Brian Coombes- Rocking Horse Studio- Interview Part One- "The Tour"

Brian Coombes- Rocking Horse Studio-

Part One- "The tour"

It is a weeknight and I am heading out to Rocking Horse Studio in Pittsfield NH. On my way out I respond to a friend’s text about a show he has coming up, saying... I will get back to them later, “Heading To Rocking Horse”. (I texted from a Dunkin’s not while driving.. I needed an iced coffee) My friend, Ron, wishes me luck on the recording session but I don’t correct him. I am not heading out to Rocking Horse to record. I am not heading out to track or mix or any of that. I am heading out to meet and chat with the owner, Brian Coombes. Sorry Ron for that misleading text; please forgive me.

I have never been to the studio and have not previously met Brian Coombes, so I am not sure what to expect. I do know that Rocking Horse Studio is one of the best recording studios around if not THE best. The studio has been featured in Mix Magazine and members of Godsmack have recorded there, Brooks Young and Boogie on Alice are recording there right now; but beyond that, I knew very little about this gem of a studio nestled just a few minutes from Concord.

The studio is marked by a small sign on the road of a rocking horse. I was familiar with the sign from their website,, so I knew I was at the right place. The views are amazing and you feel like you are in the country although you are just about 20 minutes outside of Concord. The studio is located inside a large barn looking structure. As I enter the building I am shocked to see the vast number of organs…Not human organs but tons of keyboards. If it has black and ivory; Rocking Horse has it. I turn to my left and I am greeted by a friendly wave. I quickly figure out that this is Brian Coombes after he says “Hi I am Brian Coombes.” I also quickly figure something else out; I left my coffee in the car... damn it!

After quick introductions we are off for our tour of the studio. The first room we enter is an isolation room. You have to walk past this room to enter into the studios large live room. The isolation room has keys lining each wall. I am a piano player so I am blown away by all the different options available to bust out chopsticks. Secretly I just want to see the mellotron, and play sloppy versions of Strawberries Fields or Nights in White Satin but I am impressed with the vast collection of vintage organs. My favorite keyboard that Brian demos for me is the OPTIGAN. I had never seen or heard of it before and Brian explains to me that this organ was created back in the 1970’s by Mattel. It is like a Mellotron in that when you press down a key, it plays a pre recorded sample of an instrument. However, instead of playing the sample from a tape loop, it plays from a celluloid disc. It is a cross between a toy and a sophisticated piece of machinery. Brian coaxes some creepy and awesome sounds from the keys.

Next we enter the live room; it is breathtaking. The construction and design of the room is impeccable and it seems that the 20 foot cathedral ceilings reach almost up to the clouds. Every surface is covered with acoustic treatment; absorbers, deflectors, reflectors, and Diffusers. The room is magnificent. It is like entering a church for musicians. The room itself is completely isolated from the outside of the structure and is a room inside a room. I see a piano in the corner, drums, and even more vintage organs and keys. Not only is the room and gear impressive but also Brian is impressive. He is a wealth of information on each and every piece of gear he shows me. The Mellotron is seated against a wall in the live room. We walk over to it and Brian goes into great detail on the makeovers the instrument has had. “The tapes have been replaced but I still have the originals” Brian explains as he says that the instrument does not like to be coddled. “You have to be rough with it... Show it who’s boss.” I fight my urge to beg for a chance to play it, I am sure he gets bugged with these requests all the time and hearing a half assed version of Fur Else is not on Brian’s wish list.

We stroll out of the live room and enter the control room. Again, I see nothing but the best in construction and gear in this room. In the middle of the room is a Trident 80B console. This board has 32 channels of pure vintage warmy goodness. I take a seat on an extremely comfy couch and Brian and I continue to chat. Brian pops up a session on Pro Tools and asks me; “Want to hear the best singer you’ve ever heard?” Of course I do...

Stay tuned for part two of my visit with the owner of Rocking Horse Studio Brian Coombes, “Take A Listen...”

Local bands you should checkout-
Dusty Gray Band,Boogie On Alice, The Ghost Dinner Band
The Van Burens
, The 123's, Juliana Cable, Kitchen, The Ron Noyes Band, Diamond Joe, Lucas Gallo, Crunchy Western Boys, BRASBE, Charlie Chamberlain, Run Gazelle Run, Tyler Road, Ways To Fall, Gorilla Finger Dub Band, Yankee Cockfight

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