In The Studio With Lewis Johns: An Introduction

By Tom Aylott

In a new series of articles, handily named ‘In The Studio’, we’ll be with Southampton based producer Lewis Johns, getting updates from his work atΒ Ranch Studios in Southampton.

Lewis has worked with some fantastic bands in the past, and this summer he’s keeping up the fine work with some well known UK names. Ahead of studio updates, we thought a short interview might be a good way to kick things off…

What does everyone that doesn’t know about Lewis Johns need to know?

I’m 26, live in sunny Southampton and for the last 13 years have got to record tonnes of awesome bands for a living, the last 5 years of which have been at my main base, The Ranch Production House. I also play guitar in Goodtime Boys and used to play in The Long Haul,

What is it that makes The Ranch such a popular place for bands to record in?

Other than the engineers, huge live room and massive list of gear, I think people are drawn to the vibe of the place. We’re based on a farm so there isn’t much to do other than record or look at some horses. It’s a very homely environment for a studio too which makes it perfect to relax in. Unlike some studios, you’re not worried about bringing food into the control room or anything like that. We want you to feel as much at home as possible.

You’ve worked with bands that our readers will be very familiar with. What releases that you worked on in 2013 are you most proud of?

2013 was an extremely busy year so narrowing down my favourite couple of records is hard. Saying that, I absolutely loved working on the new Grappler record and think it came out really well. The songs are great and they basically let me so what I wanted as far as production. Another band worth checking out that I loved recording is ‘We Never Learnt To Live,” I was really happy with the production on that EP. I’m also very proud of the new Goodtime Boys album, but that’s due out May this year.

Who have you been working with so far in 2014, and what do you have planned for the rest of the year that we should know about?

This years already been very busy. I’ve just finished recording Palm Reader’s second album which is great! I’m also just about to start the 7th Funeral For a Friend record too which I’m really excited about. I’ve followed them for a long time, so being asked to be involved in the record was a huge milestone for me. A Gnarwolves LP and a split LP for Pariso and Svalbard is also coming up before the summer.

Working in a studio often means keeping up with new technology. What essential gear and techniques have arrived in the last few years that you can’t live without?

The obvious ones for me are a computer, interface and microphones. The rest of the gear is pretty interchangeable and I regularly change it up depending on what the band/song needs. I think being a good engineer is learning all the tools of your trade and not just sticking to what you know.

What tips would you give bands who are going into a professional studio to record an EP/album for the first time?

My main tip is to prepare and know your songs! That means if you’re a bass player, knowing what the guitars are doing, or guitarists knowing what is on or off the beat with the drums etc.. Also a big gripe for me is playing what isn’t right for the song. Ie/ if the drummer plays a super fast fancy fill or complicated bass drum pattern, it may sound cool to you, but does it fit in the context of the song? This also leads to my next point… If something is too complicated SIMPLIFY IT! If you can’t play a fill with the same velocity as the rest of the song, then don’t do it. Same with guitars or bass, if you can’t play it with the same feel. Vocalists check your lyrics to see if they make sense. Seems obvious but it’s happened a lot!

What other producers, engineers and studios are doing fine things at the moment? Have there been any particular people that inspire your work?

My colleagues at The Ranch, Neil Kennedy and Geoff Swan are producing amazing work and I think we continue to motivate each other and work harder to improve our output. Personally I think Rich Costey, ‘Evil’ Joe Barresi, Kurt Ballou , Steve Evetts and Steve Albini are all amazing engineers who still give me the ‘how did they do that?’ feeling and are still making records that hold integrity to a bands live sound.

Hear what Lewis can do using his showreel below, and we’ll be bringing you updates from the Ranch in the near future…

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]