Starting in the pre internet world of the 1980’s with a telephone and a hard copy ‘Booking Book’ DGS began as a humble rehearsal room in Wattle St Ultimo. 30 years later the studio has hosted the likes of INXS, Hoodoo Gurus, Divinyls, Grimskunk (Canada), Dave Immrgluk (Counting Crows), Randy Jackson (USA), Noiseworks, Steve Balbi, Midnight Oil, Frenzal Rhomb,
Celebrating 35 Years of Recording History
Died Pretty’s classic Doughboy Hollow album, The Ghostwriters (Rob Hirst) to name just a few. Most recently in the new West Gosford facility Iconic Alternative Band The Church spent 17 days crafting over 20 new songs.
The story begins in 1982 when 3 siblings: Luke ‘Damien’, Adam ‘Gerard’ and Jeneyne Everingham designed and built the original rehearsal rooms. They built up the early client base and began a basic demo studio before selling the business.
Marshall Cullen and Dave Sykes purchased the business in 1985. The name came from Adam and Luke’s middle names. There was no reason to change it, so it stayed.
Australian Made Tour
Soon after this, Cullen’s tour management and FOH contacts lead to the entire facility being used for the pre-production rehearsal of the major acts on the Australian Made Tour (forerunner to BDO) of 1987. This included some of the mega acts of the time: Jimmy Barnes, The Divinyls, Jenny Morris and The Models.
It was at around this time that Cullen and Sykes added the ‘recording’ to the Damien Gerard facility. Initially this was a pure demo room, but the demand from acts such as: Hoodoo Gurus, Spy v Spy, Mental As Anything, Noiseworks, Died Pretty and Radio Birdman lead to a significant upgrade. The room was upgraded to broadcast quality and extra tape machines were added to allow multi-track recording.
Classic 1985 Soundcraft 2400 Series Studio Console
Studio B followed in the early 90s with the purchase of a classic 1985 Soundcraft 2400 Series Studio Console (the same model as used by Eurthymics for all of their albums). The console has lived up to its ‘classic ‘status and is still in use in the main control room today.
The Studio of Choice
The studio became the choice for many acts of that era for album pre-production and basic tracking, including: INXS, Big Pig (with Nick Launay at the desk), Icehouse (Iva Davies) and even John Denver. Kevin Shirley (now engineer to bands such as Aerosmith) got his first Aussie gig at Damien Gerard’s after relocating from South Africa. He went on to a stellar production career that included Silverchair and famously with Ammonia when their hit ‘Drugs and Money’ was composed and recorded on the spot in Studio B to ‘get on Triple J’.
Engineers Over The Years
Many engineers have been through the doors over the years or got their start as assistants at DGS and plenty of these lads have gone onto greater success in both the live and the recording industry –
Bourke Reid, David Trumpmannis, Tim Powles, Mike Woods, Nick Hartley, Jaimie Carter, Steve Coul, Dave Springer, Kristian Hill, Jordan Bach, Nathan Johnson, Phil Luces, Dave Learn, Eamon Smith, Simon X and David Price.
The Legendary Russ T Rokk
Legendary ex Chief engineer Russell Pilling (Russ T Rokk) began his illustrious career at that time and is currently on long service leave. His credits speak for themselves and just a few include: – Randy Jackson (USA), Jeff Skunk Baxter (Steely Dan), Grimskunk (Canada), Noiseworks, Hoodoo Gurus, Died Pretty, Radio Birdman, Rose Tattoo, Big White, Sinead Burgess, Steve Balbi, The Church, and The Cruel Sea.
Moving into the late 90s the Foghorn in house production label was in full swing with 2 international signings to Interscope in the USA as well as a host of smaller deals for artists with indie labels in Europe. All tracking for these projects originated at DG’s even if mixed in the USA. Marshall and his partner Elia Green spent a lot of time overseas managing and touring with these acts.
Various studio managers were employed. The most dynamic and well-remembered of these being Di Dofel who also worked as a publicist for the label. Di quickly befriended all the staff and clients and well and truly left her mark.
It was in 1999 that the axe fell on the old wool store location in Ultimo with the demolition clause being invoked and sadly went the way of many classic Sydney buildings. It is an apartment block now.
Having only a short time to move, various options were looked at including building from scratch just down the road in a similar building. DG’s will be forever grateful to Roger Grierson (then Chairman of News Corp’s Festival Records) for offering the use of their studio facilities in the interim period.
We were already mastering clients in William Bowden’s much loved room at Festival so it was a very friendly and seamless transition to the Festival Studios. We spent a very productive 2 years at Festival with the ‘Retro Room’ of our own and use of the other facilities when required for bigger sessions. Our engineers were also utilised by Festival for many of their own projects. It was at this time that current Chief Engineer Andrew Beck moved across the pond from Los Angeles and joined the DG’s team after a chance meeting with me on a live show at the Legendary Troubador venue in LA.
The search continued for a new facility which could house 2 studios and finally the original Electric Avenue (designed & built by Sydney studio legend Phil Punch who went on to buy Trafalgar from Charles Fisher ) down on Mullens St in Balmain became available. It was the perfect location being only around the corner from the old location and Festival.
DGS Mullens St
Since Phil’s tenure the Mullens St building had hosted a variety of different entities including Karmic Hit Studios (used by The Church), Lime Spiders had used it as a rehearsal space and Tim Powles as his own production room.
With him moving out we made an easy move and due to the great design and existing in-house wiring we were actually able to power up and run a test session the same day we moved the basic equipment across. The results were everything we’d hoped for, with far better acoustics than we’d had at Ultimo.
Central Coast Studio
They say timing is everything and the need for relocation resulted in a new partnership with Jason Stenning being formed starting a new chapter in DG’s story. The iconic studio found a new home 1 hour North of Sydney in West Gosford, just off the M1 Motorway.(see new address in contact)
The new facility maintains the original equipment, plenty of new additions and of course the friendly DG’s Vibe. Everyone’s favourite couch or two will still be sticking around. The new main live room alone is 160 square meters, a huge space compared with the Balmain rooms. The studio internal build took almost 3 months with a dedicated team and owes much to Studio Manager Marshall Cullen and Chief Engineer Andrew Beck’s design experience and skills from previous facilities.
A huge range of vintage equipment has been added including some amazing microphones including one of the rarest mics on the planet – a one off AKG ELA M 251( the actual factory calibration microphone from the Telefunken Plant), Neumann Original 1960’s M49, U47 and U87 as well as a host of Vintage Backline and Instruments.
The friendly, creatively conducive fast workflow DGs vibe continues and the host of new young artists and long standing clients such as The Church and The Hoodoo Gurus coming through the doors is a testament to this iconic landmark studio’s Success Story.