ANDREW KEDDIE, no mean musician
himself, looks at the reasons for the continued success of Dave Little's
surveys the banks of high-tech equipment
which rise around him in the control room of his Sound Station recording
studio in central Galashiels and admits, with just a hint of
understatement: "I suppose I have come a long way in the past decade".
Pride of place amongst all this twinkling paraphernalia goes to his
latest major investment - a spanking new Apple Mac G4 computer.
A self-confessed technophile, he clearly relishes the chance to answer
the throwaway query: "What exactly does the computer do?"
"Well, it complements our existing system of ADAT tape recorders and
automated digital mixing desk. With sample-accurate synchronisation
between the ADATs and the computer, I can get over 48 tracks of digital
audio recording. The combination of ADAT tape and hard disk recording
allows material to be backed up, protecting clients' valuable work in
Really? "The Southern" thinks about changing the subject, but Dave, as
befits an accomplished exponent of the drums, is on a roll.
"It's all about the software which allows complete control over audio
editing and CD mastering with surgical precision - and the whole system
can be synchronised to video."
Even a correspondent not au fait with such intricacies cannot fail to be
struck by the enthusiasm of this native Galalean who made the switch
from performing to running his own studio exactly ten years ago.
But there is little time for celebration as Dave busies himself on his
latest assignment - re-recording the soundtrack of Innerleithen
new commission "Something Written in
the Stars" as a DVD and putting the finishing touches to a demo by
For Sound Station is not just about
setting local musicians on the first step to fame and fortune and the
work is nothing if not diverse.
That variety is something Dave could
not have predicted in 1991 when he set up what was, at the time, the
only recording studio in the Borders. He had expected his staple to be
local artistes and bands wanting either demonstration tapes, to send to
major record companies in the hope of securing a lucrative deal, or
finished albums to sell at gigs.
Dave always felt the Borders was full of creative talent, but its width
and breadth only became evident as the studio began to develop and his
client list now reads like a "Who's Who" of the best musicians around in
every genre - from folk (Kenny
Spiers, Rory McLeod, Mike Heron, ex
Incredible String Band) to
rock (Dawn of
Circle), with everything from
choirs to theatre groups in between.
High-quality recordings of the spoken word are also much in demand and
he has welcomed "Voice of Rugby"
to Sound Station to do the audio guide for
the Trimontium exhibition in Melrose.
Reflecting on Sound Station's milestone, Dave concedes that his own
background as a musician has stood him in good stead.
"Having played in various bands for the best part of 30 years, there is
not much I don't know about the process of music-making - and that
definitely helps in the studio where musicians need empathy but also a
degree of objectivity and plain-speaking."
In fact, Dave is a well-established drummer/percussionist whose services
are still much in demand. He was chosen to play in the "super-group"
acclaimed album "Diving for Pearls" and
enjoys nothing more than driving the raw blues/funk of
The Boogie Band
with his long-standing friends
"Playing live music and getting that
feedback from the audience is a great release from the studio," says
Dave whose love affair with the drums began at Galashiels Academy where
his art teacher Bill Lees drafted him into the school's Scottish
A very different style was deployed in Dave's first gigging band,
which was assembled by ex
Writing on the Wall
Progressive rock gave way to jazz
and R 'n'B with his next combo,
and, with a new decade (the eighties), the feel got harder with
in which Dave began his musical association
At one Blewitt gig at the Golden Lion
in Galashiels, a gangly student named
from Dalkeith came up and told Dave the band
needed him as its vocalist. So it was that
began his illustrious career, singing
with Blewitt on a string of dates before heading south to Aylesbury to
The rest, as they say, is history.
In 1982, Dave teamed up with Usher,
the bass-playing brother of
of that ilk, and guitarist
from Peebles, to create the
Band, which rocked around
Scotland for the best part of three years. Thereafter, Dottle toured
Europe with the jazzy
Why a Duck,
played over 200 gigs at home and abroad with
and that band's offshoot,
It was while on the road with the
Boogie Band that Dave met and befriended
who, at the time, was sound engineer with the
"John would sit in on keyboards on
his visits from London to his Borders home," recalls Dave. "I had always
been fascinated by the nuts and bolts of getting the best possible sound
and John and I would chat for hours about PAs, live mixing and the
latest studio techniques."
Suitably inspired and having visited top London studios with John,
Dave's impending career-change began taking shape.
"I knew from my own experience that local bands and musicians were at a
disadvantage by having to travel to Edinburgh or further afield to make
a demo tape of any quality," explains Dave.
Finding premises for his venture was not a problem and he knew that the
top-floor rehearsal rooms in High Street, Galashiels, which he leased
from his father, retired solicitor Arthur Little, could be adapted to
suit his purposes.
Thus in 1991, armed with an eight-track portastudio, a kit of drums, the
plethora of percussive knick-knacks he had accumulated over the years, a
handful of microphones and a set of battered speakers, Dave opened
Sound Station for business.
Ironically his first clients - post punk rockers
Storme Band - were not from
the Borders, but from Edinburgh, and that inward flow from the capital
has continued over the decade. The result of that session - the album
Eroticnarcotic - is stored among literally hundreds of cassettes, CDs
and other momentos of successful sessions, which are meticulously filed
in the studio.
The ten years of Sound Station have coincided with a dynamic period of
change in recording technology and Dave admits it has been an expensive
business keeping pace. With his latest investment, he is confident he
can vie with the best, although his rates are surprisingly competitive.
"Technology may have moved on, but
what has remained constant is the need for musicians to showcase their
work, whether in pursuit of an audition on "Popstars"
or "Stars in
Their Eyes", or simply for
their own satisfaction," asserts Dave.
The job of running a successful studio has its lighter moments and he
admits his role often extends to that of amateur psychologist,
convincing artistes tactfully that they could do better, and mediator,
bringing calm when artistic temperaments flare up.
The best anecdotes must remain confidential, although he recalls only
too well a session to which thirsty band members had brought a barrel of
beer. A taste, however, suggested that the ale was "off" and it was
poured down the sink in the studio kitchen. Unfortunately, the dodgy
brew re-appeared in the toilets of the premises below - the consultation
offices of the Borders Council on Alcohol, which smelled like a brewery
for several days!
And during the Bill McLaren session, the great man passed around his
special brand of throat sweeties - so strong that the recording was
delayed as the crew succumbed to fits of convulsive coughing.
"It's memorable incidents like that which make this a unique and very
enjoyable job," smiles Dave.
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