Having started life as a small operation in Uxbridge, JBJ Studio suddenly became one of the UK’s most sought after residential studios, when the team was given the chance to expand into a second property on Portobello Road in the heart of Notting Hill. From the slide linking the master bedroom and the live room, to the Quested Q 412 monitors from Abbey Road studio 3, the five-storey house (formerly owned by X Files star Gillian Anderson) is as full of creative character as it is premier recording equipment.
As a result, JBJ’s Notting Hill facility has become a go to place for some of the biggest names in music including Stormzy, Skrillex, Fred Again, Liam Payne, Sigrid and Charli XCX; as well as being the preferred destination for many major record labels looking to host listening sessions in an inspiring, photogenic environment drenched in natural daylight.
We sat down with Head Engineer James Brown to find out more.
Can you give us a brief history of JBJ?
James Brown: JBJ began as a very small operation based out of my business partner’s garden in Uxbridge. It was very basic, not much high end gear. Initially, we catered to low key, local bands for modest fees. Our big break came when a local band we worked with, Bloxx, ended up doing quite well and got a major deal with Sony. I was their producer, and this success led to more significant projects. We were attracting quite big names but when they realised we were a small operation out in Uxbridge, we ended up losing quite a few projects.
A client of mine had this unused, five-storey house on Portobello Road in Notting Hill. He was a musician, big into music, so he could see what was happening, the buzz and the growth in the business. He suggested we do it in the house, at which point I thought, ‘Oh shit. This is a game changer!’ Having access to five big floors of cool, aesthetically designed spaces was a real upgrade.
There were no residential recording studios in London – they tend to be retreats out in the country. The idea being that you can have an idea at 4am and start recording. We ended up establishing this luxury residential recording facility in central London.
We’ve got unique creative features in every room – there’s a slide connecting the master bedroom to the live room, which is pretty fucking cool! You can be sitting in the bath on the fourth floor, listening to someone mixing your track in the basement.
What was the timeline for this transition?
James Brown: The shift to Notting Hill happened right in the middle of Covid. Peak lockdown. Interestingly, the pandemic conditions, like the requirement for quarantine, worked in our favor. People would come from abroad and quarantine at our studio. We were really busy.
Can you talk about some of your clients and the studio’s unique aspects?
James Brown: Our first client was Skrillex, who stayed with us for a month. He was only meant to stay with us for two weeks but kept extending. The album he made here has just come out actually, which is exciting.
Our first booking with Miloco was Stormzy, who stayed with us for three months. Then we’ve had Olivia Rodrigo, The 1975, James Arthur, and Calum Scott. Big, top tier clients.
The studio is known for some of the listening sessions it’s hosted, tell us about that…
We’re very close to the major labels in terms of location, and we’ve got the kinds of spaces that really suit those kinds of events: big spaces, loads of natural daylight. The building itself is really photogenic. There have been a lot of films shot here. The house used to be owned by Gillian Anderson – the actor from the X Files – she put all of this weird and wonderful stuff in here and we’ve kept a lot of it. Combine all that with top tier equipment and it’s really special.
How has the studio adapted to changing artist expectations?
JB: These days I could put a laptop in a room and call it a studio – and a lot of people do that. That’s great and means there are a lot of people making records. But in this day and age, there or there abouts is nowhere near. You have to go above and beyond.
Now, a studio is more than just a place for recording; it’s about offering a complete creative and lifestyle experience. We cater to high-profile clients and, when we have an artist in, it’s just them in the building. They have the entire building during their stay. We’ve incorporated features like on-site catering and a basement with a nightclub vibe.
A lot of the time, artists bring content people with them as well. They’re not just there to record, they’re filming, taking pictures, doing interviews… so, again, having such a photogenic place is a real plus.
We also have a lot of unique equipment with historical significance, like monitors from Abbey Road Studio 3 and Pink Floyd’s Studer A80 tape machine. Our focus is on creating an environment that’s not just about recording but also conducive to filming, interviews, and music videos.
What’s coming up for you?
JB: We’ve got Disney coming in to do some filming; John Summit, Dave, Ne-Yo… We do a fair few emerging artists too, as well as a lot of philanthropic projects – we’ve got a gospel choir coming in to do something for a Grenfell charity soon.
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