26 Sep 2014

Beat back in the heart of Christchurch

5:38 am on 26 September 2014

When the earthquakes wreaked havoc on central Christchurch, they also destroyed many of the older buildings which had provided cheap rehearsal spaces for local musicians.

Deane Simmonds outside Beatbox just prior to its completion.The building is open to the public from Monday.

Deane Simmonds outside Beatbox just prior to its completion.The building is open to the public from Monday. Photo: RNZ

Today the Christchurch Music Industry Trust will officially open a new three studio space called Beatbox to provide musicians a low-cost place to create some noise.

Four-piece band Skelter currently use a storage unit in an industrial part of the central city for their rehearsal space. Vocalist and guitar player Eddie Kiesanowski says it is far from ideal - but they consider themselves lucky.

"It's just a concrete shed," he says, "we've had to put up blankets to dampen the sound, to make it warm put carpets down, we had to bring all our own gear in, and a lot of people just can't do that."

Eddie Kiesanowski says using Beatbox will mean they will hear how their music sounds in a more professional environment.

Marc Royal has been a part of the Christchurch scene for the past 20 years as a musician, band manager and record label owner, and now manager of store, Music Works. He says the earthquakes left many bands struggling to find spaces to practice.

"A lot of musicians lost their performance spaces, (they were) sort of forced out to dingy old lock up spaces in rural areas."

Billy Bragg performing in Nashville last year.

Billy Bragg performing in Nashville last year. Photo: AFP / Getty Images North America

He says it was feeling pretty desolate for a while with the loss of performance spaces and venues, and it is good to finally see some improvement on all those fronts.

The manager of the Christchurch Music Industry Trust, Deane Simmonds, says there is no risk of bands annoying the neighbours at the three purpose-built sound-proof Beatbox studios.

There is enough concrete underneath each of studio for a three-bedroom house. Each is an independent cell, he says, which has been acoustically treated to ensure it will be a step up from what most people have been using.

Mr Simmonds says the project got off the ground thanks to support from numerous local supporters, and donations from visiting international acts, such as British singer Billy Bragg.

A donation from American band Queens of the Stone Age has meant the rooms have been a completely outfitted with musical equipment, including guitars, drum kits, amps and microphones.

"Anyone can walk in and hammer on some drums or sing a song or yell, and no one will hear you. That is your space for an hour," Mr Simmonds says.

Most importantly, he hopes the space will act as a community hub for musicians to mix, share ideas and inspire each other.

The doors will open to the public from Monday.