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INTERVIEW: Sanctuary Music Ltd’s Pete Newton

Sanctuary Music is a recording and rehearsal space based in Dudley. For four years now they’ve been a one stop shop for all bands and artists based in the...

Sanctuary Music is a recording and rehearsal space based in Dudley. For four years now they’ve been a one stop shop for all bands and artists based in the area. Sanctuary Music doesn’t just stop with rehearsal space, they also run live gigs as well as managing bands and artists and hosting the excellent Sanctuary Xposed podcast. The Black Flag caught up with owner and main man Pete Newton to find out a little bit more about Sanctuary Music and what they  have to offer….

BLACK FLAG: Tell us a little bit about the history of Sanctuary Music. How did the studio come into being?

PETE: Sanctuary started from a simple idea really, I had been taking my son and his band around local rehearsal spaces which were to be quite frank a smelly, dirty and most of the equipment was in poor repair. The experiences the band and myself had were not great and we felt we were treated like animals. I have another business that is a consultancy for business excellence and customer experiences so to be treated this way in the music business was difficult. Seemed to me most places are only interested in taking the money at whatever costs and depending on the genre of music you played it got worse, when you have a 2 hour session which takes you 1 hour to finally get a drum kit you can use or amp that worked seemed a waste and yes we could take our own stuff but again then we had to do 3 hours and spent ages carrying stuff up and down stairs and carrying it miles from a car park.

So I decided 5 years ago to build my own place with a simple mission to challenge the way music business is done, I really wanted to change the paradigm. So it took a year to find the right place to base ourselves where we could do something special, had to be on one level and had its own parking right outside and be secure of course. Many great places would not allow us to lease them, as musicians were deemed drunken thugs so it took a long time to find somewhere to create something special.

I designed Sanctuary to be a one stop shop for all things music, so we have 2 rehearsal rooms and with one being a recording studio. I wanted to position us at mid-level quality business but deliver high quality customer service where the musician comes first, and we supply a clean well maintained place where it’s actually fun to come down. So hence in the rehearsal room its fully kitted out with microphones etc. and also we don’t take deposits for people for drum felts etc. and we supply cables to our younger guests and show them how to set up and look after their equipment and of course ours. We also have free chilled spring water and hot filter coffee and a variety of normal and speciality teas for our guests and if you record for the day we will even get you something to eat.

So on the 18th March 2008 we opened our doors for the first time (the date was my father’s birthday who had died without seeing the studio open) with a unique pricing approach, offering cost effective rehearsal spaces and recording with great service at a high quality. We don’t really watch the clock on recording and we will work as long as it takes to get it right especially on mixing and mastering

We also have a unique approach for live events, we do work with people like, Toyah Willcox, Hazel O connor, The Trews, Bonafide, Mushroomhead, Hed P.E, GUN, Gary Numan, UK Subs, Discharge to name a few.  What we try to do is have a named headline band and put local up and coming bands on as support, to allow them exposure and experience on the bigger stage, as well as allow them to learn their trade of putting on a show and what is expected of them.

We don’t do the ‘you must sell x tickets or you can’t play’ type of stuff and we try to offer fans a great night out for a good price. Many times we do deals where we can all have a great night out without losing money and bands get looked after and respected, they get some drinks or petrol money and many times a lot of press and approaches after the show. Sometimes they even get taken on tour with the band further.

BF: What are the different services that Sanctuary Music offer?

PETE: We offer a full range of services for musicians and we can do the simple recording experience to a high level if required.

So we offer

We do recording from a simple star experience for the buddy singer, to the demo and right through to the album for the full time musician.

Rehearsals start from just £10 to £12 for peak times and a reduction for under 18 and students of course.

Tuition drums, guitar, keys etc

Press pack creation Photo shoot and writing

CD replication and production

Artwork design

Merchandise, t-shirts, bags, badges etc.

We also do band management as well if we have a common goal with the band, we don’t charge an upfront fee as we believe no musician should have to pay for a service, we do have a simple 10% fee from profits made on anything we get for the band.

We also do our own gigs so promotions and marketing as well.

BF: How would I go about making a booking at the studio?

PETE: Booking can be made by either calling us on 0121 557 0467 or for the more modern of us it can be made via the booking system on our website

BF: You’ve had a few famous clients pass through. Can you drop a few names for our visitors?

PETE:Famous people…. Sterophonics, Prodigy, Pendulum, Toyah Willcox, Scott Matthews, Jake Flowers, Judas Priest, Whitesnake, Saxon, Al Atkins, The Humans, Bill Reiflin, Donavan Hepburn, Slipknot, Mushroomhead, Head P.E, UK Subs, Discharge, amongst others….

BF: As you mentioned earlier, you’re also involved with quite a few regular events. Tell us a bit more about these?

PETE: We believe that we need to offer a full circle experience for musicians so you can rehearse with us, record with us, get exposure on our radio show and also do live events. Many bands rehearse to write new songs and get ready to do a live gig to get exposure for themselves, so we try and help bands out with this as well. We do simple, small sanctuary xposed gigs right up to bigger tours like Toyah Willcox – the Changeling 2012 tour, where we brainstormed the approach and idea, found venues and do all marketing for the tour plus on the night we do all the technical and band riders, so her and the chosen tour supports to help build her brand. We are also now doing a number of nights with Hazel O Connor and we have others in the pipeline soon. We have a different approach that we do this without compromise, so there’s never issues with payments or riders and where possible we go the extra mile and step in many times to save different nights where other promoters have messed up and have helped many tours that have run into trouble in Birmingham and Wolverhampton and are making quite a reputation for ourselves. But we don’t want to shout too loud about what we do.

We do things that many people don’t actually know it’s us doing them. We have Xistance DnB nights, Machine nights and coming soon a regular punkfest in Brum, ass well as doing tours for bands and artists. We just have to be careful not to spread ourselves too thin.

BF: Obviously the Black Flag is now also hosting the excellent Sanctuary Xposed podcast. How did the podcast come about and what’s the purpose behind it?

PETE: Again looking at how can we change the way the music business treats musicians and the fact that if you aren’t on a TV show you probably have little chance of having a experience or exposure on radio. So we came up with the idea of being able to get up and coming bands from the area and further to come down and do a live lounge experience where they get a one shot at recording and we pass that on to Presley etc who we approached to do the show for us since we already knew them. The idea is to get direct feedback and not any of this ‘your great and your wonderful you need to record, why not use us’ etc. That other people do. We have upset a few bands but it’s all about giving bands the exposure outside of the immediate group of people that know the band already. Putting in a proper radio show with a different approach and characters so the radio show itself is fun, it gives exposure to all bands.

Hosting it through iTunes podcast gives people further exposure as well and now with yourselves its making sure we can get more people listening to the show and exposure to all musicians no matter what genre, though sometimes we will focus on special events like Punks or Toyah tours.

BF: What’s been the highlight of your time at sanctuary?

PETE: Since I am the creator, the first day we opened and we had the first band come in and pay us money was and will always be the great highlight. Same as when you hear a track on the radio from a band that’s recorded at Sanctuary or see the band you are helping be on XBOX Rockband is a highlight as it becomes pretty personal.

Seeing artists that rehearse at the studio be involved on the Queens Jubilee concert as session musicians is also great.

But the biggest highlight for myself is to have Gary Numan do a gig for us, since Gary is my inspiration and my teenage pop idol as well as Toyah of course.

Recently while in Singapore meeting up and chatting with Lady GaGa was awesome she’s a great person and I was very impressed with her and her show, she is a very talented artist.


The great Serotonin video and tracks recorded at Sanctuary

BF: What advice would you give to new bands or artists that are only just starting out in the music industry?

PETE: Its very simple make the music that makes you happy, find a place you are happy to rehearse in, don’t pay people up front for anything if you are good you don’t need to pay people to do things for you, do things yourself.

Everyone will try to use you whether its selling tickets for a show, pay to play should be avoided, battle of the bands is always fixed and if you get past all that remember to have fun that’s the most important.

Do the things that you want, make the music you want, don’t compromise, remember though you think you are right listen to the sound engineer, learn from experienced musicians, if you can keep in time have guitars in tune, get on and off stage well and ensure you do the right checks even ifs it’s only a line check. Do all that  and you won’t be far off.

To find out more about Sanctuary Music check

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