From haunted castles to high-street shops
With Kanye West relocating to a remote mountaintop retreat in the US state of Wyoming to record the follow up to 2016’s ‘The Life of Pablo’, here’s a run-through of some of the weirdest and wackiest places people have chosen to lay down their albums…
1. Radiohead – ‘OK Computer’
The album: Radiohead’s magnum opus. The record that catapulted them to super-stardom was their first UK No.1 album and got a 10/10 NME review. Home of some of their biggest anthems – including ‘Karma Police’, ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘No Surprises’ – this was the record where Radiohead outgrew beyond their peers, home to artistically layered rock arrangements and some of Thom Yorke’s finest lyrics.
Where it was recorded: The album was recorded in St. Catherine’s Court, a rural 15th century Tudor mansion near Bath owned by actress and ex-Bond girl Jane Seymour. The grade I listed former monastery was once the site King Henry VIII kept his illegitimate daughter, as well as being supposedly haunted by a number of ghosts. The house has also been used by acts including New Order, Robbie Williams and The Cure.
What they said about it: “Studios are generally very horrible places for recording,” said lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood in 1997. “They’re pretty unmusical so we decided to turn a big empty house into a studio… (Jane Seymour) said to us ‘come and stay’, handed us the keys, and told us to feed the cat.” Thom Yorke also recalled the house being haunted, “ghosts would talk to me while I was asleep. There was one point when I got up in the morning after a night of hearing voices, and I decided to cut my hair.”
2. Nine Inch Nails – ‘The Downward Spiral’
The album: ‘The Downward Spiral’ was the breakout hit for industrial rock heavyweights Nine Inch Nails. This distorted concept album documented the breakdown of a man and his tumultuous journey down the so-called ‘Downward Spiral’.
Where it was recorded: Trent Reznor recorded their breakthrough album at 10050 Cielo Drive, the place where the infamous Charles Manson Family cult committed the Tate Murders in 1969. The grotesque location was dubbed ‘Le Pig’ by Reznor, a reference to the fact that one of the murderers wrote the word ‘Pig’ in blood above the entrance to the house.
What they said about it: “Sometimes I’d come home and find bouquets of dead roses and lit candles in the front gate,” said Reznor on his creepy experience. “It was really eerie. Who were they leaving the shrines for – Tate or Manson?”
3. The Libertines – ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’
The album: Following an 11-year absence, ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’ was the triumphant return of the indie rock heroes as their poetic tales inspired by the work of Rudyard Kipling and Wilfred Owen landed them in 3rd place on the UK chart.
Where it was recorded: The boys decided to go to Thailand to record their comeback album. Their tropically located studio turned out to be built on a dangerous snake pit, but the likely lads stuck it out, with the secluded studio setting providing the necessary environment for the band to focus on their music and not get too carried away.
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What they said about it: Talking to NME about recording in Thailand back in 2015, Carl Barat said: “The snake god Nāga had a shrine. You could still find snakes there. I said to the guy there: ‘Do you have anti-venom for the snakes?’ He said: ‘Anti-venom?’ I said: ‘Yeah, anti-venom for snake bites.’ He said: ‘No, if snake bites you, you die.’ I thought: ‘Ok, what about going to hospital?’ He said: ‘No! You die!’ It scared the life out of me. They’re called pit vipers. Nasty buggers.”
4. Prince Harvey – ‘PHATASS’
The album: Prince Harvey and his debut album “PHATASS’ aren’t particularly notable for their critical or commercial acclaim, but rather the manner in which Harvey set about making the record under the most unusual of circumstances.
Where it was recorded: The Brooklyn rapper recorded his entire album in a New York branch of the Apple Store, with the assistance of only a few in-the-know employees. The album was recorded using the GarageBand app and the in-built microphone on a display laptop. Having had his friend’s apartment and all of his music equipment seized as a result of unpaid rent, Harvey went to the Apple Store every weekday over a period of four months to complete his album.
What he said about it: “There were no chairs – I had to stand there for four of five hours at a time. There were two employees who then said: ‘Hey, what he’s doing is really positive and creative. If anything, him demo-ing the equipment will drive sales.’ At the mention of sales, the managers kind of got with it.”
5. Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’
The album: Selling over 13 million copies worldwide, this was an international smash-hit for the funk rockers, bringing with it a slew of the band’s most-loved singles including ‘Under the Bridge’, ‘Give it Away’ and ‘Suck My Kiss’.
Where it was recorded: Teaming up with super-producer Rick Rubin, the band recorded the landmark album in Rubin’s supposedly haunted Laurel Canyon mansion, which he also believed to have once been inhabited by the infamous escapologist Harry Houdini. The majority of the band decided to live there whilst recording, but drummer Chad Smith refused to stay, as he believed the stories about the house being haunted.
What they said about it: “We had heard that the property was haunted by a woman who was murdered there in the Thirties, and that didn’t sit well with him,” singer Anthony Kiedis said of Smith’s reservations.
6. The Black Keys – ‘Rubber Factory’
The album: Released before they truly hit the big time, the garage-rock duo’s third album was their first record to chart on the Billboard 200, also picking up complimentary reviews on the way.
Where it was recorded: Having recorded their first two albums in drummer Patrick Carney’s basement, the blues rock duo moved to an abandoned General Tire factory to record their third album, hence the album’s apt title. According to Carney the setting was “not really ideal” as the recording process was marred by terrible acoustics and frequent malfunctions of a recording console the duo had bought off of eBay. The building was demolished in 2010, but its legacy lives on in the album’s artwork.
What they said about it: Drummer Patrick Carney said, “We were looking for a place and we saw the ‘for rent’ sign and it’s just this giant building and the first floor is where all the big storage rooms are, the big kind of cavernous rooms, and then the second floor is where they had all the offices and laboratories, and that’s where we rented our space. We just kind of rented one room, but there was no one around us in that corner of the building, so we had cables running out the door and across the hallway and into other rooms and stuff. It was basically just this kind of deserted old building and we had free rein.”
7. Wings – ‘Band on the Run’
The album: The fifth post-Beatles Paul McCartney record and the third with his new band Wings, ‘Band on the Run’ would come to land at Number 1 on the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as hosting some of McCartney’s most successful and best loved tracks outside of The Beatles including ‘Jet’ and the title track.
Where it was recorded: After years of recording in Britain, and more specifically the infamous Abbey Road Studios, McCartney wanted to record outside of the familiar surroundings – in particular, he’d set his heart on Lagos, Nigeria, where he felt he and his band would be able to relax in the sun by day and record at night. However, the country was at the time run by a violent dictator and recording was blighted by very hot weather and a number of street muggings of band members.
What they said about it: McCartney recalled his mugging thus: “Suddenly, a car comes along this dark road and slows down in front of us. A guy winds down the window and starts shouting. I go into friendly Liverpudlian mode. You know, ‘Hey mate, we don’t need a lift, ta very much.’ This big guy got out of the car and started shouting at me. I actually bundled him back into the car, saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, I love you, man. Now come on, we’re going home’. He looked bewildered for a moment before five guys piled out and held us up at knifepoint.”
8. Sigur Rós – ‘()’
The album: The third album from pioneering Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós saw them continue to accrue positive reviews with their original and experimental sound. ‘()’ or ‘the bracket album’ saw the band perform the album entirely in a made-up gibberish language known as “Hopelandic”.
Where it was recorded: The band recorded the album in a studio in Iceland known as Sundlaugin. The word directly translates as ‘swimming pool’, which is pretty much what the studio was. A drained, abandoned swimming pool from the 1930s now owned by the band. They’d originally planned to record in an abandoned NATO tracking base in Iceland, but they had to settle for the pool.
What they said about it: “A friend of ours kind of knew this was going but it wasn’t open yet, so we just kind of stumbled into it,” said lead vocalist Jón Birgisson.
9. Bon Iver – ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’
The album: The debut album by Justin Vernon’s indie-folk project Bon Iver, which received rapturous acclaim from critics.
Where it was recorded: Following the breakup of both his previous band DeYarmond Edison and his own relationship with his girlfriend, Justin Vernon relocated to his father’s secluded hunting cabin in his native Wisconsin. With no initial intention to record an album, Vernon set about hunting, watching TV and drinking beer before transforming the hut into a makeshift studio.
What they said about it: Vernon spoke of the inspiration the natural landscape gave him in the recording, saying: “When it’s winter out there, there are no leaves on the trees and the pines are really tall, and there’s lanes of light inside them, and bare hills and so much space. That space really did hand me a lot of ideas – ideas that I already had, but that I needed help with strengthening.”
10. Gorillaz – ‘The Fall’
The album: The fourth LP from everyone’s favourite animated band saw Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett jumping straight back into recording to release their second album of 2010. A typical mismatch of genres and styles, the album sees collaborators in the form of Bobby Womack, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon.
Where it was recorded: Albarn recorded ‘The Fall’ in full on an iPad over a month-long period inside his tour bus, during the band’s tour of United States and Canada. In 2010 he told NME that he ‘fell in love’ with his iPad as soon as he got it.
What they said about it: “I literally made it on the road. I didn’t write it before, I didn’t prepare it. I just did it day by day as a kind of diary of my experience in America,” said Albarn.
11. Johnny Cash – ‘At Folsom Prison’
The album: The legendary live recording of Johnny Cash at the infamous Folsom Prison. After a slight waning in his popularity, Cash teamed up with producer Bob Johnston for one of the most famous live recordings of all time.
Where it was recorded: Unsurprisingly Cash recorded this album in California’s Folsom Prison. He showed interest in the building after watching a documentary on it whilst serving in the United States Air Force Security Service. The 137-year-old facility was one of the first maximum-security prisons, but it was Cash’s recording there that has established its place in pop culture history.
What they said about it: “The culture of a thousand years is shattered with the clanging of the cell door behind you. Life outside behind you immediately becomes unreal. You begin to not care that it exists. All you have with you in the cell is your bare animal instincts,” Cash said in the liner notes of the album.
12. Foo Fighters – ‘Wasting Light’
The album: Having headlined Wembley Stadium and with a number of Grammys already to their name, Foo Fighters were at the top of their game heading into ‘Wasting Light’. The album didn’t fail to disappoint as they took it back to basics and scored Number 1 albums on both sides of the Atlantic.
Where it was recorded: Having sold out stadiums and arenas worldwide, Foo Fighters relocated to Dave Grohl’s garage to record the entire album on analogue tapes. In search of a heavier and rawer sound the band set up their makeshift studio Los Angeles and recruited Butch Vig, producer of Nirvana’s seminal ‘Nevermind’, to create one of their best albums to date.
What they said about it: “Rather than just record the album in the most expensive studio with the most state‑of‑the‑art equipment, what if Butch and I were to get back together after 20 years and dust off the tape machines and put them in my garage? We’ve recorded an album somewhere where no‑one has ever recorded before. We’ve not gone to the studio where Zeppelin made ‘In Through The Out Door’ – we’ve gone into my garage,” Grohl said.
13. Black Sabbath – ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’
The album: The fifth album from heavy rock monoliths Black Sabbath saw them pull in favourable reviews for the first time in their career, as well laying down some of their darkest and most primal riffs to date. A cornerstone in the history of heavy metal.
Where it was recorded: The metal icons recorded the album in Clearwell Castle. The grade II listed gothic mansion in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, served as the dark inspiration the band were looking for. Rehearsals took place in the castle’s dungeon, an area that gave lead guitarist Tony Iommi the inspiration for the riff to title track ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’.
What they said about it: “It was myself and Geezer, or myself and Ozzy, and we were walking down the hallway and we saw a cloaked figure coming towards us,” guitarist Tony Iommi said of his ghostly experience in the Castle. “We thought, who is that? It walked into a room, and we followed it to see who it was and there was nobody there. The room was an armoury with all the weapons on the wall, and there was nothing else in there.”
Words: Rory Marcham