Nick Baines, Peanut, Kaiser Chiefs, studio, Leeds

Q&A | Kaiser Chiefs’ Peanut on the studio he just opened in Leeds

Nick ‘Peanut’ Baines plays keys with UK rock act Kaiser Chiefs. He’s also a photographer, and as well as capturing his own bandmates and their crazy experiences together, he does the odd shoot with other acts, like Streets of Laredo, a New Zealand band who opened for KC on their 2014 US tour. Sarah met Peanut while he was shooting Streets’ recent show at Brudenell Social Club in his hometown of Leeds (UK), and discovered he’d just opened a recording studio there to support the local music scene.

So you have a studio in Leeds? It sounds really cool.
Yes, I do – in a church. It is really cool. I was there today – we finished it about November time. We’ve owned it for about three years. We’ve been building for the last two years.

Kaiser Chiefs?
No, it’s me with a couple of guys who run a studio in Leeds, or did run a different studio, a smaller space. It was a busy, full-on studio, but small rooms. I’d always said to them, ‘you know, if you’re ever interested in branching out into something else I collect a lot of audio gear and tape machines, and desks and stuff’. I love a bargain, I love finding a relic and bringing it back to life, and I love old equipment. That’s still what the best records are made with, all the old gear. So between the three of us we found this building, bought a church basically. Gutted it out. And yeah, made a proper, typical live room – with the big windows and everything, and a massive lounge underneath. There’s a Studio B out the back. It’s something, particularly in Leeds, in my hometown – I wanted to create something, give something back. Studios like that are closing every week in London. You’ve got a building like that and you’ve gotta sell it because it’s worth millions of pounds to developers. It’s ridiculous and it’s a shame, because the music industry is suffering because of it. But that’s just a sign of the times. I don’t know what the bottom line of all this is, but yeah, it’s kind of indicative of where the music industry is, which is a shame.

I’ve always had this dream of having a studio, I think, and I’ve always been the techy, geeky one. I’m into all that kind of stuff. My dad came up today and he was really impressed with it all. He hadn’t seen it since we just finished the last bit of building work in November. No gear was in, no carpet. It was done, but not done. Now it’s a place, an environment where people make records.

Is it a big space?
Yeah, it’s something like 4000 square feet overall, it’s pretty big. The live room is massive. You can all set up and play in there with a ton of extra space. I reckon you can get an orchestra in there, and track comfortably. But I wanted to create this sort of space where people hung out at studios again – and you might cross paths with someone you might not’ve otherwise met. We’re going to have little edit rooms too because we’ve already got producer and engineer friends who want a little room that they can come to and just edit vocals or drums that isn’t their spare room or kitchen or bathroom at home.

Could I get some nerd info on the gear you have?
All the usual stuff and tape machines, echoes and a shedload of keyboards – obviously! A few bits would be: Amek Rembrandt desk, Pro Tools HD, Studer A827 24-track tape machine, Studer B62 1/4″ machine. Other makes include AMS Neve, API, Pultec, Chandler, Lexicon, Thermionic Culture, Eventide, Focusrite, Altec, Teletronix, Empirical Labs and a ton of other outboard. And we have a big collection of vintage synths and drum machines: Korg MS-20, ARP Odyssey, Roland Jupiter 8 and Juno 60, EMS Synthi AKS, EDP Wasp, OSCar, Moog Source, Jen SX-1000, Roland SH-101, TB-303, TR-606, TR-808 and TR-909. Wurlitzer EP-200A, Fender Rhodes Stage 54 and Suitcase 88.

Are the acoustics particularly good, being a church building? Is that part of why you chose it as a space?
Yeah, and the physical space of the church room. It’s just a great space to record in, because you don’t feel cooped up, ever. You’ve got a lot of space. You can always make a large room sound smaller naturally, but the reverse isn’t so true. We’ve worked hard on the studio side of it, but also the aesthetics. We’ve used a lot of wood from the church, and restored bits and kept it looking good, like a church, almost. I wanted to make this thing that was part of a community. Young bands are coming to have a look around and they might see some other band recording there, and be like ‘oh that’s really cool, I want to come back and do that in a year’s time’. Kind of just inspire people and young bands, you know? We saved up for our first demo when I was 15 or 16. We saved up and a weekend cost us, what, 250 quid or something. It was a lot of money. Now it seems like teenagers have somehow got a bit more access to that kind of money – maybe! So they can do all this stuff, you know? They can afford a weekend in a studio and start down an exciting path.

Has it been used yet?
Yep, we actually had Eagulls in to do our test day with the tape machines. Matt Peel, one of my studio partners, made their first album at the old studio. They really like the new place and we are hopeful that their second record will be made at the church.

How does it feel to be able to offer such a space to local bands?
It really makes the blood, sweat and – almost – tears that we all went through to get it finished worth it. Totally worth it. The studio will be on the map both nationwide and at a local level too. That feels good. The best new bands always claw their way up the local ladders and it feels good to create a studio that bands can aim for in their hometown.

Who else is involved in running the studio? What are your hopes for it generally?
Myself, Matt and Andy Hawkins. Our hopes are for the studio to be as busy and successful as possible. We’ve been busy from day one. We want the word of mouth opinions about the studio to feel good and vibey. A place that you can’t wait to tell your friends about, and are then disappointed for them when they can’t get in because it’s fully booked.

Were there any similar spaces available to Kaiser Chiefs, coming up?
There were absolutely none and still aren’t any studios around Leeds that offer as much space and collection of gear and instruments as us. [Kaiser Chiefs’] rehearsal room of choice 15 years ago, and still to this day, is Old Chapel in Holbeck in South Leeds. Mark who runs it is a great guy and we’ve worked with him to get grants and funding to improve the place from just rehearsal rooms to a full-on community accessible environment. Classes for disabled and disadvantaged kids and the like. It’s really transformed.

It’s been a good year for the band with the release of Education, Education, Education & War. How does it feel to still get such a good response to new work?
It feels life-affirming to get that positive response to whatever we do. It means you’re on the right path. And for EEE&W to go to number 1 in the UK 10 years after our debut album shows you how hard we work and value what we have. It’s important to remember that without that response from your fans and the public, you’re nothing.


Peanut plays keys with Kaiser Chiefs. Follow him on Twitter. For more about the studio email Matt Peel.

Sarah Illingworth is a freelance journalist and Editor at Impolitikal. She has an MSc in Poverty & Development from the University of Manchester. Read more by Sarah.