By Philippe Grelard and Eric Randolph
They are little corners of French paradise that draw British and American rockstars to record their masterpieces — with a little help from Brad Pitt.
France has long had its share of famous music studios that have attracted not just local talent, but foreign bands hoping some of the country’s artistic heritage will rub off on them.
Some have fallen into disrepair, such as the famed Herouville chateau where Elton John, Iggy Pop and David Bowie recorded in the 1970s.
Super Bear Studios welcomed Paul McCartney, Queen and Kate Bush before it was destroyed by fire in the 1980s.
But others are getting a new lease of life.
Miraval, a villa in the sun-kissed southern region of Provence, opened its studio in 1977 and saw Pink Floyd record part of “The Wall”, as well as albums by AC/DC, The Cure and Muse.
Largely abandoned, it was bought by Pitt and then-wife Angelina Jolie in 2008.
Despite a bitter divorce wrangle, Pitt oversaw a renovation of its music studio with the help of French sound engineer Damien Quintard.
“One day, I got a message from Brad Pitt, who wanted to see me the following week — I thought it was a joke,” said Quintard.
Pitt, an amateur guitarist himself, told Billboard: “It was pretty dank in there. It hadn’t been touched since the 1970s, maybe the 80s. It needed a cuddle.”
The first artist to use the revamped, ultra-swish studio after its reopening last summer was Sade, who recorded her first and third albums there in the 1980s.
“My goal is that magnificent creations come out of here, so judging the result will take time, like making wine,” said Quintard.
– Arctic Monkeys to Rosalia –
Just outside Paris, famed recording location La Frette has a very different vibe — a 19th century manor that feels more like a home crammed haphazardly with equipment.
Its cosy atmosphere has attracted many stars over its 40 years, including Nick Cave, Arctic Monkeys and Marianne Faithfull.
Luke Pritchard, singer with British pop-rockers The Kooks, was busy on a drumkit in its frontroom, alongside his wife and child, during a visit by AFP.
British punks Idles recently passed through, but their aggressive sound did not translate into problems for owner Olivier Bloch-Laine.
“Their music is furious, but they are adorable,” he said. “Punks make you think of destruction, but their rooms were very tidy.”
Paris has also been an international recording hub, of course, with historic places such as Davout graced by jazz greats such as Nina Simone, Keith Jarrett and Chet Baker.
There is a new address: Rue Boyer, which has already seen the likes of Pharrell Williams, Rosalia and Jack Antonoff since opening last year.
Built on the site of an old porn studio, it was established by sound engineers Victor Levy-Lasne and Maxime Le Guil, with guidance from US studio architect John Storyk, who designed Electric Lady Studios for Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s.
One notable change from the studios of old — evident at both Rue Boyer and Pitt’s new Miraval — is the sunlight.
“A priority for Rosalia was that there should be lots of light during the day. Same for Jack Antonoff,” said Le Guil. “Me too — I’ve had enough of studio-bunkers.” — Agence France-Presse