INTERVIEW WITH IAIN McKINNA 2021
OFFBEAT Humble Beginnings
Humble Beginnings [instruments]
After selling Sonic Studios to Cava in 1991, Iain & Kirsty went to Portugal to spend a summer just playing a set of cover songs around pubs and clubs. When they returned they converted part of their top floor High Street apartment into a programming studio where they could record their own music and do pre-production for recording projects Iain was being offered. Offbeat was initially started as a production company and not specifically a recording studio at this stage.
When Cava took over the studio Iain went there to record and mix an album for Nectarine No 9 which became NME album of the year.
Iain was working at Edinburgh’s Palladium Studio for Producer/Musician Jon Turner at that time too, mostly engineering budget recordings for 4AD and other independently funded jobs for bands and songwriters.
Iain says "When we left Sonic we literally just had a DAT machine, an acoustic guitar, a fiddle and a 8 channel Bel Audio PA desk, an Atari Computer, a keyboard sampler and a couple of cheap mics, we were just using the studio to do programming for projects.
"Talitha Mackenzie asked me to produce her solo album Solas and we did the pre-production at the flat before going into Palladium to record and mix the album. I then went on tour with Talitha around the UK and Europe as guitarist and MD in her band.
"Shortly after this Mike Heron approached me to produce his solo album and I managed to get a couple of ADAT recorders and a Yamaha mixer in the budget and that was the start of our new studio setup. Even then we had to record and mix at Palladium as our studio just want equipped to do proper productions."
The flat next door became available for rent around this time so they converted the flat into a dedicated studio space. The first full production they did was for Senegalese drummer and singer Hamed Kane and this album became an unexpected World Music hit following a deal with Sterns Music so Offbeat Studios was up and running.
This album was followed by a set of three for Rock Piper Jimi McRae, which Iain and Kirsty also performed in the live band with. Then an album for Blues legend Tam White entitled Hold On was produced following the inclusion of three of Iain's productions for Tam in the Norman Stone movie ‘Mandancin’. Tam called Offbeat “The highest studio in the world”... in reference to the 95 steps you have to climb to get to it!
In 2009 Iain was approached by Universal Records to record the Spirit Of the Glen trilogy with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. He booked Heartbeat Studios for the recording.
Iain says "I nearly turned down the project because, despite my experience with Jimi McRae's albums, I wasn't a huge fan of the instrument. Getting a good sound from an instrument of insurrection and torture, and subsequently touring with the sound, nearly killed me. I'm glad I did though because it went on to win a Classical Brit Award and topped the Classical charts."
Around this time Iain met film director Mark Cousins and was involved in recording Mark's commentary for the award winning series of films, The Story Of Film, an Odyssey, and subsequently The Eyes of Orson Welles, runner up at Cannes 2019 for best documentary. He also recorded Neneh Cherry for Mark's film Stockholm My Love.
Since then Offbeat has produced audio for many well known companies and the studio has morphed into a BBC approved facility following some successful radio productions.
Kirsty adds: "The process of building up the equipment from then until now has been a slow but steady development over 30 years. Of course, upgrading a studio never really ends but now we have a studio with an authentic sound which we are really proud of and its been entirely funded by successful audio production projects which is really satisfying."