Paul Pascoe has been a stalwart of the Brighton music scene since the 90s, featuring in a number of bands including Mudlow, Fire Eyes and Palm Springs, as well as working at Church Road Studios, recording, mixing and producing many artists who have come through their doors since it was set up back in 1996. Another band of his, Beat Hotel, has been recently resurrected again after a lengthy hiatus, and which also features Arash Torabi (The June Brides, The Granite Shore), Stephen Brett (Mojo Fins) and drummer Dave Morgan (The Loft, The Rockingbirds). They have a mini-album ready for release at the end of January, and a launch gig at The Hope & Ruin. Paul chatted to Brightonsfinests’ Jeff Hemmings about the studio, Beat Hotel, songwriting and music in general.
I’m looking at the walls, and recognising some of the album and records, music that has been recorded here. Fujiya & Miyagi, Shrag, Jane Bartholomew, Barry Adamson…
What is your role here, exactly?
Engineer, producer, mixer – recording, mixing, mastering. Whatever people want me to do, basically! It’s usually me or Julian Tardo, who owns the studio, with a couple of others who do some work here. We do the full range of audio – music, audiobooks, sound mixing for film. But music is our bread and butter.
Tell me about the history of the studio
The studio started in 1996, and it was analogue then. It was a bank vault, part of Barclays Bank. It still has the ‘jail door’. Still got the tape machines, still got lots of outboard analogue equipment, old mics. Our selling point is a blend of recording capability, combined with vintage gear, a pleasant atmosphere, and calm bedside manners.
What else do you do?
I’m also doing some teaching – music tech and events management at DV8. Teaching is a good thing to dovetail besides creative efforts! Teaching young people, passing on our experience, that’s a really positive thing.
You are known for being a part of Mudlow, another stalwart of the Brighton music scene…
Mudlow has been my main band. it’s been going years. It’s going from strength-to-strength! Amazingly. Maybe not physically… In terms of output we’ve got another record coming out this year, a mini-album, which we are finishing this week in fact, before handing it over to the record company. We’ve got some festivals booked for the UK and Germany. We did a UK tour last year, with some good friends of ours from Ireland, The Bonnevilles, a great two piece trash-blues band. That helped to galvanise things.
Mini-albums from both Mudlow and Beat Hotel. You sound like a trend-setter?!
Well, yeah! I’ve heard people talking about this as a good thing – the old idea of 10 inch EPs. In the 80s there were mini-album maxi singles, with six tracks on 45, and 12 inch vinyl. The Cramps’ Smell of Female live album is exactly like that. I think people like the shorter form because of the way we consume music nowadays – track-by-track rather than album-by-album. So it’s like an in-between step. It works for us. The 12 inch 45 rpm format allows you to have good quality over six tracks.
Beat Hotel have been around in one form or another for a while now, haven’t they?
Years… the story of Beat Hotel is myself and Arash formed this band, this idea of a band, back in the mid 90s. They say youth is wasted on the young, and in our case, it was definitely wasted. And so we didn’t achieve very much in those days. We loved the rock’n’roll lifestyle, and we maybe cut into that too quickly before we remembered to actually make any meaningful music!
Fast forward to about 2010, 2011, and we made a collaboration record with Jim Shepherd from The Jasmine Minks, a band who were on Creation Records. They were one of our heroes. Arash and I met at a Jasmine Minks gig in Plymouth in 1988. Arash has played with lots of other bands including The Jasmine Minks, The Distractions, The June Brides. We ended up making a seven inch double A sided single with Jim. We provided the music, and he did the vocals up in Scotland. We did a couple more collaborative records, and now we’ve got this mini-album which is coming out at the end of January. I miraculously started writing songs again, which I hadn’t done for a long long time.
Why is that?
I had got into a very bad place. But I was inspired by the darkness, and writing was a way to re-discover myself, and connect with music, book and films, that I had grown up loving, and which shaped me the first time around. I used that as a starting point to re-connect with who I was, or who I felt I should be, at this point of crisis… Writing suddenly happened, and it was a very cathartic thing. I ended up with a bunch of songs which I think are very strong, and very honest, and have a universal quality to them. I think it was what I was searching for when I was younger, but I didn’t have the experience or the vocabulary, or the will or the drive to do it. I think that’s quite common.
One of the tracks, ‘Low Slung Loser’, was actually started in 1997. In fact the drums, bass and main guitars, were recorded here in this studio, by Julian, in 1997. I always liked it, and eventually Stephen Brett, our ace lead guitarist, put the final overdub on, 22 years later, just as we are about to send it to print.
It’s nice that the things you committed to when you were younger, you can still hold onto that, and resolve something, complete something. For me, that has been a positive part of the process.
Do you find that sometimes you need to be angry, or down, to be able to produce creative work
Certainly for me that’s how it happened. I think you have to feel something. I think you go through a lot of times in your life where you are focussed on things which seem important then, and it takes something external to kick you out of that comfortable orbit, into a place where you can actually process, who you are. For me it was really about a sense of identity, and being in such a place where I felt I needed to start again, and re-learn everything. Because I had found myself in such a desperate state. But, yeah, you do need to feel something, in order to create, and it’s not always easy to do that with the lives we lead.
Music as therapy, a catharsis… For me, there is nothing much better than going to a gig.
Particularly live, it’s an immediate reaction that the artist gets from the audience, and the audience gets an instant intention of the music as well. Listening to a record, if the songs are good enough, and they touch you… all that you can hope for is that what you write, and produce, somebody somewhere, listens to it and gets what you are saying, or more importantly relates it to their own existence, their own lives. We can’t feel what other people feel. We can only feel what we have inside us, How other people react to that, we can’t possibly predict or know. My whole thing about music has been, whether I am listening to it, or making it or producing it, if the song is good, it doesn’t matter how you play it or deliver it, you’ve got something. If the song is no good, and doesn’t work, you can put whatever production values on it, PR behind it, and it still won’t make it good. It’s all about the song. Maybe that’s why we take so long to produce these things. I have to really believe that something is good. And if I believe it, then I don’t really care if other people like it or not!
How would you describe the music you make with Beat Hotel?
Raw garage, rock’n’roll, a wide ranging stuff, it’s quite an eclectic thing. I’ve always been conscious, worried even, that each song has a different identity in terms of influence. I really used to be hung up on that, but now I just feel you give each song what it needs. For me and Arash, as the driving force behind this band, we met and bonded over early Creation, mid-80s Primal Scream, The Jesus & Mary Chain.
Beat Hotel mini album EP is out at the end of January, on Occultation Records. They play The Hope & Ruin, 29th January, in aid of Grassroots Suicide Prevention. Tickets are £5.50, include a free download of the album, and available via