• Rob Butterfield


The story behind Lockdown Studio.

Photo by Rob Butterfield. Logo design by Harvey Butterfield.

The awful pandemic we’re going through is changing lives in a way that we would never have imagined when we saw in the New Year. 2020 will go down in history as the year Covid-19 (Coronavirus) changed everything. Who knows when we’ll be out of it and what the world will be like when it’s all over?

As a touring musician my regular routine (if you can call it that) came abruptly to an end on March 16th after returning from a gig in St.Helier, Jersey. All gigs for the foreseeable future were cancelled/postponed as the dreaded virus started to take a hold on the UK. A week later the government imposed a countrywide lockdown further emphasising the seriousness of the matter and confirming that it would indeed be some time before I’d be playing live again. We’re hoping for around August - our fingers are firmly crossed, but I guess we’ll just have to wait this one out.

I’m not alone, the performing music industry went into meltdown and social media very quickly became the number one outlet for musicians of all levels. But you see, I have a small problem - as a bass player and backing vocalist I’m not best placed to strike up a solo performance on our favourite social media channels... I needed a plan.

I had to create and collaborate whilst adhering to the necessary requirement of social distancing. It was time to resurrect my home studio - but there was another problem...

I’d had a nice home studio set up for many years since getting my first Tascam 144 Portastudio at 17 years old. My studio had changed formats and grown in complexity over the years but ultimately became a bit redundant as I just became too busy to use it much and it was in much need of a serious update. So, a year ago, almost to the day of lockdown, I sold the lot and converted my studio room into the perfect vinyl listening den. Some smart and frugal thinking was required if I wanted to record at home again and with a minimum investment ( I kept it down to just £30 for my audio interface) Lockdown Studio was born.

Keeping it simple...

For the technically minded and studio geeks my set up is as follows:

A 10 year old iMac running out of date Garage Band and Audacity.

A Behringer UM-2 Uphoria audio interface (new)

Tascam VL5S monitors (left over from my old studio set-up).

I’m actually really enjoying the simplicity of it!

I sent out a message on social media inviting my musician friends to collaborate on any tunes during the lockdown asking them to hit me up if they wanted a bass track doing or if they wanted to add vocals and the like on some of my own projects - so long as we could exchange .WAV or .AIFF files (technical stuff) over the internet we’d be in business!

Thankfully the response was immediate and I’m building up a nice portfolio of projects to keep me busy during these fallow times. Who knows where this may all lead?

There’s a real joy in collaborating musically with others. One such example is with my good friend Laurent Veignal (he’s French, but lives in Milton Keynes) who initially invited me to lay down a bass track for one of his own compositions - coincidentally featuring the wonderful French drummer Farid Medjane, my old rhythm section partner in the Chris George Band. With that track successfully completed Laurent then sent me a Spanish/Latin style guitar track and said ‘do something with this’ - I happily took on the challenge. Cue a simple dance beat, a dub inspired bass riff and some words from writer and poet Charles Bukowski and we had a song. I’ve called it ‘Circle the world in a paper canoe’ - I even made a quick video to go with it. Described by a musician friend of mine as ‘deliciously bonkers’ - I’ll take that. Click on the picture below for a link to the video and track on You Tube where I’ve started up an Upstarts and Oligarchs channel as a place holder for finished projects. Check it out and subscribe here. You may also have noticed that there is now a 'MUSIC' tab on the U&O website where you can access old and current projects - it's work in progress at the moment so please feel free to check back for new additions to the page. Enjoy!

I’m connecting with musician friends I haven’t worked with in a long time and I’m confident that the final output will be a real testimony to the power of collaborative creativity.

Regular readers of Upstarts and Oligarchs will no doubt be familiar with the story of where the whole U&O thing came from. If you’re not familiar you can read it here.

It seems that the idea for an album may actually come to fruition in the near future thanks in no small part to the current pandemic. I’ll keep you posted. Until then I’ll just have to create and collaborate in my humble studio - lockdown ain’t all bad eh?

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