Since its founding in 1978, Windmill Lane Studios has been a staple of Irish music and arts, primarily marked by the success of U2, who have recorded material there since its founding.
Over the famed studio’s 43 years, it has been downgraded and upgraded in size and scope and changed location several times, but has always remained the recording epicenter for a diverse array of major artists, both at nationally and internationally, as well as the place of choice to bring the soundtracks of blockbuster films to life.
The home of emerging Irish talent
“It made its way through the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and captured all of this up-and-coming talent,” says Naomi Moore, CEO of Windmill since 2009, of the studio’s longevity.
Naomi is also CEO of Pulse College, the creative media college that offers courses in film, games, audio, and animation. As such, during his tenure, the studio expanded into the areas of visual effects and post-production work for film, television and advertising, which saw them working on projects for clients such as Netflix, HBO, AMC, BBC, etc. .
“[Pulse students] work with customers,” says Naomi. “So a lot of our students have gone on to work with U2 or REM or Kylie, or they’ve also won GRAMMYs and Oscars and things like that. So we’re very proud of our graduates, as well as our clients.
The reason for the success of the Studios
Naomi attributes the studio’s success and continued international interest to several factors, such as high-end consoles, size of studios that can accommodate 80-piece orchestras, studio acoustics, availability of both digital and analog equipment, their excellent team and their relationships with the industry.
“I think the building has a very special atmosphere, and artists can really take inspiration from it, and it helps their creativity,” Naomi adds to explain its popularity.
Naomi shares some of her favorite studio moments while there, including Bryan Adams cooking her a vegan burger, Jon Bon Jovi making her a cup of tea, Nile Rodgers sharing stories, Herbie Hancock recording with The Chieftains, ” bumping into Lady Gaga in full dress on a Monday morning,” The Script receiving their first platinum album award in the studio, and Hozier recording the music video for her song “Nina Cried Power” in the studio, which included many activists on the filming, as well as Hozier’s brother and video director Jon and his father and Pulse College alumnus John.
Celebrating the legacy of Windmill Lane Recording Studios
The studio’s legacy is now celebrated with a limited-edition vinyl that’s available exclusively on the Windmill website from today, featuring tracks from U2, REM, The Cranberries, Elvis Costello, Westlife, Phil Lynott, Simple Minds, The Corrs, and more, all of which were recorded at Windmill Lane Studios over the years.
The idea came about by finding two-inch master tapes in the attic of the studio and being amazed at the amount of history there.
Naomi explains: “We were even a bit surprised by the caliber of customers who came through. [the studio]and the range of customers who have gone through [the studio], so from the point of view of the album, we really wanted to show it; that Windmill Lane – while U2 are an amazing customer – they’re not our only customer.
Open their doors to the public
Indeed, it was the U2 connection that inspired their new studio tour. In 2018 the band were doing a series of dates at the 3Arena and fans in town for gigs planned a visit to Windmill Lane on their trip.
From there, the idea came from inside Windmill to open their famous green doors for tourists to see its inner workings. They chose to release 150 tickets for the tour, and within 24 hours they received over 3000 requests for them.
Naomi explains how the reaction of these fans inspired the tour: “When they arrived – the 150 – on a soggy, damp and rainy night, they just loved it. They absolutely loved it, they had so much fun, and they weren’t just into U2; they were interested in all the different customers, and they were interested in the building. From there, the idea came to form a one-hour tour.
Speaking about the impact COVID-19 had on the original launch of the tour, Naomi quips, “It was perfectly timed: to launch in February 2020. [Laughs] So we were open for exactly, I think, a month,” before he seriously added, “And we had a brilliant launch: President Michael D. Higgins came in and kicked it off. Paul Brady and Donald Lunny did a live performance in the studio, which was really, really special.
But Naomi sees the silver lining in her initial conclusion: “It gave us time to develop things really, really well…It gave us the opportunity to develop the tour in an informative and fun way and to s ensure that the story was correct.
Naomi announces the tour with a history of the studio, including an overview of the albums recorded there, a history of recording equipment from analog to digital, including a hands-on experience, a virtual band where you can test your production and mixing abilities, the ghost story of the building’s original architect that still haunts the studio, the galleries, and a grand finale she wouldn’t spoil.
“You just have to come and see it for yourself,” she said, announcing the finale.
Windmill Lane Recording Studios vinyl is available now. To purchase the vinyl and arrange a studio tour, please visit windmilllanerecording.com.