing as you record your first solo album? And if so, in which ways?

Well my solo album was pretty much done and dusted as we descended into this. But then what followed seemed to highlight and illustrate in a million other ways the story behind my album. In brief, I had spent a few years concentrating on trying to make music in other ways as opposed to through my old friend the piano. I bought an inordinate amount of electronic gear, looking for my sound. All the time, the piano sat in the corner kind of saying ‘I’m here when you need me.’ It was only on a trip to Berlin that I sat down and recorded on the piano properly again and a whole ton of music came out. It’s been a love, hate relationship with the piano throughout my life. I was forced to a certain extent to play it when I was a child and resented the hours of practice I had to do, but then when it became apparent that it enabled me to see the world in my teenage years I suddenly discovered a huge love for it.

Perhaps in recent years I wanted to see what I am without the piano. Answer? Not much!!! So it was a journey of loss and then reuniting and ultimately love. So, as I say, like most peoples experiences in 2020!

  1. Finally, what little thing have you missed most over the last year and what event are you most looking forward to?

Well I guess it’s per my previous answer, gigs, gigs gigs! That’s playing them, much more so than attending them. I’ve missed creativity enormously. The kind of creativity that comes from true collaboration. There is nothing like the coming together of people to reach an end goal. Proper teamwork. It’s exhilarating and makes the impossible, possible.

An event? Hard to say. Most events I’ve enjoyed have been by complete surprise and from unlikely sources. So the event I’m looking forward to most is the one I haven’t thought of yet that happens on an unforeseen day in an unforeseen way. And those kind of things will only happen when we are free to enjoy freedom of the unexpected and beautiful chance.

Metropolis celebrates at 63rd Grammy Awards

We are proud to have worked on so many projects with multiple nominations and wins  at the 63rd Grammy Awards.

Our engineers Matt Colton, Stuart Hawkes and Tony Cousins worked on several nominated releases across the year.

Metropolis would like to especially congratulate our clients Burna Boy on winning Best Global Music Album Award for “Twice as Tall” which was worked on in Studio A, Wizkid on winning Best Music Video Award with Beyonce for ‘Brown Skin Girls’ and Dua Lipa and others who worked on the album Future Nostalgia including Kamille and SG Lewis (who are all a part of our Metropolis family) on winning the Best Pop Vocal Album Award. Also, did you know that Dua Lipa’s Club Future Nostalgia Remix album was mastered by Matt Colton?”

We feel privileged to be able to support ‘Help-Musicians’

As the year moves into March and reflecting that February would usually bring The Brits, Grammys, Oscars and BAFTAs, it is getting increasingly hard to remember what life was like before all this happened.

At Metropolis, we have been managing our Covid Protocols for nearly a year now.  We are constantly looking across industries, from hospitality and retail to manufacturing and education, and adopting any useful procedures that we find.

Over the year, we have been honoured to host hundreds of artists as they record and master music that has gone on to entertain and comfort people all over the world.  We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from the industry and are very grateful for all your kind words. Thank you.

But Metropolis does not operate in a vacuum, we work within an incredible community. The double whammy of Covid and Brexit has created massive uncertainty for musicians, engineers, technicians, crews and venues all facing a very difficult future as the crises continues meeting the Brexit challenge head-on.

As a result, we feel privileged to be able to support ‘Help-Musicians’ in their incredible work providing much needed aid for OUR community.   

Help Musicians is an independent charity with an extraordinary history. For 100 years, it has provided a broad spectrum of help, support and opportunities to make a meaningful difference to the lives of professional musicians. For the tens of thousands of freelance musicians across the UK who make their income from performing live, the impact of Coronavirus and resulting lockdowns has been devastating. In 2020, Help Musicians’ Coronavirus Hardship Funding reached over 19,000 music creators struggling to make ends meet, providing nearly £15m in financial aid. However, with no clear return to live music or end to social distancing, this support is still needed at scale as musicians continue to be unable to earn a living. 

For those who are able to, you can make a donation to support their vital work herewww.helpmusicians.org.uk/metropolis

In the meantime we look forward to supporting your projects here at Metropolis. Thank you for taking the time to read this far!