As we move towards the opening of BIMM Hamburg in September, you’ll be hearing more about our esteemed tutors and high-tech facilities. In fact, this post literally combines the two! BIMM Hamburg’s new Head of Production, Johann Scheerer, is the owner of Clouds Hill Recordings – which will be the studio for BIMM Hamburg’s Music Production classes, and a location for prospective students to visit at our upcoming Open Days.
Johann built his fully analogue recording studio at Clouds Hill completely from scratch in 2005 and it’s been used by a variety of superstars ever since, such as The Killers, At the Drive-In, Bela B. and Tim Bendzko. Here we talk to Johann about the early beginnings of Clouds Hill Recordings and what our Music Production students have in store once lessons start.
What inspired you to launch Clouds Hill Recordings?
Being a musician since my early teenage years, I quickly became the guy who took over the tech side of things. I undertook some internships in studios before I founded my own first ‘studio’ in two construction containers on top of each other. The top one was the control room, and the lower one was the live room. I personally drilled though the metal to combine the two containers with eight (and later 16) mic lines.
All that low level studio work inspired me a lot. I loved working with bands even though I had less time to play any instruments myself (which wasn’t a huge loss, to be honest!). I always wanted to create a place to connect people from all over the world: a melting pot; an incubator. A place where creative connections are made.
I decided it had to be the real deal… so, analog. It had to have a vibe. That‘s where my obsession with old gear and tools came in handy. Old stuff, just being there, creates a vibe.
When I saw a picture of Lawrence of Arabia‘s refuge ‘Clouds Hill’ in England, I immediately thought I wanted people to feel what I felt looking at this picture, when they entered my studio. It was supposed to feel like their living room; their refuge. A place where you feel safe and wanted, and somewhere you can let go of everything to have more space for ideas.
What’s the proudest moment of your career so far?
I don‘t like the term ‘proudest’ much. Being proud just stops you from being productive. But when I was sitting in our Neve Room working with Peter Doherty in Live Room 2 and simultaneously talking to a great band of friends of mine in Live Room 1, just for a minute I thought: “Wow – this is a cool place I’ve created”.
You know, music is all about exchange. The German band Boy feature on Peter Doherty’s solo record. Jan Plewka of the band Selig sings a duet with Rocko Schamoni, and Dirk von Lowtzow of Tocotronic performs with PJ Harvey’s James Johnston on a limited 7“ single… all because they met at Clouds Hill. I love that!
What equipment will BIMM students have access to during their classes at Clouds Hill Recordings?
We have a Neve 8068MKII that was purchased by The Beatles producer George Martin directly from Rupert Neve. John Lennon recorded ‘Double Fantasy’ on it and later Daniel Lanois produced U2 and Bob Dylan on that mixing desk. We also have a vintage API3232 with a great history, a Fairchild 670, an RCA BA6A, and two Neumann U47s with consecutive serial numbers 167 and 168. On top of that, we have a collection of vintage and new tape echoes. We also produce our own effects pedals like the legendary Clouds Hill Floppy Disc Delay: ECHO – the first and ONLY on planet Earth!
Which legendary bands and artists have recorded at Clouds Hill and which are your favourites?
I don‘t have favourite customers. I love working with all my clients but it’s obviously extremely cool when that work goes on for a long period of time. For years I’ve worked with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. I produced his film, his solo project, and his band Bosnian Rainbows, as well as working with his other band, At the Drive-In. That‘s cool. James Johnston of Gallon Drunk/PJ Harvey/Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is another good friend I’ve really enjoyed working with across many years.
When it comes to people who’ve rented Clouds Hill to work in… The Beach Boys‘ work ethic was pretty impressive! They recorded vocals until way after midnight and were totally unpretentious – that was definitely an occasion I learned from!
What are you most looking forward to about your role as Head of Music Production at BIMM Hamburg?
I’m really looking forward to collaborating with different producers. Being a dad of four boys, I love to teach… and I think it’s important to teach music production from the ground up rather than focusing on the popularity of your personal Instagram account first.
Photo Credits: Sion Hill and Stefan Schmidt