Producer, engineer and mixer Al Groves talks about how a penchant for taking risks led him to take over the lease at Liverpool’s The Motor Museum recording studio, which has shaped the careers of artists including The 1975, Oasis, The Arctic Monkeys and Jake Bugg. He reflects on working on a Bring Me The Horizon album in Santorini and explains why switching to Genelec monitors changed his workflow for good.
The Motor Museum recording studio in Liverpool has shaped the careers of some incredible guitar bands. How did you come to take over the lease?
I’d been at my first studio, Sandhills since 2006, and I felt like I'd hit a wall. The Motor Museum was looking for a new engineer and it was the logical next step for me. In fact, it was five or six steps higher than where I was at Sandhills. However – and I was quite heartbroken – but I had to say, ‘Look, I just don't think I can do this. I can't sustain the numbers and the finances that the studio requires at my level yet. I just don't have the client base or the success to be able to trade at that level’.
What happened next?
I kind of forgot about it until the summer of 2012; I just kept on doing what I was doing, thinking that there would be a break for me somewhere and that the right artists would walk through the door at Sandhills and kickstart the next chapter.
I was getting more and more agitated when it didn't really happen. Then I got a text in late 2012 offering me the job at The Motor Museum again, and I was thrown in – in a brilliant way. There was no other option other than to say, ‘I have to do this and I have to give it everything I've got’.
They said if after a year, it doesn't work, we'll shake hands, hug, and there'll be no bad feelings at all. But lo and behold, that first year was awesome, and I've never looked back. I've never left the place and I ended up buying it last year.
That was probably the first career milestone I've ever looked at and gone, ‘I feel really satisfied with that’, and gave myself a little pat on the back and said, ‘I'm proud of that’.
A major milestone came in 2015 when you recorded the Bring Me The Horizon single, Drown at The Motor Museum. What are your memories of this?
Bring Me The Horizon was really cool. The single we recorded was Drown, which preceded the album, That's The Spirit. It was the first one off the album. Out of the blue I got an email one morning from the booking guys at Miloco who said they had a client from Sony looking for a studio outside of London, and it had to be a great rock studio.
Sony sanctioned a single to see how things went, and somewhere along the line I just asked, ‘Who's the artist?’ They said it's Bring Me The Horizon. I immediately told them I'm a huge fan and I was quite cheeky and asked what the situation was with the production team.
They said, ‘We don't know right now, all we know is that the band wants to self-produce, and we don't know if they're bringing an engineer, but we can definitely put you forward’.