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Dan's making music

PUBLISHED: 12:34 08 January 2008 | UPDATED: 19:23 05 July 2010

He has worked with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Oasis and Ash to name just a few.

But now producer Nick Brine has transferred his talents to rural Norfolk where he plans to lure current big names - not to mention local stars of the future - to a new multi-million pound recording complex set up with his friend ex-Darkness guitarist Dan Hawkins.

He has worked with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Oasis and Ash to name just a few.

But now producer Nick Brine has transferred his talents to rural Norfolk where he plans to lure current big names - not to mention local stars of the future - to a new multi-million pound recording complex set up with his friend ex-Darkness guitarist Dan Hawkins.

Dan, who was raised in Lowestoft, bought the picture perfect 17th century farmhouse three-and-a-half years ago and soon decided to convert one of the outbuildings into a rehearsal space for his band.

“We would spend a year or two on tour and come home for a couple of weeks before having to leave again to go to some dingy rehearsal space in London. I thought if I turned the barn into a rehearsal area the band could come and stay here in comfort,” he said.

But it was when Nick, whom he met while recording The Darkness' second album in Wales, came to visit Leeders Farm in Spooner Row that plans escalated and they decided to build a commercial studio.

Now complete with a football pitch - and a lake with boat - the eight-bedroom complex offers everything a modern band could want but retains the cosy rustic farmhouse feel, mostly decorated by Dan and his dad, to make it a plush home from home.

And its stunning countryside setting means it also affords the peace and privacy that many artists are searching for.

“It is a multi-million pound complex. Staying in the house is almost like staying in a hotel as all the meals are cooked and people come in and do all the cleaning so the bands can just concentrate on the music,” added Dan, 31.

It was his new band Stone Gods, made up of ex-Darkness members Ed Graham and Richie Edwards and new boy Toby MacFarlaine, bass player for former Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, who were first to christen the new facilities when they worked on their new album.

For Nick the chance to create a studio from scratch was too good to miss - and now the 31-year-old has made Norfolk a permanent base after taking on the management of the complex together with producing.

“I started at 16 as a tea boy and general runner at the well-known Rockfield Studios in Wales and worked my way up from there,” he said.

“It was set up in the 1960s and one of the first well-known songs was Dave Edmunds I Hear You Knocking. Others followed such as Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody in the 70s and in the 80s it was bands like Rush. When I arrived in the 90s it was the indie bands such as Oasis, The Verve, Ash and the Stone Roses.”

Being freelance gave Nick the opportunity to work all over the world, including in America for Bruce Springsteen.

“It seemed a bit unreal for a 25-year-old from Wales to be working with Bruce Springsteen but he was the most laid back, charming, humble guy you could ever hope to meet, with loads of interesting stories.”

But setting up a new studio was still quite a daunting prospect, even for an experienced duo as passionate about music as Dan and Nick.

Leeders Farm caters for vintage analogue as well as super high end digital, with much of the equipment sourced from legendary studios via auctions and the internet.

“The trouble is, with the control room - which actually had an old tractor and some chickens in it when we started - you can really only tell if you have got it right or wrong once it is all in and finished - and if you haven't it can be £100,000 down the drain,” said Dan, who is leaving the running of the business to Nick.

Luckily, all the artists who have so far taken advantage of the facilities - including most recently American Seasick Steve, who was boosted by a second appearance on Jools Holland's annual Hootenanny New Year's eve show - love the sound.

But it is not just for those who have already made a name for themselves, Nick, who has his own label, is keen to help local bands get a foot in the door.

“We have special rates for unsigned and local bands. It's not just about the big names with record companies behind them,” he said.

“Everyone so far seems to like what we have done. It is all very well knowing how to put a studio together but it still needs a certain magic to make it work - and I think Leeders farm has that.”

For more information about the studio visit www.leedersfarm.com.

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