The Black Flag visited zodiac studio’s in South London to meet up with its owner and founder Steve Johnson and find out a little about the rehearsal space and radio station located in an almost too quiet, residential neighbourhood in Greenwich.
When you first enter what I suppose would be described as the Courtyard, the first thing you notice is the amount of character the place has, its teeming with life and energy from the painting that cover the walls, to the sculptures littering the corners. As Steve offers us a cup to tea, I instantly feel at home here, this is where the chill out happens though. The magic takes place inside.
We drink our tea and talk for a bit, before Steve guides us through into the studio’s, which again are warm and welcoming, not at all like your traditional clinical music studio.
Black Flag: Can you tell me some background about Zodiac Studio’s?
Steve Johnson: This building is a one hundred and fifty year old barn. It was part of the Comb farm which dates back to Henry the VIII time, and this is all that’s left of the original Comb farm. As you can see it looks out of place from the rest of the area. It was a laundery in the 50’s and then the labour Party used to use it as a store room.
BF: So how did you find it?
SJ: Yeah well, I came across it by accident really about two years ago. There was an advert on Gumtree that said Artists workshop available. There’s a photographer upstairs who’d just moved in the same week as I decided to take it over.
We did a lot of groundwork here, it was just an open space, there was no division, no rooms, everything you see, we built it.
BF: So you’ve sound proofed it and everything?
SJ: As best we can
BF: No problems with environmental health (noise complaints)
SJ: No none, so far….
BF: What’s the tech spec of the studio?
SJ: We decided to put a radio studio in here as well as a rehearsal studio. Everyone that comes likes it. They always come back. Just sort of getting people, its hard at the moment for everyone isn’t it.
BF: And what are your rates for studio hire?
SJ: £10 per hour. For that you get studio space, PA, Drum kit, Amps, everything…
BF: How many studios?
SJ: One live room and a radio station as well. Which is internet based. It’s all under the Zodiac banner, Zodiac Radio, Zodiac Nights etc.
BF: Do you have a lot of bands rehearsing here?
SJ: Yeah we do now. It seems to be okay really. A lot of it is word of mouth. We have a lot of solo artists as well coming through. A drummer comes and just practices. A vocal group may come in and do their dance routine and sing. We have a lot of nice people coming in.
BF: So what kind of stuff do you have on the radio station?
SJ: That is mainly dance based. But we’re thinking of changing it during the daytime. It may be a talk radio station during the day.
BF: So are you looking to go 24 hours a day?
SJ: Well we’ve just moved rooms. The radio station was in the middle originally. So we were getting a little bit of clash between the live room and the radio station. So now we have a buffer inbetween them. So hopefully we may be able to go later. We finish at 10pm at the moment.
BF: Is that so that you don’t get complaints? It is quite a residential road.
SJ: Yeah pretty much
BF: You also get a lot of Artists working here?
SJ: Yeah we do get a lot of Artist coming through. All the paintings were actually done by the owner of the property. You can actually see that they’re all the same style. He also did all the sculptures as well over the last ten years.
BF: It seems like a bit of a creative Hub?
SJ: yeah see this is really why I wanted to come here. You know if you were dealing with the council, maybe things would be a bit different. As soon as you say music, they don’t want live music. They think everyone’s going to be doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing, maybe. Not everyone’s like that though are they. Even if they are, they’re still respectful probably. Perhaps they don’t understand creative people. Or they’re not interested.
I could have gone to get an industrial unit, which would have been really clinical. It would just be a square box. It wouldn’t have the character that this has. Obviously the photographer loves it because he’s used it as a backdrop for lots of shoots. I mean he’s had a naked lady on a horse here. It’s quite a good backdrop for him here.
BF: It’s a very comfortable area. I think if I was going to rehearse somewhere it would be here instead of, as you say, a clinical rehearsal studio.
SJ: Yeah it would be ideal for a music video, it’s the ideal backdrop for that
BF: Have you had anyone famous come through here?
SJ: Everyone that comes here’s famous
BF: What’s the availability like down here, if people wanted to come down and book a studio?
SJ: Just phone and obviously we’ll try and fit people in. A couple of days’ notice would be be good. People like it here and seem to come back that’s the main thing.