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When British Antarctic Survey engineer Mat Richardson was stationed at the Halley Research Station in Antarctica, he wasn’t going to let some of the harshest conditions on the planet get in the way of his music making, so he decided to have a sturdy and compact recording studio shipped to the facility.
“Although we are here to support incredibly important scientific research,” says Mat, “we also make as much use of our spare time as possible. We have a superb opportunity to learn all sorts of things, from languages to engineering skills and, in my case, music.”
So Mat approached Guitarworks, Reading, for some advice. The company’s MD, Nigel Turner, takes up the story.
“We chose equipment that we were confident was top quality and reliable in use. We had to be conscious of the weight because it was being hand-carried to him. There are only two supply drops a year so we couldn’t afford any mistakes!”
The set-up, which included a Focusrite Saffire interface and Novation ReMOTE SL25, was flown to the Falklands, transported via Icebreaker ship, plane and finally Sno-cat to Halley. Mat has already used the set-up to record several new songs and is particularly pleased with how easy it is to get to grips with.
“The ReMOTE SL is a superb piece of equipment,” he says. “It’s incredibly easy to use and offers real hands on control. It travelled many thousands of miles to get here, I plugged it in and it worked straight away. I use it all the time without any problems at all, and I can’t ask for more than that! Automap is a revelation. I just start Cubase, load my project and it’s all there ready to go! It’s very intuitive to use.”
“The Saffire is incredible,” Mat continues. “I’m amazed by the quality of the sound every time I use it. It’s incredibly easy to use either via the software or the unit itself. I very quickly got it set up for monitoring and for recording and now it just sits there doing its job. It does everything I want it to do, my guitar and mic are always plugged in and the quality of the recordings always astounds me. The software is very easy to operate and the bundled plug-ins are all I use.”
“It always makes me sound better than I am and, as with the Remote SL, I’m restricted by talent rather than equipment!”
And while the Antarctica might well be one of harshest places for a studio, it is also one of the most inspirational places for making music.
“The Antarctic is an incredible environment to live in,” say Mat. “It’s very remote, isolated and stunningly beautiful. It’s easy to take inspiration from the sheer beauty of the place but I also find that I’m affected by thoughts of home and friends and family that I miss back there. There is also loads of history here, photographs of every wintering team that has manned Halley Research Station since 1956. It makes you feel very proud that you are a part of something important and it’s easy to take inspiration from the pioneers that have led the way in Antarctic science and made a real difference.”
So what plans does he have for his music?
“I’ve really enjoyed having a go at writing some songs and I find recording what I come up with a brilliant experience. It’d be great to think I can carry on trying to write some stuff when I get back home. I still have a year to go down here so will hopefully get a bit better as I write more.”