From The Studio to the world stage

Ian Laughton
Ian Laughton

THE Studio closed last week after serving the musical community of Hartlepool for 30 years.

Ian Laughton was there when it all began back in 1981 and built his career from the foundations of the charity.

He now jets all over the world as a sound engineer for chart-topping bands and even recently worked for Elton John at the Grammys.

MARK THOMPSON spoke to Ian.

IAN Laughton was an out-of-work joiner when he helped create The Studio’s original centre in Durham Street, Hartlepool.

Now he is a highly-regarded musical technician who has perfected the sounds of some of the world’s biggest acts.

His transformation began when he joined forces with Peter Gowland to create The Studio back in the 1980s to get people out of the dole queues and into music.

That experience has since helped to propel him around the world several times working for artists such as The Stone Roses, Primal Scream and Brit award-winning Florence and the Machine, not to mention being the sound engineer for Elton John at the Grammys.

Speaking to the Mail after returning from recording indy rocker Richard Ashcroft in the USA, Ian said he recently turned down former Oasis star Noel Gallagher for work because he is so busy.

“I am living the dream,” chuckled Ian as he got ready for a round of golf in London during a rare day off.

“I had Noel ringing me up and saying he wanted me and Richard saying I was working for him. It’s madness when I think about it but I suppose I am at the top of what I do.”

His rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, which includes having flats in Holland and in London, is very different to the one he experienced growing up on Hartlepool’s Headland and going to English Martyrs School.

But he puts his success down to one thing – The Studio.

Sadly, as his star shines ever brighter, the charity he began 30 years ago has faded away in recent months and finally fell into voluntary liquidation last week.

The tone of his voice dropped as he reflects on the sombre news.

“I remember being asked if I could build a studio and saying ‘yeah, if you teach me how to use the stuff inside’,” said Ian, 48.

“I put the work in and then I learned about music. It was a great time.

“It was a free recording studio for unemployed people back then but it had to become more commercial as it became more about finances. Maybe that was too big a change.

“It closing is a massive shame, a big loss for the town. The Studio was community at its best and helped teach me the foundations for what I do now.”

His big break had been at the Dock Rock festival in 1986 when the likes of Madness came to the town for a one-off gig and the promoters rang The Studio looking for local bands and helping hands.

Ian and a few friends volunteered to set up the stage and he was offered a job doing the same thing in Notting Hill, London, a week later.

He jumped at the chance and soon gravitated towards the mixing desks and PA systems while setting up the stages and learned all about sound engineering while on the job.

Since then his career has seen him take part in some of the world’s biggest festivals, award shows and work with ground-breaking artists.

During Dock Rock, Ian also met his long-term partner, Angie Wright, who was then a pupil at Cleveland College of Art and Design. She is now head of Nike Sport Europe.

Despite the jet-set lifestyle and famous friends, Ian says he will always be grateful to The Studio, which moved to a converted Baptist church in Tower Street, for giving him a musical outlet.

He said: “If it wasn’t for The Studio I wouldn’t be doing what I am now. It’s an amazing place.

“This is all I ever wanted to do in life and The Studio helped me do it.

“It gave many other people a chance to learn about music, enjoy gigs and spend time on the stage. It’s helped teach people how to be musicians, managers or even a barman. It has contributed so much.”

Ian is now planning to come back to Hartlepool next week to see friends and family.

But he will also be popping along to see The Studio and say his goodbyes – and to say a big thank you to the project that changed his life.