Gurneet Ahluwalia has just bought the studio space that has been used by many different groups in Cardiff’s musical history. Most recently, it was Offshore studios but it was also, at one time, the headquarters of the legendary Kruger Magazine.
Since he moved to the city last year, Gurneet has been trying to turn it around for the studio.
We spoke to him about how he plans to do that and how he’s been finding his self-employment so far.
You’re not from Cardiff. How did you end up here?
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I came here about two years ago, I’d been to Cardiff loads of times with touring bands and I fell in love with the place and my ex-girlfriend was from here and so I moved here for her. I just sought of found the studio space.
You toured with bands. With who?
Viatrophy, Sylosis, Renowa. I recently went on tour playing bass for Goodtime Boys. I’m back on tour in March with Sylosis.
Where you’re at now, that used to be Offshore. What’s the story?
When I moved into where I lived now, my housemate is friends with the Offshore guys. We went for a drink in Gwdihw one night and they said they wanted to get rid of the studios. I checked it out the next day, then I paid for the studio after that.
Was it a big purchase?
Not as big as you would imagine a studio to cost but it did take all my savings and a little help from family. It wasn’t hundreds of thousands, but a few thousand.
All your startup costs were from your personal savings?
You must be pretty confident about your ability to make it back.
Yeh – I don’t see why not, I’ve been doing it for a few months now and I’ve been able to make rent and not lose any money so far. I think I’m just more confident in the fact that I don’t just want to do an office job and I don’t want to go on tour all the time either so this seems like the perfect place for me to do that. As I’m a composer as well, I want to be able to have a space for myself and I think that was the main reason for buying a studio – and I want to record good bands as well.
What’s it been 8 months?
No – only 5.
Oh right! So obviously you’ve got a commitment not to work an office job. What drew you to self employment?
Being in charge of my life, not having to answer to anyone. I don’t mind having to answer but I’d reather be in control of everything myself. My Dad is self employed, most of my family are self employed, so… I wanted to follow that. I think it’s really fun and really cool to own a studio. That’s pretty much it.
How’s it been so far? What are the highs and lows?
I’ve enjoyed meeting new musicians in the area, making new friends, working with good bands. What I haven’t enjoyed, although it’s not so much that I haven’t enjoyed it as it’s been hard, is not getting regular income. having that on your back is tough because you don’t know when the next money is going to come in. The last few months have been fickle because of Christmas – people haven’t got that much money and so they haven’t spent that much in the studio. I haven’t not enjoyed anything really. I’ve worked long hours but that’s OK because it’s what I want to do with my life. Whenever I feel like I might not be enjoying something I always think back to when I was in an office job.
That’s a good way of looking at it. When you were starting out, who did you get help from in terms of advice?
No one really. I only signed up to Venture Wales for business support a month ago and obviously, now they’ve stopped – so good timing on my part! Just friends helping me out here and there: lending me drum kits and stuff I couldn’t necessarily afford and little bits that I need. No one has played a massive part in what I’ve done but I’m hoping to meet new people.
Self-employment allows you freedom. So what does your typical day look like?
It depends on when the band comes in. I’ve had to get up at 7 and be in the studio for 8. Sometimes I don’t get up until 10 – but I can’t sleep past then, I have to get up at 10. I take my dog for a walk, go to the studio and edit, do the admin, the email and that’s really it. If bands are in until late, I’m in until late. There’s no real routine. I’m always in the studio.
You’ve got a 24/7 approach to your work?
Pretty much. Every day something has happened so I don’t have a day off. I don’t mind that because it doesn’t feel like I’m working.
And you’re not just recording bands… you’re a composer too, right? Tell me about that.
I’ve always been interested in soundtracks. Film music and TV music. So a couple of years ago, I knew a guy who is a director and he did a film called Following Footsteps so I asked him if I could do the music for it. I fell in love with it from that point… the idea that you could change the mood and the way that someone would see that scene. I’ve just landed a management deal which is going to help push that further as well.
Will that form part of your business?
Not really – it’ll be a separate thing. But if anyone came to record and wanted stuff from a composer then…
Gurneet’s plan is simple: be really good at what you do and the rest will follow. Obviously, ridiculous hours, scary appointments with the bank manager and an awful lot of hard work are waiting just up the road from the studios but you couldn’t wish for a better business plan than quality first.