Living in West Midlands may seem less exciting than living in London or in a Greater Manchester area. Many of the smaller villages have few buses running in the evenings and trains are expensive – which obviously has an impact on access to entertainment. But our neck of woods produces amazing music and we have some real hidden gems close to us. We want to shine a light on those assets in our blogs. Not so long ago we had interviewed RawSound TV – an incredible service for local acts. Now we had a privilege to speak to Gavin Monaghan – prominent record producer and owner of famous Magic Garden Studios in Wolverhampton. On May 3rd 2019, Magic Garden will host a fundraiser for Musicians Against Homelessness in Birmingham and the line up is just unbelievable. So read on and grab yourself a ticket while they are still available.
Meeting Gavin is a marvellous experience – he is kind, soft spoken and welcoming. He produced some of the best records we have heard and his stories will leave you mesmerised. Thank you so much for sparing some time for us.
You have earned the title of The Wizard of Wolverhampton by musicians you worked with. Please introduce yourself to the readers of Indieterria.
Gavin Monaghan: Hello Indieterra readers! I’m Gavin, my Studio is called Magic Garden, and I’m very pleased to meet you.
You are a producer and owner of Magic Garden Recording Studios that have been going for thirty years. Can you tell us something about the studio and its rich history? Did it change over the years?
Gavin Monaghan: I’ve been working out of Magic Garden for 30 years in the West Midlands. I’m currently in my third and hopefully final location. It’s been a wonderful journey so far, and I’m enjoying every minute of it!
We know that Magic Garden is expanding. What new features are you planning to add to the studio?
Gavin Monaghan: Joe, Liam and I are working with all sorts of inspiring artists in every genre, and my ambition is simply to keep doing more of the same, while practising Kai Zen (The Art of continuous self-improvement). I’m constantly adding new (and old) pieces of equipment and software to push things forward. We have recently finished construction on a dedicated mix and overdub room next door, which is now fully operational. It’s quite hard to contain my excitement! I look at Magic Garden as a piece of art in itself, which will hopefully never be finished.
In 2016 in interview with Louder than War you mentioned that you planned to start a record label with your colleague Mark Evans. What happened to those plans? Are they on hold or is the label up and running somewhere in the shadows?
Gavin Monaghan: Mark and I are always looking for interesting artists to work with, and develop. We’ve currently put out three releases in single vinyl 45 format. Please feel free to send music. It’s a tiny concern designed to champion new music or help people who are already planning a release with strategies so we don’t release that much.
Magic Garden Vinyl was conceived as an idea from two old friends before The Brexit Con was perpetrated by the awful Tory/UKIP machine on the country. Unfortunately, as Vinyl is mostly manufactured in European locations, this will send the cost of vinyl through the roof (I never saw that on the side of a bus) but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Watch this space.
The list of credits to your name is enormous: Twang, Editors, Ocean Color Scene – enough to make young bands speechless. And yet you are known to work and championing up and coming acts: The Blinders, The Novus, Pagans S.O.H, The Lizards. How do you regard your role as a producer. Do you have your own way of working with artists?
Gavin Monaghan: Every single artist and every member of every band is so different, that my approach is wildly varied depending on what they need to make the best record we can possibly create. We like to join the band for the time we are with them, and continue to do everything we can after they leave and go out into the world with what we have all created together.
I’m happy to be a sort of Rock And Roll helpline whenever I can, I’m so busy it sometimes takes a while for me to get back, but we always try to go the extra mile.
We are used to asking musicians about their influences. But what or maybe whom can influence a record producer?
Gavin Monaghan: I’m influenced by inspiring people in every category, existing or as yet uninvented: artists, film makers, poets, activists, singers, musicians, chaos, order, kindness, humanity, animals, revolutionary concepts. Magick and changing the outcome of reality with beautiful intent. What if every good thing you could think of was true or could become so? A life without limits. I find that fascinating.
Before moving to Wolverhampton you worked in London’s most prestigious studios such as Maida Vale or the legendary Abbey Road. Why did you leave the capitol for West Midlands?
Gavin Monaghan: I originally left London to be with family. I ended up staying and it’s home now, though I do work in lots of other places (mostly residential studios) when the need arises. As long as I have speakers in front of me and beautiful music pouring out of them, I’m happy.
On May 3rd 2019 Magic Garden will organise a gig for Musicians Against Homelessness. The line up is absolutely mind blowing with Methods, Pagans SOH, The Novus, The Lizards, Moses and The Bohos attending. Can you tell us how the gig idea started?
Gavin Monaghan: I’ve been putting Magic Garden nights on in one form or another since the early 2000’s and quite a few people playing them have gone on to do really well. It’s lovely to watch them grow from a small start into something that people enjoy in a larger scale. The gigs are a lot of fun, and I’m only doing them to benefit various charities these days.
What can we expect on the night and where is the gig taking place?
Gavin Monaghan: We can expect an incredible night of music, as every band is hand-picked for their awesomeness.
Famous last question – tell us the weirdest thing that ever happened to you in a studio.
Gavin Monaghan: I was working in residential studio with A very famous band years ago, and a heavy silver candelabra jumped off the grand piano on its own and dented the wall while the singer was playing it. The same night, seven large crows flew into a bay window at the studio Manor House and smashed it to pieces. Weird is definitely an understatement.
Thanks for asking me to do this, I’m delighted to talk about this path I’m on, and look forward to many more studio adventures.
You can follow Gavin Monaghan and Magic Garden Studios online:
On May 3rd (Friday) a fundraiser for Musicians Against Homelessness will take place at The Wagon and Horses in Birmingham (Digbeth area). You will have a chance to see some of the best new indie acts with Methods, The Pagans S.O.H, The Novus, Moses, The Bohos and The Lizards – all hand picked by Gavin and the staff at the Magic Garden Studios. We can hardly wait!
You can get your tickets (£5) at the address below:
We are hoping you will come down with us to party in West Midlands and celebrate not only our incredible scene – but also the incredible studio and the man behind it. After all somebody mentioned 30th anniversary, right? Who knows, there may even be a cake! 🙂