Hannah Thurlow's Show Off Your Studio

Show Off Your Studio: Hannah Thurlow’s abstract sound design

Showing off her ROLI Seaboard, Elektron gear and beautiful guitar collection.

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Hannah Thurlow is a musician and sound designer creating eerie, industrial electronic music that melds crisp synths and broken percussive grooves with soft and subtle melodies. Her sound design work has caught the attention of brands such as Givenchy, Nike and Vivienne Westwood, but on her recent personal releases, Slide and The Line we’re invited to learn more about her as a full-on artist.

Speaking from her home studio in London, Hannah tells us all about her love for innovative Elektron gear, shows off her essential ROLI Seaboard, and talks guitar investments.

Slide is abstract club music at its finest. What’s the ideal context you’d picture this track to be played in?

As the track took shape, it started to feel like something that could be played out in a club. I’ve played the track a couple of times when DJing – it has a slightly off-kilter beat but it worked well in that setting. I would love it to be played on the dance floor.

You haven’t always made music like this. Has your studio setup affected your shift into solo electronic music under Hannah Thurlow?

In my previous bands, my setup was similar. I created the music in my studio and brought it to the band to fill out in a more professional studio setting. I’m still using a lot of the same equipment – the guitars are still around, but the drum machines have slightly taken over now!

Hannah Thurlow's Show Off Your Studio

Tell us a bit about the studio.

My studio is in London. I set it up a couple of years ago and it became my sanctuary. It’s filled with gear that I love and have collected over the years, and I also have a storage unit with some of my gear. I keep just a few of my guitars in the studio now as they were taking over, so the rest are in storage. A few of my Elektron and Roland synths are currently on a touring rig so aren’t photographed in the studio.

How do you use your studio?

Most of my work is completed in the studio. I like to keep a lot of my favourite bits of equipment on my desk within reach so if I have an idea I can just capture it instantly. It’s the same with my effects pedals – they’re ready to go. I record pretty much everything in the studio bar live drums; I love going into a proper drum room to capture drum sounds.

Hannah Thurlow's Show Off Your Studio

What atmosphere do you try and create in the studio?

My studio is where I spend the majority of my time so I love to feel peaceful amongst the chaos of making music. I’m a big fan of good lighting to create a vibe and I also invested in a good chair – never underestimate how much time you’ll be in it.

Which DAW do you use?

I’ve been an Apple Logic Pro user forever, but also use Ableton Live as it has some brilliant capabilities. Also Pro Tools, but mostly in a more professional studio setup.

What is your favourite piece of gear?

I’ve always loved my ROLI Seaboard. It never fails to create incredible sounds. I use it most days – it gives me endless control of sounds. Also, currently my favourite bit of gear is the Industrial Electric RM N1 pedal. A friend recommended it to me a few years ago and it’s become a staple of my setup. Everything sounds good through it, from synths to guitars. It’s a reverb/distortion pedal that creates incredible dynamics.

Hannah Thurlow's Show Off Your Studio

What synth or effect can be heard the most on Slide?

Asides from the main pulse, for the main synth sounds I used the Moog Subsequent 25 mixed with a Moog emulation plugin to create the sweeping synths. I also experimented with the RM 1N and Mr Black Eterna Pedal.

I’ve always loved songs with a long intro. I knew I wanted to keep the pulsing rhythm driving the song throughout, so I kept it looping and had it bubbling underneath the whole track.

Hannah Thurlow's Show Off Your Studio

There’s a metallic feel to Slide – can you tell us a little bit about that?

I was experimenting with some effects on a sample of a metallic noise I had recorded and sampled onto my Elektron Digitakt. I’d put it through the Digitakt and played with the rhythm and pattern. When it started to loop I was instantly transfixed and knew it had to be the beginning of the song. I added a short plate reverb, then the beat came instantly after. It has this strange but, to me, hypnotic groove which I love.

Hannah Thurlow's Show Off Your Studio

What’s been the biggest investment in your studio?

I’ve always worked on Apple MacBook Pro’s and gone through quite a few. I’m also a big Elektron fan – such innovative machines. A lot of my investments have been Elektron gear. Also, some of my guitars have been big investments but every time I look at them I smile as I can’t believe they’re mine.

What is next on your shopping list studio-wise?

Next on my dream list is The Erica Synths Perkons HD-01 Drum machine and synthesizer. It’s an incredible-sounding bit of gear! I’m a big fan of Erica Synths. I played on a friend’s Erica modular set up recently and got lost for hours in the soundscapes you can create.

Hannah Thurlow's Show Off Your Studio

What is your dream piece of gear?

Currently, it would be the Erica Synths Black System Modular kit. Also the classic Moog Modular System 55. I love the idea of getting lost for days in a modular world. Waldorf Iridium also looks like a special bit of kit.

If you were left on a desert island, what one item would you take with you to make music with forever?

Elektron’s Rytm II Analogue sampler/drum machine. It’s an incredible bit of gear and has become a staple of my live set (with Joseph Piper). It has endless options and is so versatile. I could sample the sounds of the island.

Hannah Thurlow's Show Off Your Studio

How did you go about getting the acoustics right in the studio?

The main desk is recessed into the wall which creates a dead sound which works well. Things can bounce off the floors sometimes so I invested in a huge carpet which is useful as I often lie down on it listening back to mixes.

What is your top piece of production advice?

For me, it’s always to trust yourself. You know when it’s right and always follow that instinct.

Hannah Thurlow's Show Off Your Studio

What is the one piece of advice you would give someone starting out building a studio?

Surround yourself with gear and instruments that inspire you and the rest will follow.

Buy or stream Slide by Hannah Thurlow via Bandcamp.


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