Richmond Recorders was a studio founded at 17 Pearson St, East Richmond by Tim Stobart and Chris Napper. Described as the third choice of studios for record labels after Armstrong’s and TCS from the mid-1970’s, Richmond Recorders was a slightly more affordable option than the previous two spaces and attracted a variety of bands, many from the underground punk and new wave scenes. The studio changed hands in the mid-eighties when members of the Painters and Dockers and Lobby Lloyd (the Aztecs) took over the business and opened a pressing plant and record shop in the same street.

Some of the early recordings were engineered by John French of TCS, and a young engineer Tony Cohen who would make the studio his home and base for creating what he has been credited as the ‘sound of Melbourne’. This sound is usually in reference to a guitar-based, dark, intellectual, moody tone that is most regularly associated with bands such as the Birthday Party, Beasts of Bourbon, the Moodists and the Scientists, all bands that Cohen worked with throughout his career. This particular Melbourne or Australian ‘sound’ is also of keen interest to pockets of international music enthusiasts with small labels in Europe focusing on the release of underground Australian music that embodies this style and sub-cultural texture. The aural aesthetic is anti-establishment with an intellectual contrast to immediately consumable commercial music.

Au Go-Go Records founder Bruce Milne released records by a number of bands who recorded at the studio. Engineer Chris Corr, recalls an increase in demand for the studio after the purchase of one of the first automated desks in Melbourne, an MCi 400 console designed by Dave Harrison. This attracted new clients and Corr who had picked up engineering skills by sitting in on sessions with Roger Savage, John French, and friend and Richmond Recorders owner Chris Napper, was hired by the studio as a house engineer. He worked on one of the most commercially successful albums produced at the studio, Business as Usual by Men at Work, which included the international hit song Down Under. This album was recorded by an Adelaide-born engineer Jim Barbour, who had moved to Melbourne after returning to Australia from working at Pye Studios in London. As with many other personnel at this time he was attracted to Melbourne as a city with the best audio equipment in the country and reputation as the music capital. Barbour’s goal of recording a number one selling album before allowing himself to return to Adelaide was fulfilled within 18 months of his arrival.

It was not unusual during this period for albums to be made in multiple studios with movement of personnel and artists between different spaces for one album. This was likely due to the transition of Armstrong’s into AAV in 1975; the abrupt demise of TCS in 1976; the opening of Allan Eaton studios (St Kilda) 1976; the transition of W&G into Flagstaff (managed by ex-Armstrong’s staff), West Melbourne, c.1977; the opening of Sing Sing, Richmond in 1980; and the opening of Platinum, South Yarra in1983. All these studios were providing high quality equipment and acoustically designed spaces. With heavy demand for studios at the time, projects had to work around bookings and personnel availability which meant shuffling between spaces for engineers, producers and artists.

Studio design

During the studio boom period in the 70’s and 80’s, recording budgets were substantial. Artists would potentially ‘lock-out’ the space for sometime months at a time to record an album. An appropriate studio that included high-class equipment for this process was an important consideration for artists and producers and the competition for providing the best creative environment was high. This was a period when studio construction and design was also at a peak. Musician (Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band), engineer, and producer Dave Flett who began his studio design career by refurbishing the studio in at TCS, went on to become a sought-after studio designer in Melbourne and subsequently internationally. John Sayers, producer and engineer at TCS also went on to a further career in studio design and relocated to NSW after the closure of TCS.

Flett has had input into a majority of Melbourne music studios that were constructed during this time with an extensive credit listing of significant spaces. Flett was commissioned to design the studio at Richmond Recorders by on the lower level of a warehouse building with offices on the upper level. (See image 3.1) At a time when studios were providing facilities for artists that were largely playing live instruments as a group, the acoustic design and functional layout of a space was integral to creating an appropriate atmosphere and contributing to the final outcome of the recording process. Essential to a successful design was creating a space where there was good line-of-site between players and production personnel, acoustic treatment of problem frequencies, and sound-proofing of walls, floors and ceilings. This allowed for musicians to create music at volume extremes without disturbing neighbouring businesses or residents, or themselves being disturbed by the intrusion of external sound. The purposely designed studio is as intricately constructed space which often includes artful inclusion of sound absorption, diffusion and reflection applications. Another important factor in studio design is creating an accurate listening environment for monitoring.

Another space designed by Flett was a studio in Southbank called Atlantis, founded by Dave McCluney who had previously housed Atlantis in a space in Hawthorn. The new studio premises was constructed inside a commercial rental building at 1 Kingsway South Melbourne near the Yarra river in 1990. This was a space where Tony Cohen produced the album, The Honeymoon is Over, by the Cruel Sea, fronted by Tex Perkins of The Beasts of Bourbon. Cohen describes the process of making this record as deliberately attempting to craft a commercial sound where he would spend days sculpting the tone of an individual instrument. Cohen successfully achieved the commercial sound he was aiming for and received an Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) award as Producer of the Year 1994 for his efforts. Atlantis soon after fell to the pressures of economic progress when the studio was forced to close to make way for the new Crown Casino at Southbank. The building was demolished and this section of South Melbourne so significantly altered that the address no longer exists. (See image 2.2)

Richmond Recorders - Recording Studios Living Archive
Detail of Richmond Recorders floor plan. Courtesy of Dave Flett. (1977)
Richmond Recorders | Recording Studios Living Archive

Underground meets commercial

As a singular studio, Richmond Recorders was ideal for sessions to take free reign of the building and this may have been cause for the studio’s renown not solely for the music that it produced, but also for the debauchery and stories of hard-living, party-fuelled chaos that surrounded it. As with most studios of the time there was corporate work that came through during the daytimes providing the ‘bread and butter’ income that paid the bills. The main corporate client for Richmond Recorders for some time was post-production for the Young Talent Time (1971-1988) variety show that occupied the space for 3-4 days per week. This cross-over of corporate and underground culture working in parallel is representative of the two extremes of Melbourne music city. A sub-cultural trend for musicians to live outside the mainstream and immerse themselves in their craft was being as equally supported in this space as the development of pop cultural music commodity that kept the studio afloat.

One of Melbourne’s most iconic and ironically commercially successful representatives of Melbourne’s underground live music scene is Nick Cave (b. 1957) who developed a cult following on the live circuit playing in punk bands in Melbourne. Cave’s cross-over to the commercial industry was supported by young engineer Tony Cohen who recorded the Boys Next Door, Door Door (1979) at Richmond Recorders, and went on to engineer most of Cave’s successive projects. This album was released by Mushroom Records yet Cave has maintained his loyalty amongst underground music lovers and hailed as the ‘Prince of Darkness’ by music media. In a unique cross-over of these contrasting cultures Cave and former child star from YTT, and Neighbours actress-turned-pop-star Kylie Minogue collaborated on a duet that helped expose Cave’s work to an international commercial audience with Where the Wild Roses Grow (2008). There was also and still remains a culture of engineers and studios making records for bands for little to no payment in the hope that the album would be picked up by a label and benefit the profile of all parties. This is why studios relied so heavily on corporate clients. The majority of musician’s in Melbourne to this day have very little capital to invest in advancing their careers so reliance on the philanthropic ventures of recording studios and personnel has been a major contribution to increasing the profile of developing artists. Melbourne’s underground music culture has continually provided the city with alternate music that is in such contrast to commercial music that it most often never reaches mainstream popularity, despite heavy support by live music punters and community radio programming. Many developing artists from this scene recorded their demos in the off-peak times in Melbourne’s recording studios by engineers that were fine-tuning their craft, often recording bands in the midnight to dawn slot of professional studios that would make their income from full-paying clients during the day. The city’s support of community radio has allowed exposure to niche markets for live bands to develop audiences since the explosion of the punk and rock ‘n’ roll scene in the 60’s and 70’s.

Young Talent Time (YTT) eventually moved when musical director Ross Burton opened a studio nearby in Richmond called RBX (designed by Dave Flett) that would produce some of the television celebrity’s pop hits of the 1980’s. The later years of Richmond Recorders existence are renowned for their increasingly more colourful activities with stories of visits from members of the Hells Angels motorbike gang, and other wild stories in association with a sub-culture of heroin and other substance use. It is believed the studio closed in the 90’s shortly after a drug-related fatality in the building.

Artists recorded at Richmond Recorders include: The Models, The Go-Betweens, Vince Jones, Men at Work, Sacred Cowboys, Skyhooks, Jo Jo Zep, The Birthday Party, the Ears, Men At Work, Serious Young Insects, Blue Ruin, Mondo Rock, Real Life, Cold Chisel, Scrap Museum, Big Pig, Redgum, Ted Egan, Paul Kelly and the Dots, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Split Enz, James Freud, Dave Warner, The Ferrets, Mother Goose, and Cybotron.
‘John French interviewed by Lilith Lane’, sound recording (unpublished Latrobe University 30 August 2017)
‘Melbourne Music City | Music Victoria | Richmond Recorders | Industry Insider’ presented by Bruce Milne (3 November 2013), accessed 16 July 2017.
Martin Boulton, ‘Tony Cohen, Australian record producer and “sound of Melbourne”, dies, aged 60’, Sydney Morning Herald, (3 August 2017) , accessed 7 August 2017.
‘Dave McCluney interviewed by Lilith Lane’, sound recording (unpublished Latrobe University, 29 August 2017); Bang! records, Spain [website] (2017), accessed 28 July 2017; Beast Records, France, [website] (2017),, accessed 28 July 2017.
Chris Corr interviewed by Lilith Lane 2017.
Chris Napper sold his share of the business to Chris Gough.
Philip Newell- Recording Studio Design, FOCAL PRESS-ELSELVIER, 2003
‘Jim Balfour interviewed by Lilith Lane’, sound recording (unpublished Latrobe University, 28 August 2017);
‘Chris Corr interviewed by Lilith Lane’.
Philip Newell, Recording Studio Design, (Oxford, UK, Focal Press, 2012) Technical information on sound reinforcement practice.

Paul Clarke-producer, ‘Long Way to the Top’, (ABC-Television, six-part series 2001) Eps. 5 & 6.
‘John French interviewed by Lilith Lane’; ‘Chris Corr interviewed by Lilith Lane’ (First full-time engineer at Richmond Recorders (1980-82); ‘Quincy McClean interviewed by Lilith Lane’, sound recording (unpublished Latrobe University, 8 September 2017), ‘Dave McCluney interviewed by Lilith Lane’.
Creative Victoria, ‘The economic, social and cultural contribution of venue-based live music in Victoria’, (8 August 2016), , accessed 5 July 2017.
Chris Corr interviewed by Lilith Lane 2017. (RBX closed with the passing of Ross Burton in a tragic accident.)
Dave Flett interviewed by Lilith Lane 2017
RBX recording artists in clude: Kylie Minogue, Yothu Yindi, Black Sorrows, Things of Stone and Wood.