Billy Lunn, lead singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer of the rock band The Subways, has made Neve outboard units the centrepiece of his new studio after recognising the positive impact Neve equipment had on the sound of the band’s second album, All or Nothing.
Released in 2008, All or Nothing was produced by Butch Vig and recorded on a Neve 88R desk at Conway Studios in Los Angeles.
“In my view it is without doubt our best sounding album,” he says. “I’ve never got over just how huge and rich everything sounded running through that console. I also distinctly remember Butch telling me that the microphone and preamp combination used for my vocals was exactly the same as Kurt Cobain’s during Nirvana’s Nevermind sessions.”
The Subways recently revisited All or Nothing for a Tim Burgess Twitter Listening Party, which involved playing it through and commenting on the album. In preparation for this, Billy contacted Butch and his engineer Billy Bush for more details and they both remembered using a selection of Neve 1073 mic preamps. This, says Billy, was music to his ears because he’d used 500-series Neve 1073LB and 88RLB modules to record many parts - including his vocals - for The Subways’ fifth album, which is due to be released later this year.
“Those modules were at the centre of every single part of the tracking process, simply because they consistently outshone every other piece of gear I had,” he says. “Sadly, because of financial problems caused by Covid, I had to sell all our recording equipment in December 2020 to pay our way out of a studio rental contract. But I was determined that once I got a new studio, I would build it from the ground up with the very best AMS Neve outboard units I could afford”
That dream has now been realised in the shape of a new space at Farm Factory, a rehearsal, studio and teaching facility in Welwyn Garden City. Billy who is now producing other artists as well as working on The Subways projects, uses his own room as a control room and books the studio next door if bands need to track.
As part of his investment in new studio equipment, Billy has acquired a Neve 1073SPX mic preamp, a Neve 8803 dual/stereo EQ units and an 8801 channel strip
“For me, it’s all about the gain of the preamp,” he says. “There’s this beautiful, rich core at the heart of the 1073SPX, from which I can get the very best out of the sound source. Literally any instrument or voice can go through it, and I can trust that I’m already operating at the very best representation of that sound. Having front-panel inputs is also extremely handy, especially if I want to get a part down quickly and in the moment. Mic, line, or DI, I can plug straight in at the front, boost or cut the gain, and get tracking. Last, but not least, the 1073SPX is unbelievably affordable for what you get: quality sounds from a unit of quality. And it really does look spectacular.”
The Subways are currently playing a series of UK shows which will take them through to the end of 2021, followed by live performances in Europe and the US in 2022. As a producer, Billy is working with a DIY punk band called The Meffs and remixing songs for acts on the Alcopop! Records’ roster, as well as writing and demoing material for other artists.
For his studio, he is planning further equipment purchases and hopes to eventually buy back some of the items the band was forced to sell because of Covid. In his dreams, though, it is Neve that would fill the racks - perhaps some 1073 and 1084 Classic units in a 5U rack or maybe a Neve 33609 N Stereo Compressor/Limiter, a unit for which he already has a few interesting ideas.