“It was 1972 when he was in the band Wally,” says the veteran broadcaster, recalling when they first met. “I was compering the Melody Maker band competition at the Roundhouse and Wally were one of the six finalists, which was the first time that I ever saw them and I just loved them and recommended them to Atlantic Records at the same time that Rick Wakeman had seen them.
“Rick had seen them at The Greyhound doing a warm-up for the night at the Roundhouse and both of us recommended them to Atlantic Records at the same time. We knew the label manager there very well and he said, ‘OK, I’ll sign the band to the label on the condition that you two co-produce them’. So that’s how I got to know Roy, got to know the band and later after the band broke up Roy and I stayed really strong friends ever since.”
When last year Webber and business partner Dan Mizen were considering taking over the studio off Wetherby Road, they asked the BBC Radio 2 DJ and erstwhile host of TV’s The Old Grey Whistle Test if he’d like to be involved he “just jumped at the chance”.
On the last Friday of each month the intimate 200-capacity venue within Warehouse Recording Co. will play host one of Harris’ Under The Apple Tree gigs. The shows are an extension of the filmed recording sessions that the 70-year-old DJ has been staging in the studio at the bottom of his garden in Oxfordshire. Tomorrow’s sold-out gig is headlined by Chris Difford of Squeeze and also features Rob Vincent, Dexeter and Lewis & Leigh.
“It’s an extension to give us, as it were, a northern outpost,” explains Harris. “One of the things about being in Oxfordshire it’s great, it’s central, it’s a good place for people to get to even from London or Bristol or Birmingham, but once you get bands, for example, like Altered Sky that are based in Glasgow, coming down to us is a long haul so having the studio based in Harrogate gives us the option to feature bands from Leeds, from York, from Edinburgh, from Glasgow.
“Altered Skies in fact came down and did a session for us. It massively opens up the spec, if you like, it’s a real expansion of facilities because although we’ve got pretty good facilities at our studio here in Oxfordshire we don’t have 64-track mixing desks whereas at the Warehouse there is that amazing opportunity to bring bands and get bigger sessions filmed with them and so this is what we’re doing, as well as the live gigs.
“The live gigs are an extension of that, really, where Roy can offer a bit of studio time to a band for a couple of days at the end of which they play a gig for us which we film so it all just fits into place.”
Webber is excited by the potential of the Warehouse Recording Co. “We’ve created a fantastic space here and hopefully it will be come like a key place as far as recording goes in the North of England because within a short space of time we’ll have accommodation here as well so the nice thing is touring bands can come, record, stay here and actually play all in the same venue so it’s a unique situation. It’s good for Bob and we have to hold our hands up, we would not get the kind of artists we’re getting here if it wasn’t for Bob. On the other hand Bob wouldn’t be able to put these artists on because he wouldn’t have a place like this. It’s a really good fit.”
The idea to develop a small venue evolved from a launch event they put on last September. “We just thought we’d have a couple of people in to play in the big live room and it was so successful that it just dawned on us straight away we could put on live music here. So that’s when we decided with Bob that we’d record all of his Under The Apple Tree sessions here, film them and record them then it became let’s put on a live gig on the last Friday and they were so successful that we decided to build a new live venue, which we’ve now built.”
Tickets for shows will be available to those on their mailing list. “We want to keep it as a bit of a club. We’re going to get some great people here. Bob will announce things as we go along. It’s quite a nice intimate room so we don’t want any rowdy people in here.”
As well as the shows with Harris’ emerging artists, Webber and Mizen will put on their own Warehouse Recording Co gig in the middle of each month.
Food and drink will be provided by Andy Annat (“he’s quite famous in the world of barbecue, he’s done the biggest venues of the Queen and everybody else”).
In future they hope to hold a song writing retreat at the venue too. “We’ve got lots of great plans,” says Webber.
Musician turned producer Mizen’s varied CV includes location work for the internet music channel Vevo with rock bands such as Imagine Dragons, Twin Atlantic and Bring Me The Horizon; he has also worked with TV star Jane McDonald and co-composed music with his father Frank and Miles Gilderdale for TV and film. He takes pride in the flexibility of the studio’s recording equipment. “It’s an analogue console but it all goes down to computer, we’re using really high spec analogue-to-digital converters to keep the signals as true as possible.”
Such is the size of the Warehouse Recording Co.’s facilities, he’s hopeful that they will soon be able to attract orchestras. “We’re just in the process of creating a really large live room with great acoustics that will hopefully pull in orchestral stuff because there’s not many places in the North of England that can accommodate that many people in a room.”
For Harris, Under The Apple Tree is part of a lasting legacy that he wants to create for his family. There’s also the Whispering Bob Broadcasting Company, that he runs with his wife Trudie Myerscough-Harris and their son Miles, and a music festival that focuses on the kinds of Americana acts he has promoted on his award-winning radio shows. “The whole feeling to me is to be passing the baton to Miles who’s now 24 and to be establishing the platform for Trudie for the future for the company to grow.
“We’ve got big plans this year. The studio with Roy is part of an expansion of WBBC which will involve also television programmes. We’re looking to make more ‘Back To’ programmes, like the one we did with Beth Nielsen Chapman, we want to film some more of those this year and go to America, go back to Nashville, go to New Orleans, possibly to Los Angeles to record programmes there. That’s going to be a very big step for us. The relationship we’ve got with the Warehouse is part of that expansion and I’m really excited by it, the idea of building up. We hope to do another Festival in the Day later this year, if not then possibly early in 2018, but doing a little festival in Harrogate is part of the plans as well.”
After 50 years in the music industry, Harris says the great excitement for him is discovering new artists. “Almost every week there’s something, there’s some new CD that fires off your enthusiasm so I just feel very fortunate that I’m still in the middle of everything,” he says.
For details of future Under The Apple Tree gigs at the Warehouse Recording Co. visit http://www.warehouserecordingco.com/
For more on the Whispering Bob Broadcasting Company see http://wbbc.biz/