Chris Schulz: Studio goes out with a bang

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York Street Studios has closed its doors, but there was time for one last concert. Chris Schulz was there as Shihad gave the studio the send off it deserved.
Shihad performing at the Barkers Sundae Sessions at York Street.
Shihad performing at the Barkers Sundae Sessions at York Street.

Jon Toogood is metres away from me, huffing, puffing and screaming You Again's brilliant kiss-off line - "I hope I never see you again" - like it's the last time he'll ever play it.

I'm standing close enough to see flecks of spit flying out of Toogood's mouth as he and the rest of the boys from Shihad do what they do better than most: create head-banging metal carnage.

Yep, I'm a happy lad. In fact, you couldn't wipe the grin off my face with a wet fish. I've seen Shihad play this song live maybe a dozen times, heard it perhaps 100, and yet there's something extra special about it this time around.

That's because I'm watching Toogood, Phil Knight, Karl Kippenberger and Tom Larkin belt out old and new tunes on a stage no bigger than most toilets, in a venue no bigger than most lounges.

Why are we at Parnell's York Street Studios for a secret Shihad show? Well, there are several reasons.

For starters, Shihad are there to showcase seven songs from their new album. Due for release around August, it's rumoured to be a return to their heavier roots, and was recorded in this very spot with their Churn producer Jaz Coleman.

Coverage of Shihad's new songs is embargoed, but rest assured TimeOut will have plenty to say about them soon. Footage from the performance will also be posted on nzherald.co.nz's Barkers Sundae Sessions.

But the 50-strong crowd were also there to pay tribute to an iconic Auckland recording studio that is no more. After 21 years of music making mayhem, York Street Studios is shutting its doors. The brick building it's housed in has been sold, the lease has ended, the audio equipment has moved out and studio manager Jeremy McPike has moved on to Roundhead Studios.

It had nothing to do with usage - apparently the past couple of years have been some of York Street's busiest. But it's still a real shame because York Street has a long, proud history of delivering some of New Zealand's biggest and best-sounding albums.

The first was Shihad's debut Churn, quickly followed by Supergroove's Traction and The feelers' Supersystem. Superette, Bailterspace, Crowded House, Tadpole, Fur Patrol, Elemeno P, Brooke Fraser, and Pluto, Goldenhorse and OpShop have all recorded there and international acts Garbage and No Doubt have also used its facilities.

If you want to know more, there's a great history - with brilliant photos from the archives - available on Audio Culture.

When you're talking about York Street Studios, it's hard to ignore Shihad - especially when they're blasting metal riffage metres from your face. There's something nicely cyclical about their history with the studio: they recorded their first three albums there, and their ninth as-yet untitled release has since become the last.

Shihad celebrated this fact on Monday night with an encore of three songs - one from each of their first three York Street albums: Factory, You Again, and Home Again. If those riffs are the last to echo around York St's walls, well, it's not a bad way to go out.

But let's leave the final words to a sweaty Toogood, who introduced Home Again like this: "This venue allowed us to dare to dream that we could be as big as any band in the world. It taught us how to be a rock and roll band.

"This room is kickass. It's a real shame - it's criminal that it's going."

- TimeOut

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