A visit to Pirate Studios

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Calling all bands and musicians in Birmingham! Have you heard about the practice studios in Digbeth that are open 24/7, full of great equipment and very fairly priced? That place is Pirate Studios and we sent noisy punk/metal duo WAVE (who just so happens to feature our own Dave Musson) to give it a try.

Like many practice studios, Pirate is easy to find once you know where you’re going – located at 77 Upper Trinity Street in Digbeth, the studio is tucked away next to Birmingham Film Studio and would be easy to miss, were it not for the hulking sign by their gate. It’s only when you pull into the studio’s free car park, which has plenty of space, that you get your first glimpse of Pirate Studios’ main entrance – decorated, in true Digbeth style, by a local graffiti artist

Coming out of the main door not long after I arrive is Pirate co-founder Sammi, who is here to show me round the studios and make sure everything is set for me and my drummer Will – i.e. my band WAVE – to come and have a jam and see what we make of his empire.

Right away, Pirate’s most unique characteristic jumps out – aside from Sammi, who has made this trip especially, there are no staff here. That’s no accident – Pirate Studios are unmanned. To get access, you book your session online and are then sent access codes for the front door and for your practice room.

Not having to have someone on reception has a number of advantages, as Sammi explains while we look round the studios. It means the studios can be accessed literally at any time of the day, so bands with a pounding desire to work through the night can do so, and, even better, it means Pirate can keep their prices very low.

There are three types of rooms available – Classic, Premium and Pirate – and hourly hire charges start at £4, £5 and £7 respectively. However, even at peak times the most you will end up paying for the top-rate Pirate room is £10 an hour – a very competitive price.

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In terms of the difference between the rooms, it’s mainly to do with the equipment found within them, as all nine rooms in the Birmingham site are of a fairly equal size. All of the rooms come with a Tama Imperialstar drum kit, a PA and a couple of mics, a bass amp and a guitar amp. The amps in the Premium rooms are a slight upgrade on the Classic, while in the Pirate room you get two guitar amps and an extra mic.

Oh, and in the Premium and Pirate rooms you not only get air conditioning but you also get an incredibly fun set of multicoloured LED lights to set your own disco going – most fun.

In terms of looking round, so far, so good – especially spotting the kitchen and toilet at the far end of the building. But there’s one other area to mention too; the lockers.

The lockers are an important part of the Pirate model for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you can hire them to store stuff for a mere £10 a month and they are big – they look comfortably large enough to fit a band’s backline in.

The locker room also does part of the job that a human might do at another studio – found in some of the lockers are spare XLR cables, extra cymbal stands and any other bits that you might need. In case something isn’t quite right in your room, you simply call the always-manned customer service number, who will then give you the locker room access code and tell you where you’ll find what you need.

So, tour done, Sammi shows me to the room they’ve kept free for WAVE to play in, one of their top-rate Pirate rooms – thank you kindly!

Four hours of riffing later and I can report that WAVE gives Pirate Studios a very hearty seal of approval. The rooms are a great size and sound excellent – you can really tell how much effort has gone into treating the acoustics of these studios. The floor is concrete instead of a horrible sticky carpet, the lighting is good and the rooms are clean and pleasant to use.

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The equipment is excellent too; the Harte bass amp sounds like an absolute beast, the VOX AC30 guitar amp is loud and crunchy, the drums boom, the mics are reliable and the PA doesn’t struggle to cut through. In short, everything you could want. And, of course, you could just bring your own equipment in and make use of the brilliantly treated rooms.

Overall, as you can probably tell, we were impressed with what Pirate had to offer – Will advised that the drum kit could do with having fresh skins put on them, as the ones he spent the afternoon bashing are those that came with the kit, and there were no tea bags in the kitchen (first world problems), but neither of us have anything negative to say in the slightest – we’ll just bring some teabags with us next time!

For a more visual review of the studio, check out Will’s Vlog from our afternoon at Pirate:

In short, the rooms are great, the equipment is excellent and the price is very attractive – don’t be put off by the fact that the rooms are cheap. It is a little weird at first entering a studio with no-one on reception and no real communal area, but once you plug in and start playing you forget all about it. This is a really impressive facility that will suit any band.

And, with each room having its own access code, you can leave you safely leave your gear in the room and go and get some fresh air mid practice too.

Pirate also has something exciting coming on board in some of its Birmingham rooms very soon – the ability to record your session and have it mixed into and track and waiting for you on the cloud within half an hour of your practice being finished. Sammy tells me this will only be a couple of quid extra once it’s ready to go.

WAVE will definitely be back – and we’d encourage any band in the area to check it out too.

You can find out more about the studios and book a practice at www.piratestudios.co.uk.


To hear more about the Pirate Studios story, make sure you’re subscribed to Dave’s World Podcast (www.davesworldpodcast.com) as Sammi will be a guest on the show on Wednesday 12 October.


WAVE recently released its debut EP on This Decay Records – you can buy it from http://thisdecay.bandcamp.com


Words and pics – Dave Musson

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