Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm
Director: Hannah Berryman
If Hannah Berryman’s trip to the “Studio on the Farm” were any more comfortably English, it would come with a cup of Twinings Earl Grey and a plate of Marks & Spencer double-chocolate Viennese sandwich cookies. This film is as enchanting and quaint as Monmouth, the tiny Welsh village near which Kingsley & Charles Ward built “the world’s first residential studio” on their working livestock farm.
Screened at this year’s (virtual) Hot Docs documentary festival, the film takes a pleasant wander through the decades at Rockfield. Berryman’s made a beguiling human-interest piece that takes us on an unexpected journey through rock history. But given the mind-blowing roster of acts that have booked in at Rockfield, someone should make a comprehensive, technical document of this historic facility.
Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs, rhythm guitarist for Oasis, starts the yarn unspooling with, “I can’t do this.” To which vocalist Liam Gallagher adds, “I can’t remember a fucking thing, to be fair.” Given the tales of drug experimentation and general mischief that have gone on at Rockfield, it’s a testament to the resilience of the human brain that any of these guys can remember a fucking thing.
Producer John Leckie (Stone Roses, Simple Minds) offers:
My first impression with Rockfield was, ‘Crikey, this is a bit rough.’ There seemed to be more attention going on with the farm and the animals and the general manure kind of stuff. But the equipment was great and you had a lot of space. You had an instant feeling of ‘Hey, we can do anything here.’
In one of my favorite bits, Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr recalls recording in the Coach House. They discovered that Iggy Pop was in the main studio, and late one night they had a surprise visitor, dressed all in red. “David Bowie shows up at Rockfield with this huge bit of cheese in his hand, and a can of Heineken.”
A small moment that says a lot about the affinity musicians have for the Rockfield experience comes when James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers repeats, “world’s first residential studio,” and then adds, “according to Kingsley.” Guitarist Nicky Wire chuckles affectionately, “Kingsley.”
Charles Ward, who split from Kingsley and founded Monnow Valley Studios on his own piece of the property, puts their accomplishments in perspective, “We were very lucky, but we turned the recording world upside down.”