Bally Studios: a chat with Studio Manager Mark Edwards

We popped into Bally Studios and had a chat with Studio Manager Mark Edwards. The rehearsal space near Tottenham Hale (around the corner from popular brewery and tap room Beavertown) was originally set up by Jimmy Mulvihill and Francesca DeLuca, who now lives in Amercia, in 2005. Jimmy and Francesca started out as promoters running Dirty Rider Club in various London venues. Jimmy still oversees the studio from Spain where he now lives with his wife.

There are five rehearsal studios in total and they’ve seen the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, Rudimental and Caribou come through their doors.

Each studio has a full back line included in the fee: PA, mics, full drum kit, guitar amps, bass amps… You can also adjust the lighting depending on the mood you’re after (from full stage lighting to something more intimate). They have a shop for emergency guitar strings or breakables, snacks and provide free teas and coffees. We think we can safely say you’ll be well looked after during your visit.

Bally Studios try to keep their costs as low as possible so that they are affordable (full rates on their website) and they also donate a small amount of their proceeds to a different charity each year.

The main thing that strikes you when dealing with any member of the team is their passion for Tottenham, the surrounding area and their connection to the community – going far beyond the responsibilities of a rehearsal space.

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Mark originally started working for Bally Studios as a part time Studio Assistant in 2010, and found the job via MySpace (the social media network that was all the rage until it was bought out by Murdoch and Facebook took the lead). He’d just moved to the area and gradually worked his way up to managing the studios after founder Jimmy moved to Spain.

Mark really enjoys his work at Bally Studios. ‘If you’re going to work in an office as a musician, you may as well work in one where you’re meeting musicians every day.’

He also teaches drum lessons from the studios. Mark was in a band called The Vaults in the early 2000s. ‘Four of us from Suffolk. We got picked up by John Peel and did four sessions for him and then we did some tours. We did a tour with ZZ Top which was pretty ridiculous.’ They released some music and toured ‘up and down the UK in the back of a van. We played the Astoria as well.’

We attempted to get a bit of behind the scenes gossip (crazy characters, bands trashing rooms…), but no such luck. Mark explained, ‘People aren’t that wild when they come into rehearsals. The musicians who come in are usually pretty professional.’

We asked Mark if he’d seen a band progress from the early stages of their career. ‘There was a band that used to hire us out sporadically and then they used to do a daytime lock out. At the time, they were called ADA, then they changed their name to Puma Rosa. The last time I saw them they were on Later with Jools Holland. It’s good to see bands that have come in here and are doing really well.’

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Mark told us, ‘We’ve had bands that have been coming here for years. They like the set up of the studio, they like the vibe and that’s why they keep coming back… A band came in today and the first thing they said was how cosy the room was.’

‘It’s like that front room feeling, you walk in, it’s nice and cosy, there happens to be instruments there as well and there is a good space to be creative in.’

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Bally Studios is run by musicians for musicians. We asked if Mark feels that being a musician himself has helped in terms of providing a good service. ‘Yeah definitely. From past experiences you know what you want to find in a rehearsal room. Things can go wrong, things can break, but it’s how you deal with it. As long as you let the customer know that you understand how annoying it can be. I’m a drummer so as far as the drum kits, I think I know what will upset drummers. I play guitar as well which helps with that general knowledge to know what works for bands and what they’re looking for.’

We spoke about the reasons Mark thinks the space has kept going for so long. ‘The fact that we care. Simple as that. We want people to enjoy their time here and have a good rehearsal.’

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The studio has also got connections with other local businesses. The owners of Craving Coffee, Matt and Rachel Ho used to rehearse with their band at the studios. A friend of Mark’s opened a recording studio next door to Craving Coffee, That Sound Studio. Mark’s band The Vaults toured with one of the Beavertown owners and his band in 2003. ‘It all connects up.’

For the full story of the history of the studios and for further information, visit Bally Studios’ website. You can also follow them on Facebook.

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