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Tales from the Parkside – how an Armley based studio shaped the music of Leeds

Michelle Corns investigates the history of Parkside Recording Studio and speaks to those who knew it well.

When Parkside studio opened in Armley, it was the first built-for-purpose rehearsal studio, in Leeds.

Parkside was established in 1982, by entrepreneur Mick Opl. It was situated in the basement of an old mill building on Stanningley Road, and as its name suggests, was adjacent to Armley Park (behind where the tennis courts are). It had three rehearsal rooms, but later a fourth room which had recording facilities was added. 

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The studio attracted bands from across the city and surrounding area including the many alternative bands such as the Sisters of MercyMarch VioletsRose of AvalancheSalvation and Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry (aka: the lorries) which had emerged in the wake of the post-punk, new-wave era.

They experimented with haunting melodies, soulful guitar riffs and heavy basslines. The style and imagery, borrowed from horror culture. It would eventually be given the term “gothic.”

Giving bands a platform

Meanwhile, nightclubs like the Phonographique and the Warehouse, alongside Radio One presenters the late John Peel and Annie Nightingale, gave the bands a platform for their music. There was even a compilation album released called Parkside Shivers, featuring many of the Parkside bands.

Band members collaborated at Parkside, some bands split up and new ones formed – for example, in 1986 ex-Sisters of Mercy members Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams went on to form the Mission, with Wayne on vocals, along with ex-Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry drummer, Mick Brown and Pulp’s Simon Hinkler.  In 1987, The Sisters of Mercy reformed when Andrew Eldritch, teamed up with the Gun Club’s Patricia Morrison. 

Worldwide acclaim

Parkside also attracted indie bands like Embrace and The Wedding Present, and it was after a John Peel session was aired, that was recorded at Parkside, that the Wedding Present gained recognition. This paved the way for others to follow and put Leeds based bands in the spotlight. 

Many of these bands achieved worldwide acclaim – with the Sisters of Mercy and the Mission gaining chart successes in the latter part of the decade.

Parkside ran for ten years until the lease ran out. It was relocated to Holbeck where it became the Old Chapel, under  new director: Mark Hubbard ( who played bass with the Lorries in the 2000s). Many of the bands like Salvation, Embrace and the Kaiser Chiefs, went with them. Mark has fond memories of Parkside:

“We were one of the first bands in. I was in a band called Act Natural and we used to come over from Wetherby with all the gear, change at Vicar Lane for another bus, which dropped us off outside the studio.

“It was the only place in town, in fact the only place anywhere. We had been going all the way to York, previously. Eventually Mick built some lockers, which was a godsend. Parkside was the first commercial studio and so there was a whole bunch of those early ‘goth’ types, we were trying to go through them earlier on. I remember the Mekons being there, Rose of Avalanche, Dorian Gray, Sisters.”

And Mick wasn’t idle while the bands were rehearsing. He built custom flight-cases for instruments – which everyone loved, but there was a downside to using glue in a recording studio, as Parkside regular, Chill (who also played drums with the Lorries), explains:

“There was no ventilation as you need to keep the sound in, so everyone was high on evo-stick fumes. It was pretty smelly as everybody was smoking back then!”

That, however, didn’t halt its popularity and even bands from elsewhere who were visiting the city used its facilities. 

‘Cross with Mick’

I remember being cross with Mick,” says Mark. We were there on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme – which was funding us to be there and one day Mick said we had the Waterboys (Edinburgh based rock band) in auditioning for a drummer, and I felt disappointed that he hadn’t recommended me! There were no mobiles then, so god knows how we got hold of one another. But that was good, it was a good sign that it was the only place to go to audition drummers and they chose to go there.

Parkside however, had a nearby rival. Mark laughs as he explains:

“My audition for the Lorries was at an old pork factory, near to Parkside. We rehearsed in a basement of a commercial building. The Lorries affectionately called it Porkside, as Dave Hall, the manager, owned it, they never needed to rent a recording studio.”

Mark was still a frequent visitor to Parkside, though and participated in many music projects including a collaboration with Julian Barratt Pettifer – who is best known as an actor in the Mighty Boosh.

My memories of it (Parkside) are fairly vague but it was just a place to meet people. You would go for a purpose but spend half your time, chatting to people in the corridor. Also when bands were doing well, you would be meeting people you look up to and getting tips and tricks.

Hanging around with people you wouldn’t otherwise get access to, everyone was there for the same purpose, which was playing, writing, and networking. Some of them would form other bands.

“It looked pretty rough, subterranean, carpet on the walls, probably a real fire trap, poor ventilation. The smell of glue, cigarettes and alcohol. That price sign on the wall, came from there, we have one or two bits and pieces from there.

“I think it was just one big basement when he took it on and Mick divided it up into various spaces for bands to er…ruin, which was a tradition that I’ve carried on (laughs). It was definitely a much needed service back in the day and everybody flocked to it.”

One, big happy family?

Chill added: “The great thing about rehearsal studios was that you realise even the big, successful bands make mistakes as well.” 

It seems like it was one big, happy, family. Jim  Fields, studio supervisor at the Old Chapel, describes one event that left him less than pleased, when other musicians played a prank on him:

“It was a Saturday night and we’d been doing a recording session and I ended up staying there as there was a settee. At about 7am, I decided to get my head down and go to sleep for a couple of hours, the next thing I know, I’m being dragged by my feet down the hall, by Pete and Simon out of the Wedding Present, they just dragged me off the sofa whilst I was still asleep, I banged my head against the wall. They barricaded themselves in the big room cos I wasn’t happy! I was kicking the door down.” Hopefully, he’s forgiven them now!

Parkside legacy 

The Parkside legacy lives on. Rose of Avalanche reformed in 2019 and are currently touring with the Mission. Fans are raving about how fantastic both bands have been.

Salvation was due to join them, but had to pull out due to unforeseen circumstances.

The March Violets split in 1984 but reformed in 2007. They last toured in 2013 but are still in contact with each other. Vocalist Rosie Garland is also an award-winning writer, having authored short stories, novels, and poems. 

After it closed, the building that housed Parkside, was demolished, and remained a derelict plot of land for the following decade.

An old people’s residential home now stands in that location – quite different from its previous occupants!

West Leeds Dispatch Sun, 11 Dec 2016, 20:32 to me

1 COMMENT

  1. The almighty WAW boys
    Now use old chapel studios.
    Best people on the planet working there
    Nothing but love for everyone.

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