Wood Cottage - Aldworth Road, Streatley, West Berkshire.
Genetic Studios was established in 1980 by producers Martin Rushent and Alan Winstanley. The studio was a purpose built structure on the 22 acre site of Martin Rushent's home, Wood Cottage, situated in the countryside outside Reading and halfway up Streatly Hill. The area was called 'The Holies', an area of outstanding natural beauty, managed by the National Trust.
Rushant and Winstanley had met whilst working at TW Studios producing The Stranglers and had gone on to work with the Buzzcocks and Generation X.
TW Studios was small set-up, quite basic and in the city. The idea for Genetic would be the opposite.
There were loads of motives for building our own place …both of us live close to here, but we found a lot of shortcomings in a lot of studios…
Alan and I have very similar taste in equipment so we built this studio to suit our requirements. (Martin Rushant)
Rushant had bought a house with land and a separate bungalow with the intension of - when funds allowed -building a custom complex from scratch. Their first studio on this site was first set up in the bungalow and a number of hit records came out of there.
For the second phase of the project - the construction of the new studio - several hundred tons of earth had to be excavated out to create a flat foundation for the new building.
The large control room, 30 square yards, was built with overdubbing in mind,providing plenty of space for their extensive ranch of keyboards and outboard which would include a Fairlight CMI, a Roland system 700, Roland Jupiter 8 and something that would become integral to his future success, the Linn drum.
"I wanted a control room that has got the sort of acoustic that my front room's got. I didn't want a control room control room. Ive got concrete ceilings. brick walls and stuff, and it really is a bright room"
"The air-conditioning alone at Genetic cost me £35,000, Fairlights were £25,000 and at one point we had a MItsubishi 32-track digital recorder that cost £70,000." (Martin Rushant)
The new control room housed an MCI 500, 28/24 desk and an Otari MTR 90 24 track.
The main monitoring was provided by JBL 4350 powered by Crown and HH amplifiers. They also hadJBL Century 100s, Aurotones and a pair of Wharfedale XPs.
In March 1981 Martin Rushent started working with the Human League on what was to become the Dare album. They had completed demos of Sound of the Crowd and Love Action in Monumental Studios in Sheffield with producer John Leckie but Simon Draper at Virgin Records didn't think that they were right. He loved the drum sound on Homosapian that Martin had produced so asked him to have a go at a track. So the band turned up at Genetic with the 'The Sound Of The Crowd' multitrack.
I think Simon had conned them a bit and told them that I'd mix it! I said 'We're going to start again and do it a lot better.' There were a few grumbles but by the time we'd finished they were really pleased".
"On the Dare album Phil Oakey recorded 'four or five'of the vocal tracks in the 'live' sounding studio toilets".
"That got to something like number six, by which time we'd started 'Love Action'. Everything we put out was a bigger hit than the last and when we sent Virgin 'Don't You Want Me?' they went absolutely bananas."
After the success of Dare they decided to build another control room with an overdub booth at the other end of the building. The MCI desk was moved there with all of the computer- based gear, so Martin could work there while the main studio would house an SSL for outside clients.
"The SSL had the most advanced mix functions of any board available at the time, so everybody wanted to use it. What everybody missed was the fact that, in my view, the SSL may sound technically correct, but it’s never sounded musically correct. I hated working on it, and it ended up ruining my main control room. At the same time, you can never build two rooms that are identical, and I never got the monitoring sound up the other end the way it was in the main room when the MCI was in there.” (MR)
Sadly times change and Martin Rushent was forced to sell his home and studio.
He moved on in 1987 and the studio was put up for sale. It was sold but continued as a studio till the early nineties
Wood cottage was sold in 2000 for £906,000 and again in 2003 for £1.5 million. At some point the cottage, studio, accommodation blocks and grounds were just abandoned and left to deteriorate, open to vandals, and used as an adventure playground for local kids. It was presumably bought by a property developer waiting to get planning permission to build on the highly sought after land.
More recently battles have raged with the local community over the plans to build a giant mansion house on the site.
On the sad death of Martin Rushent in June 2011 his son Tim wrote:
He made electronic dance records in 1980 when to do so didn't involve a Mac and a cracked copy of Cubase with a bunch of hooky sample cds. It involved working on hugely expensive equipment, that took an age to programme the brass swells in the League track"Hard Times" had to be programmed step by velocity step by velocity step .... it took him DAYS to do the whole riff!)and normally it would drift out of time whilst the synths drifted out of tune as it was being printed to tape!
But the guy sat there and did it so he could bring something new to the table, something exciting and fresh ... whilst making sure that the tracks could be strummed on an acoustic guitar a nd still be remembered chord for chord, note for note, word for word as decent songs that you could remember.
He made sure that the songs were instant and drilled
into your brain. Don't believe me? Hum the intro riffs of Don't You Want Me.