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“… In New Orleans where I lived as a child, I remember singing as I scrubbed the floors. It would make the work go easier. When the old people weren’t home, I’d turn on a Bessie Smith record. And play it over and over… Bessie is my favourite, but I never let people know I listened to her.
Mamie Smith has a prettier voice, but Bessie’s had more soul in it. She dug right down and kept it in you. Her music haunted you even when she stopped singing.”

Mahalia Jackson, extract from Too Close to Heaven, The History of Gospel Music by Viv Broughton
Indie Series
Premises Studios, between hell and heaven

Text and photography by Claudine Boeglin

Indie Series is a tribute
to independent artists,
curators and entities
in sonic and visual arts

The Premises Studios
205-209 Hackney Rd
London E2 8JL
T. 0207 729 7593
Open 7 days a week
From 10am -11pm

8 fully equipped rehearsal
rooms for hire

Studio A: first solar powered
professional recording studio
in Europe

10 long-let producer rooms

Radio production studios

3 management offices

35 storage cages
for band equipment

Hair & Make Up salon

[soon bar+live music]

Premises Café
Open daily from 8am
Food: Turkish

Beat. Pulse. Tonality. Minor. Measure. Major. Influence.

Located at 209 Hackney Rd. the Premises Studios stands for music production, rehearsals and recording. Behind the black façade of bold resistance against the real estate assault in the wake of the tech mirage, a beehive of artists play. Surrounded by the scaffoldings of vertical greed, erect cranes and loud fonts for ‘Marketing Suites. Concierge. Gym. Club Lounge’, the battle for urban land grab is summed up here in London’s East End.

Meanwhile the Premises Studios operate in the metaphysical space of music, seemingly unimpressed. Maybe because it stands shoulder to shoulder with the Hell’s Angels headquarters next door as a flagship of 20th century pop culture rebellion. After all, music and the wheels formed the off speed-limit symbols of freedom and built the myths of what increasingly became a century long youth cult.

I entered the studios for this exact smell of burning rubber history. That’s when FKA Twigs checked out and Fat White Family plugged-in their gear for rehearsal.

Viv Broughton, the 76 years young owner and CEO, describes the place: “… between a hotel and a crèche for noisy overgrown children.” He spent the last 23 years battling to acquire ownership of the sum of its parts. His latest acquisition The Launderette still wears its original storefront waiting for legal clearance.

The Premises Studios with its low-key management and high-end facilities runs 7/7 around the clock in Run DMC ghetto blaster mood. The place has the grip and savvy of New York. And its thrilling sense of ‘time is money’ minus the ‘we change the world’ mantra. Refreshing. Even its café ‘The Premises’ recalls Little Italy of the then family-owned restaurants. From the building’s basement, which stores mythical instruments up to the solar-powered rooftop and the stylish Studio A, the place is filled with radical DNA.

When I asked Viv for a legacy, he spoke of the importance of supporting young artists with legal and business advice for them not to be stripped of their talent and copyright by music majors right when they blossom. He sits on the board of Tomorrow’s Warriors, an incubator for some of the most prominent emerging talents in jazz music.

Here the camera can only capture the flavour of the space in absence. Most studios and corridors are pitch black. I’d often jump off the 55 bus to chase a late afternoon magic hour ray of light. The photo treatment is old-school with no extra lighting nor serious retouching. Alike a sketchbook or the first draft of a script, the adventure just begins…

Watch the images in the dark when the night turns blue. Pick a track of your choice. This work is a tribute to music. If real estate ascension will always want to pierce the sky, music will always rise higher and higher, yes even ‘too close to heaven’.

Related content:

July 4, 2019 • 67 minutes
Viv Broughton, CEO The Premises Studios
© Music Talks Productions

Viv talks us through the history of one of Londons best loved recording studios, the Premises Studios in Shoreditch. From a Kray brothers nightclub, through Brit Pop and as trail blazing eco-studio; that has been home to everyone from Gladys Knight and Nina Simone, through to Lilly Allen and Emily Sande.
© Dandy Vagabonds 2019