Words by Kinch Kinski
Photography by Kinch Kinski
More than just a rehearsal space, Hydra Rehearsal Studios offers expert advice for artists who need a little guidance.
Blending into the factories and warehouses surrounding it in Burwood’s industrial neighbourhood, Hydra Rehearsal Studios provides a hub for East Melbourne musicians.
When I arrive I’m greeted by owner Pete Burgess, a tall, lean man shadowed by a tiny dog named Lily. Burgess is a Victorian College of the Arts graduate. He plays Tuba and guitar and has been in 10 bands over the years, including successful acts SS Pecker and Martin Martini & the Bone Palace Orchestra. He has managed local band Moroccan Kings and composed heavy metal operas and atonal music for venues like the Arts Centre and the Malthouse Theatre.
Hydra opened in 2006 around the corner from its current location. When the business moved in 2008, the rehearsal rooms were re-imagined as self-contained, sound-proofed units.
“I designed them with an acoustic engineer and a builder. Each one is a hut and in between them there’s an air corridor, which helps with soundproofing,” Burgess explains.
The rooms feature two HK Audio-linear-5 1000-watt speakers, a Mackie Pro-FX 12 channel mixer and a 400-watt Yamaha foldback speaker. There are also three Sennheiser microphones, with leads and stands and for $10-20 bands can hire high quality amps and drum-kits for their session.
Hydra is generally booked out two weeks in advance; its Facebook page is flooded with positive feedback and five-star reviews and the studio has earned the custom of notable acts like Twelve Foot Ninja, Antiskeptic and Bodyjar.
As well as a steady stream of metal, indie and cover bands, Hydra has played host to a Zimbabwean choir and a Caribbean-style band from the tiny island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean.
But running Hydra isn’t just about business for Burgess; it’s also a lifestyle and a chance to support Melbourne’s music community.
“There’s a deficit of knowledge amongst younger musicians about what to do,” Burgess comments. “I’ve seen so many bands adept at writing material, at rehearsing, at playing shows . . . but they can’t push past that to start playing festivals, playing interstate or really getting radio and media cover.”
This concern shows through in an informal Hydra service called Band Aid, which involves sharing contacts, knowledge and advice with artists who seek it. Burgess answers questions about booking gigs, touring, finding a manager, recording – basically, if a customer has a question and Burgess can help, he will. The core of Burgess’ advice to new bands is: tour early and often, get a manager and record properly with a good producer – one who can make aesthetic choices and guide the music.
“If you’re a heavy band you’d want to work with Beau McKee at Oaklands or Forrester Savelle at Sing Sing. If you’re more indie or world music influenced, there’s a guy called Myles Mumford.”
Burgess warns against cutting costs with home recordings. “It actually is crap compared to properly mixed and mastered; it’s not like people hear that and go ‘Oh wow, they must have saved so much money!'”
Burgess also provides direct support to his clientele by helping form line-ups for shows, as well as going to client gigs and buying their CDs. It might seem like a lot of extra time and effort but helping live music thrive in Melbourne is no chore for Burgess; it really means something to him.
“The goosebumps come in a live setting. Music in headphones is one thing, but sound that washes over you and energises you – a rock band or an orchestra where it just hits you – that’s what it’s about.”
Good customer service is also a big part of what Hydra offers. As a musician himself, Burgess says he came across rehearsal studios where customer service was non-existent and the equipment was often faulty.
“I’d go to a rehearsal studio and the air conditioning wouldn’t work, the PA was on its last legs, mics wouldn’t work, leads wouldn’t work and stands were broken.
“At Hydra we help you with everything, everything works and we’ve got backups of everything. If a lead fails we give you another one, if a speaker stops working we replace it immediately in the middle of your rehearsal.”
Hydra sessions run 5:30-11:30 pm Monday to Friday and cost $74. On weekends, sessions are 11am-5pm and cost $64. There are special prices for solo acts ($30) and duos ($40).
Check out their website here: www.hydrastudios.com.au