David Gilmour’s floating studio Astoria which is moored on the Thames in London, England. The Division Bell, A Momentary Lapse of Reason and On An Island amongst others were recorded there.
David Gilmour’s Astoria Houseboat Studio on Thames River
Our regular readers will know that David’s houseboat studio Astoria is one of the best, and certainly the most beautiful, of London’s private recording studios. Her hull was recently inspected and deemed in need of renovation, so she was moved to dry dock to have a complete steel hull replacement, which should mean she lasts another 30-40 years with no further major work.
After the new hull was successfully fitted, she was re-floated and towed back to her berth yesterday. The photo above was taken by Astoria studio boss Phil Taylor, and we have some more to view in Galleries.
The boat was built in 1911 for theatrical impresario Fred Karno, who wanted to have the best houseboat on the river, specifying that the deck should be able to accommodate an entire 90-piece orchestra. David bought Astoria in 1986 and has used it for recording and mixing Pink Floyd and solo projects.
Filmmaker Gavin Elder was in attendance throughout the hull replacement operations, so we hope to be able to bring you the moving story in moving pictures at some time in the future.
Gilmour bought the boat after seeing it advertised for sale in a copy of Country Life magazine in his dentist’s waiting room, just a short while after admiring it while being driven past its moorings.
Parts of each of the last three Pink Floyd studio albums, A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987), The Division Bell (1994), and The Endless River (2014), were recorded on the boat, as were parts of Gilmour’s solo album, On an Island (2006). His most recent solo album, Rattle That Lock (2015) was mixed and had partially been recorded there. It was also used for mixing the Pink Floyd live albums Delicate Sound of Thunder (1988) and Pulse (1995) as well as the Pulse film (1995), Gilmour’s Remember That Night DVD/Blu-ray (2007) and his Live in Gdańsk (2008) live album/DVD.
Bob Ezrin has mentioned, however, that the floating studio posed a few problems when it came to engineering guitar sounds for A Momentary Lapse of Reason:
A video of Andrew Jackson, sitting at the mixing console of the Astoria Studio, is available online
According to an interview with Phil Taylor (Gilmour’s guitar technician), the Astoria was originally equipped with a DDA AMR 24 mixer console and UREI 813 studio main monitors with Phase Linear amps. The UREI 813s were replaced around 1990 by ATC main monitors. Customized ATC SCM150ASL active speakers are used for the main left and right channels with a standard ATC SCM150ASL active speaker used as the centre channel. The centre channel sits above an ATC SCM0.1-15 subwoofer. The surround monitors are two ATC SCM50ASLs. A variety of near-field monitor speakers are used including Yamaha NS-10s and Auratones depending on who happens to be working at the studio. The acoustic design was done with the assistance of Nick Whitaker, an independent acoustician, and much of the equipment was recommended by James Guthrie and Andrew Jackson. Nowadays the Astoria includes a Neve 88R mixing console, as well as three Studer A827 multi-tracks and Ampex ATR-100 tape recorders, which were modified by Tim de Paravicini, Esoteric Audio Research’s (EAR) founder. The conversion to a studio also required 23 kilometres of cables, which were sourced from Van den Hul cables of Holland. There are various compressors from Pye and EAR 660 tube designs, as well as EAR 825s for EQ.