Inside Eastcote – The legendary recording studios where history is still being written

Eastcote’s mixing desk, which was often filled with cigarette smoke at the time

Whether you’ve heard of Eastcote Studios or not, chances are they’ve created some of the music you love.

The studios were established by Chaz Jankel of Ian Dury & The Blockheads, and young musician and engineer Philip Bagenal, in 1980. The duo set up Eastcote in a canalside warehouse in Ladbroke Grove, which once housed Walters Manufacturing Co, an electrical company that made parts for Morse code and telegraph systems. This place was forever destined to be filled with wires and noise.

Martin Gore playing sitar sitting on the floor in Eastcote Studio 2 during a late night session.
Martin Gore playing sitar sitting on the floor in Eastcote Studio 2 during a late night session. Depeche Mode and producer Tin Simenon spent 15 months at Studio 2 while making their Ultra album.

Over the next 40 years, Eastcote Studios hosted and inspired a host of great musicians: The Pogues, Depeche Mode, Nina Hagen, Grace Jones, Placebo. It’s where Massive Attack dropped off his landmark album Blue Lines, and where Lil Peep spent two weeks finishing his debut album Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt.1, just months before his untimely death.

black and white photo of workers in suits and aprons at Walters Electrical Manufacturing Co
The building when it was Walters Electrical Manufacturing Co

While other legendary London studios like The Townhouse, Mayfair and Olympic have been abandoned, Eastcote lives on – used and loved today by Arctic Monkeys, Wolf Alice and Adele.

A black and white image of Eastcote Studios when it was a warehouse
Eastcote Studios before being Eastcote Studios

In his book Like Trying To Catch Lightning In A Bottle, producer Martin Terefe looks back on four decades at Eastcote, which he now owns.

Recalling his first visit to the studios, Terefe says, “The place was like an eccentric’s living room…I realized that was exactly what it was…it was one of those spaces magic that instantly make you want to be creative and leave your preconceived ideas behind. I loved. I loved it so much it changed the way I record forever and it would shape my career as a record producer.

Brian Molko surrounded by keyboards and electrical equipment
In the late 90s, many London guitar bands recorded at Eastcote during the Britpop era, including Suede and Elastica. Meet Brian Molko, the leader of Placebo, with a new toy in Eastcote Studio 2.

The book captures the messy sense of adventure created in the studios, which over the years have accumulated a vast array of musical and recording equipment, some state-of-the-art, some antique.

A busy recording schedule from 1992, covered in red squiggles
An Eastcote recording schedule from 1992

Terefe interviews engineers, producers and artists who have witnessed (and created) the magic and mayhem firsthand, recalling when Mark E Smith sucked up cocaine on the studio one floor, and when the Depeche Mode frontman David Gahan forgot an 18- month recording session.

Musical experiments, rock n’ roll crises and flashes of genius are all covered, making Like Trying To Catch Lightning In A Bottle a must-read for musos.

Grace Jones with Eastcote founder Philip Bagenal and Ed Baden Powell of the band D'Influence in 2004.
Grace Jones recorded in the studio with producer Ivor Guest in the early 2000s. Here is Grace Jones with Eastcote founder Philip Bagenal and Ed Baden Powell of the band D’Influence in 2004.

Along with its countless anecdotes, the book is peppered with candid photos – many of which haven’t seen the light in years – including the artists at work and performing, and Philip Bagenal and Chaz Jankel keeping things going in behind the scenes.

A turquoise doorway in eastcote

Eastcote’s more debauched days may be behind it, but Like Trying to Catch Lightning in a Bottle suggests there’s still plenty of life in the old.

Lil Peep relaxes in Eastcote working on his album
Lil Peep was working at Eastcote on his 2017 album Come Over When You’re Sober Pt 1. He tragically passed away a few months later during his first major US tour.

A reel of black and white stills from Eastcote
Nina Hagen at the keys of Studio 1, making a face
Punk queen Nina Hagen recorded two albums at Eastcote with producer Zeus B Held who also brought German legend Udo Lindenberg into the studio. Nina’s guest cast in the studio was eclectic and included new wave singer Lene Lovich and Motorhead’s Lemmy. Here is Nina at the keys of Studio 1.

A piano that somehow made its way out of the studios
A piano that somehow made its way out of the studios

Tracy Thorne with the Studio 1 producers.
Tracey Thorn first recorded at Eastcote as a teenager with vocal group Marine Girls. After her hits with Everything But The Girl, she was back at Eastcote and recording regularly for her solo albums.

Marcus Mumford strums a guitar and records
Mumford and Sons recorded their first two albums at Eastcote with producer Marcus Dravs, including the first Sigh No More. Since then, Marcus has returned regularly for solo recordings and other projects, including music for the Netflix show Ted Lasso.

The studio with mixers, keyboards and a cozy little corner to relax
Eastcote lately – still with that away from home vibe

Like trying to catch lightning in a bottle by Martin Terefe, published by Thames & Hudson, RRP £35