THE CHURCH STUDIO 1972 - 2006

   The Church Studio, on 3rd and Trenton here in Tulsa, has closed down. This is a very small sampling of some moments from our Mock Heroic recording sessions that took place there back in 1999. Our good friend Mr. Steve Ripley not only made the Church available to us for that album, but he and his wife Charlene took care of us above and beyond the call of duty, which included everything from repairing our guitars to providing us with groceries. There was a kitchen and den in the basement where we hung out between takes and whatnot. We had a Nintendo 64 setup, cable TV, and an auxiliary studio for additional songwriting and arranging while some of us were upstairs recording. The producer/engineer of the album was Gavin MacKillop. His assistant was Trent Slatton. The band, Gavin, Trent, Steve & Charlene all pretty much lived together at the Church for several months during the making of the record.

There is of course the really long history beginning in 1972 when Leon Russell founded The Church Studio. There is also quite a bit of history between the Ripley family, The Church Studio, and Admiral Twin that we won't fully detail here because it would take too long. However, here are some highlights: A previous incarnation of the band, then known as Mellowdramatic Wallflowers recorded several demos at The Church back in the early 1990's. Both Unlucky and Creatures of Bread & Wine were transferred to analog tape there by Steve Ripley before being mastered and put on to CD. Admiral Twin has done numerous promotional photo and video shoots there over the years. The band recorded backing vocals there for Steve's solo album. And then of course the real highlight being the recording of Mock Heroic, which took place from about early spring through late fall of 1999. Although to clarify, we actually started the album with another producer before bringing Gavin on board in the summer. At that time we scrapped everything we'd recorded and started over. And for those who came in late, also at that time we were a quartet: Mark, Jarrod, & John, joined by Brad Becker and his many talents. And, we were under contract with Mojo/Universal Records. Here's a look inside the making of the album. Bear in mind that this is a brief glimpse and perhaps some day we'll have the wherewithal to prepare a more detailed retrospective.

One more thing... You can't really tell by the photos, but this studio was home to a plethora of beautiful vintage recording equipment and musical instruments, all of which were available for us to use. The walls of the studio, hallways, stairwells, etc. were lined with nostalgic signs and memorabilia from Steve's band The Tractors and some of the numerous projects he'd worked on. Of the equipment there, one can only say that there was everything you ever wished for and more. Guitars, amps, drums, percussion, keyboards, pianos, microphones, recording gear, and on and on. The place literally was a magical museum of vintage gear.

  


Jarrod gets ready to play. He combined his own drums with the many kits at the studio. Notice Steve in the background.
He was always rigging up something for us.


Mark recording a bass groove. Everyone
spent many hours with headphones on.


Brad rehearsing in the stairway. The studio actually
has two stairways. One leading up to the top floor,
one leading down to the basement.


Jed prepares to wax a hot one! (British studio speak
for recording a great performance) Behind him is a
bookshelf filled with master tapes by various artists.


Mark working out a bass line on the Beatle bass.
The couch he's sitting on and the one in the background
were used for many naps over the months.


John recording a guitar track. If you look closely you

can see Santa Claus riding a tractor in the background.


Happiness and headaches.. that's what dreams are made of. Legend has it that this was the actual Neve recording console used for the mixing of the soundtrack to Star Wars! (1977)


The talented Mr. Ripley & Admiral Twin. Steve was there
every step of the way, even when he didn't have to be. He's done more for us than could ever be counted.


John playing piano on "Blessed Imperial." This was one
of the several Steinway grand pianos in the studio.
Notice the prayer candles. Gavin bought hundreds of
them and every day they were lit to set the mood.


Jed laying down a drum track. There were probably about
a dozen microphones surrounding the drum kit. You can see some of the studio's classic guitar amps in the background.


John playing one of Steve's longneck guitars.
Notice all the signatures on it. All legendary musicians.


Brad writing songs in the basement, which was lined with more equipment and other oddities. There were some old movie projectors and school films that we hooked up and watched to escape during the downtime between work.


Mark singing his sky high harmonies.
You could buy a new car for what those
vintage Neumann microphones are worth.


Brad laying down an accordion part.
You can see a couple of the numerous guitars
that lined one of the walls of the studio.


Our intrepid Scottish producer Gavin. He was a grizzly bear in
the morning, and a teddy bear in the evening. Either way, he was always trying to bring out the best in us.

 
The truth is, we were having many professional and
personal struggles during the making of Mock Heroic.
But at the end of the day, we're glad to have had the opportunity to work with Gavin, Trent and Steve,
and to have done it all at the Church Studio.

 

Photos by April B. Russell & Jarrod Gollihare.