Tucked away in a little nook of Wookey Hole sits a special haven for musicians in the south west. Filled to the brim with the latest recording equipment and surrounded by the beautiful countryside of Wells (and very good pubs) sits Axe & Trap studios.
Run by Ben Shillabeer, Ben Turner and Alexandre Hurr, Axe & Trap is an affordable and well-equipped recording studio, perfect for artists at any stage in their career.
We caught up with the team to learn more about their facilities and how they can benefit new and emerging artists in the south west.
Tell us a little about Axe & Trap and its mission.
To provide a medium-sized, no compromise but affordable facility. A large and comfortable space to cater for a wide variety of bands and ensembles of all sizes with all of the equipment we need to make a record.
Talk us through your facilities and what artists can expect from the studio space?
We have a good-sized live room (7m x 4m) large enough to get a big drum sound or fit a full band in comfortably for live recordings. We spent a lot of time researching and acoustically treating the live room to get it sounding its best. It’s really nice in there now and it’s our biggest asset. It’s a lot of fun to record in and makes instruments sound great from the get-go which is crucial when recording.
We also have a nicely sized control room with some great gear we’ve collected including Chandler, Thermionic Culture and Prism to name a few, a booth and a lounge/kitchen. We also have plenty of storage upstairs. We’ve set it up so if a band wants to record together in the room, but not have any bleed between instruments, we can isolate guitar and bass amps, for example. The lounge doubles up as a 2nd booth too, making the location extremely versatile and adaptable to all kinds of different setups.
What are the challenges of running a successful recording studio?
The main challenge is establishing the business. We’ve been involved in a few other studios and it’s not easy, we’re still in that phase. The recording studio economy is very competitive and there’s not a lot of money available to bands these days. That being said, there are a few studios doing really well in the south west and bands will always want to record live performances so we’re aiming the studio towards that side of things.
What is your favourite thing about running a studio?
Making records, meeting bands, and nerding out on gear.
How do you accommodate the needs of young and emerging artists?
I think the key is to organise the right session for where a band/artist is in their career. I’ve made the mistake in the past, at previous studios, of booking artists onto longer sessions that they really weren’t ready for. On a first session, all some artists need is an afternoon in the studio with their guitar playing live. So we think the key with younger bands/artists is to communicate with them, find out what they’re after from a finished product, go watch their show. Support them that way.
What is the future of Axe & Trap?
A studio is never finished! We’re constantly trying to find ways to refine and improve our recording techniques and to make the process more organic and enjoyable for everyone involved. We’re just aiming to keep the place open and let it grow organically.
It takes studios 3-5 years to establish themselves so we’re in no rush. Luckily being in Wells, Somerset and not Bristol means the overheads are a lot lower. Most of the Bristol bands we’ve had over don’t mind the short drive and there’s some nice Airbnbs in town, too. Wells is also great for lunch and a post-session beer…
All images courtesy of Ben Turner and James Harvey
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