As you may have noticed, I haven’t written my blog for just over one year… I know it’s really terrible; I just wasn’t feeling too inspired. Anyhoo I have decided to get back into it and here I am! Aren’t you just so excited to ‘read’ me!
Okay, so last month I was lucky enough to travel to Europe again to see a bit more of the place. There were a number of countries I specifically wanted to visit for the following reasons:
- Berlin, Germany. I visited Berlin back in 2004 and just loved it. The reason I wanted to go back a second time was to visit the legendary Hansa Studios located at Köthener Straße 38, 10963 Berlin which were founded in the 60’s not long after the Berlin wall was erected. Hansa Studios is especially known for the sound quality of recording in The Hall (aka The Big Hall by the Wall). Now some of you may know, I am a huge Depeche Mode fan and they recorded four albums (Construction Time Again (1983), Some Great Reward (1984), Shake the Disease from The Singles 81-85 (1985) and Black Celebration (1986). So of course I had an awesome reason to visit.
- Tallinn, Estonia. It was my plan to visit the Depeche Mode Baar in Tallinn. Yes, there is a bar dedicated solely to Depeche Mode.
- Riga, Latvia. See 2. above.
So let’s start with Hansa Studios. Before leaving Australia, I found this great tour company, Berlin Music Tours (http://www.musictours-berlin.com/hansa-studio-tour) which specifically held tours at Hansa Studio. Luckily there was a tour available on one of the two days I had in Berlin. For me it was such a long day, waiting, waiting, and waiting for 4.00 pm to roll around. Upon arriving at the studio, we met Thilo who ran the tour, paid our 25 Euro (the more people in the group, the cost is less) and proceeded to commence the 2 hour tour (well, the tour actually went for 2 ½ hours, but believe me, no one was complaining!).
Here is a photo of me beside the Hansa Tonstudio sign in the main entrance way.
Our first port of call was the staircase which led to The Hall (aka The Big Hall by the Wall). Now, the staircase was a beautifully curve wooden staircase with rich red carpet and it is well known for this photo of Depeche Mode during their period at Hansa. I just love it how Dave Gahan just lies there draping his arm so delicately across the carpet.
So I wanted to recreate this photo and I think I did a pretty good job don’t you think? Just a shame I left my camera on black and white mode instead of colour… oh well, you get what I was trying to do! Ha ha
Anyway, enough of the silliness! So once we ascended the stairs, we arrived into The Hall and it was beautiful as you can see from the photo below.
David Bowie, U2 and Depeche Mode loved the special acoustic of The Hall. Thilo mentioned the rumour was that Martin Gore had sung and recorded “Somebody” in this room naked and when he spoke to Alan Widler a few years later, Alan confirmed this was in fact a true story. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall that day!
From here, we headed upstairs again to Studio 1 and the Mix Room. In 2009, Depeche Mode rehearsed “Wrong” (from their 2009 album Sounds of the Universe) in Studio 1 for a TV appearance at the German ECHO AWARDS in Berlin. Apparently Dave Gahan had left a number of water bottles in the studio and the next day Thilo was taking a tour through and someone wanted to take the bottles Dave Gahan had used. I’m not sure how I feel about that as it seems a little too personal for my liking.
Studio 1 is connected to the Mix Room, so our group gathered around the Mixing Desk and Thilo talked about some of the songs recorded and mixed in this room by Depeche Mode. After a few minutes, “People Are People” which is from their 1984 album “Some Great Reward” is blasted out into the studio and OMG this was the part of the tour I had been looking forward to for months! Imagine you’re sitting in the small mixing room, while you’re looking out to Studio 1 picturing the band actually playing live to you, right there. Well, that was what I was imagining anyway! I almost, almost had a tear in my eye….
Next up on the playlist was “Black Celebration” which was recorded in The Hall downstairs as Depeche Mode wanted a big Cathedral type sound which The Hall provided extremely well. This is such a great song even 30 years later and it is one of my favourite. “Black Celebration” is from their fifth studio album “Black Celebration” released in 1986.
Thilo then described the recording of “Stripped” (not in taking off your clothes by the way) where at the beginning of the song the sound of an engine had been layered three times in order to make a thick sound. The engine sound was actually from Dave Gahan’s Porsche. If you’ve never heard the fireworks at the end of “Stripped”, don’t be surprised, unless you know they’re there, it is quite difficult to hear them but it was the small details which made the song. These fireworks were recorded over three days in a car park in the UK. “Stripped” was also off their “Black Celebration” album.
Unfortunately we were nearing the end of the tour with such sadness but Thilo informed us we had one more treat in store… Merchandise! There were Hansa mugs, t-shirts, tote bags and so on and of course I just had to buy something, so I purchased a Hansa Studio tote bag.
It was now time to say goodbye to Thilo and Hansa Studios. It was amazing to know I was in the two studios and mixing room where great artists had recorded their various albums. Thilo was also a Sound Engineer and a huge Depeche Mode fan since 1983. He was very informative and knowledgeable about the studio and all its various occupants.
If you ever find yourself in Berlin, I would recommend taking a Hansa Studio tour with Berlin Music Tours. You won’t regret it. BTW: Berlin Music Tours also do David Bowie Walking Tours.. how cool is that! 🙂
Next time… Depeche Mode Baar, Tallinn, Estonia.