Interview The Producers: Rory Attwell

East London’s hottest producer - the founder of Brattwell Recordings - speaks to DIY about his early days and his current reputation.

Cast yourself back to 2006, the year when Myspace pages where at the forefront of music discovery, when a decent music following on said platform could result in a record deal. Test Icicles were a fine example of such a sensation, with abrasive guitar rhythms winning the indie crowd for a good year or so, right before the band quickly dissipated and went their separate ways. Most of us might know where Dev Hynes ended up, what with his Lightspeed Champion & Blood Orange guises. Outer Limitz is also a newly-bred project from that very band. But one fellow Test Icicles member stayed rooted to the studio.

Brattwell Recordings is the project of Rory Attwell. Any ‘buzz band’ (for want of a better phrase) might have heard his name a fair few times. Attwell works closely with emerging acts, largely guitar-centered (but as explained in our interview, Rory’s spread his wings of late, genre-wise), on the brink of releasing their debut 7” / tape / what have you on a singles label. DIY spoke to Rory about how he began the production duties and how he’s managed to make his studio such a go-to location for new bands.

In previous interviews you’ve said that you used the advance that you received for a Test Icicles record by spending it on an initial set-up for production. What did you invest in at first?
Well, I didn’t invest loads - we didn’t get a ton of cash when we were in that band (we decided to turn down Virgin in favour of Domino so it wasn’t some kind of ‘Big Bucks’ deal of any sort). I basically bought a couple of 80s’ 16 channel inline mixing desks, a 16 track reel to reel tape recorder, a bunch of half decent mics and the cheapest 16 Channel Pro Tools Rig I could find. I didn’t have a studio when I first started so the first session I did was in the basement of my friend Umit’s pub (the Marquis of Landsdowne).

Did being in Test Icicles give you an inside access into how recording and distribution worked?
I guess to an extent: Being in Test icicles was the first time I’d been in a ‘proper’ recording studio and we weren’t in there for very long. I learnt most from the time we spent in James Ford’s little Hackney studio. It was a nice simple little space above a practice room with a bunch of synths, a drumkit, some nice mic - it seemed like something I could realistically aspire towards getting together myself.

You’ve worked with a huge number of acts recently - how do you go about discovering them and asking them to work with you?
When I first started it was more of a case of me asking bands I liked to record with me for little or no money, just for the hell of it and to suss out what the hell I was doing. Luckily I did a pretty good job of the first few things I did and what with happening to know a lot of people in good bands, the whole thing spiralled.
I haven’t actively gone out and looked for work for 5 years now and have never advertised so for the most part I guess it’s ‘word of mouth’ which means I just have to keep doing a good job without scaring too many people off!

Do you tend to attract a distinctive style or genre of music?
Again with the ‘word of mouth’ approach you get a lot of bands who’ve heard recordings I’ve done and naturally they’ll be influenced by those same acts, so in a way it’s self-perpetuation, genre wise. That’s good for me as it means I generally record bands that I really like. I think people maybe think I’m just into doing ‘lofi’ (most nonsensical genre title of the last 20 years) bands but I get quite a mixed bag, from really ‘big’ sounding rock stuff to pop stuff, right up to electronic and left-field, hip hop stuff. I like the variety of the stuff I’m doing now - it keeps me on my toes.

If you had to pick out a few, which acts have excited you the most having worked with them?
I always like it when I’m surprised. A lot of the time all I’ve heard will be a demo recorded on a phone. So when a band turn up and do something really unexpected and above expectations, that’s great. Cold Pumas were the first, probably one of the first bands I recorded where I really wasn’t sure what to expect and was so excited with the results - it was a very pleasant experience. I’ve had tons of really exciting sessions, bands such as Please, Sound of Rum (who were doing quite unusual Jazz/Breaks hip hop stuff, which at the time was slightly out of my element but turned out amazing), Evans the Death (again another band who contacted me out of the blue and turned out to be one of the best young indie pop bands in this country, in my opinion) and more recently Satellites of Love (who I could happily listen to everyday - it’s always nice to record one of your new favourite bands).

You must get a great deal of acts approaching you to work with them. Are you often finding yourself having to turn them down these days?
Yeah I do, unfortunately, not because they’re at all bad, more because I literally can’t fit it into my schedule.

Who are you working with in the future? Which emerging acts have caught your eye?
As I said before, most of the emerging exciting stuff comes out of the blue so I can’t really judge them until we’re working together. Most of the signed bands that get touted to me as the cool new thing normally turn out to be reasonably dull, unfortunately. I have the exciting job of making them sound more interesting! However, I’m recording the new Let’s Wrestle [album] at the moment which is sounding really great (and quite different from some of their previous stuff). I’m also continuing to work with Virginia Wing who I consider to be full of potential. I’m also looking forward to working more with Novella and Satellites of Love - pretty certain they’ll come up with some interesting stuff for me to tinker with.

I read that you’ve had comedian Stewart Lee recording at your studio last year - that must have been a different experience from what you’re used to…
Yeah, slightly different, although I was recording Gregorian chanting for a film recently so I’m never surprised… He basically came in to sob and wail desperately over a song Evans the Death had written. He came in with his baby, cracked open a can of beer and started wailing uncontrollably. Funniest bit for me was that he managed to wake his baby up with his crying - nice bit of role reversal!

How long can you see yourself working on Brattwell Recordings? Is it indefinite?
Who knows, I can definitely see myself branching out and doing other things as I have a bit of a habit going off on a tangent and experimenting with other things, but I really love doing this so it wouldn’t be a problem for me at all to be continuing for quite some time.

In an ideal hypothetical world, name one established/now defunct artist that you wish you could work with and why?
I’d like to go back in time and work with Souxsie and the Banshees around the time of ‘Juju’, just so I could steal John McGeoch and Budgie and nab them for my own band. Either that or Frank Sidebottom - God rest his soul.

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