It sounds crazy that in 2021, during the height of the COVID pandemic, that Troubled Clef Studios would be born. Myles & Sandra Wakeham stumbled upon an acre of land in the beautiful Spanish colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, in the center of Mexico that had a defunct Matador school and full sized bull fighting ring. The property had sat lifeless for years, after the passing of its original owner over 10 years prior. But they could see something more than a derelict bull fighting stadium.

As animal lovers, they felt it their duty to remove the remnants of the past and breath life back into this gorgeous piece of land. It was quiet and serene. The odd sound of a dog barking somewhere in the distance, or some chickens on a neighboring property somewhere. The noise of a horse ambling along a nearby roadway. This was quintessential Mexico. The peace was incredible. “Wouldn’t this be the ideal place to create the world’s best music?”, asked Myles. And so the vision was born.

San Miguel de Allende was the ideal place. A town, rumored to be built on red quartz, has similarities to places like Sedona, Arizona. It resonates to artists. Visiting sites like Fabrica La Aurora, where the quality of the local artists is world class and accessible to everyone, helped cement the concept that this was the place to create. San Miguel is the place.

“Build it and they will come”

Although there was a rich and talented pool of artists in San Miguel, Myles wanted to build a world class studio that would attract the best talent from all over the planet to come to San Miguel de Allende and record. Like the studios in Hollywood that he trained in and worked, he wanted to create something that was epic. Not just another studio - there are too many of those already. Any man & their dog can take a spare bedroom and turn it into a recording studio. But that’s assuming few humans go in there to record. If the concept of music now is what can be created synthetically, that went against the entire motif of Mexico and Mexican art. It is a social and human experience, and it needs a place where humans go to create great things.

But would they come? Would the world’s best musicians come to Troubled Clef Studios to record? What was needed to ensure they would want to? Myles already knew of the power of San Miguel de Allende and what this beautiful town had to offer - over 300 world class restaurants, affordable Mexican economy, wonderful and embracing people, safety with no crime to speak of, and a thriving arts community. But only those “in the know” seem to know these things. The studio had to be a destination spot because of what it had in it - not just the beautiful town it was in.

The destination studio

It was ironic that the term “destination studio” came up on conversations with potential clients over and over again. This was not a foreign concept. In the heyday of recording music, famous bands and musicians would travel to far flung places to record their great work in peace. From barns in England to exotic locations in Africa. And one of the main reasons was that the artists wanted some solace - some peace from the relentless tour schedules, paparazzi and media circus. They wanted to go somewhere that they could just be them again.

During this time, the producer of The Beatles, Sir George Martin, had built a recording studio in London called AIR Studios. After the demise of The Beatles, he worked there with other artists - recording & producing their albums, but he knew that the same pressures were impacting the quality of their work. One day he found himself on a plane and read about an island in the Caribbean called Montserrat, and its beauty and isolation. Intrigued he, and his wife, went to the island and fell in love with it. His passion & enthusiasm for the place was addictive and soon they purchased land and began to build their own utopia on the island. And that included what would become the most famous “Destination Studio” in the world - AIR Studios Montserrat.

Myles studied this story in great detail. What would make world class artists want to travel to the middle of nowhere to record their music? In relative isolation - on an island of only 20,000 people at the time. And yet as history teaches, that studio was responsible for the sound of the 1980s. Bands such as The Police, Dire Straits, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Rush, Jimmy Buffet, James Taylor, Duran Duran, and dozens and dozens of others created some of their greatest hits on that island. In a studio that, by world standards, was pretty basic. Yet it was iconic - not because of the studio but because of what people were able to create there.

That story inspired Myles. It taught him that, in a world of the laptop computer recording studio and synthetic music, there is still a chance that humans can go somewhere special and create the best art. If Sir George could do it, it certainly could be done again. Unfortunately Sir George’s AIR Studios Montserrat befell an early end after being almost completely destroyed by a hurricane only 10 or so years after it first opened, and then to seal its fate a few years later, the island had a massive volcanic eruption which not only destroyed much of the main town, but put the remnants of the studio in the “exclusion zone” - an area only accessible with police escort and the risk of toxic Sulphur everywhere. Maybe all is not lost, however. Maybe the spirit of Montserrat survives in the reason why great musicians would go there. That desire to create great art could surely still be out there.

Construction begins

In a leap of faith, they broke ground on construction in early 2022. Both the studio and a home for Myles & his wife on the property. Despite the typical construction set backs and gotcha’s, the project moved forward. Land was cleared, foundations poured, and eventually walls began to emerge. The studio is solid poured concrete construction, with double walls throughout and even a double roof. Sound proofing is critical, but so is having a comfortable place to work.

The “live room” was designed to be an exact replica of AIR Studios Montserrat. Right down to the milimeter. The same treatments, based on architectural plans and historical documentation. Myles connected with those that built the original AIR Studios Montserrat who were still available both on the island of Montserrat but also in London, England. Through consultations and research the design was locked down and shortly after, walls began to emerge.

The Neve console

A key factor in creating great sound is the recording console that the sound is passed through and mixed on. AIR Studios Montserrat had a custom Neve console built by the legendary recording console designer, Rupert Neve. Unfortunately that particular console was super rare and prohibitive, Myles was able to find a vintage Neve 8232 console in a storage locker in New Jersey in 2022, and flew there and procured it, had it crated for shipping and managed to navigate through the process of bringing it to San Miguel in 2022. The console is ready to be installed once the construction of the studio has completed.

Myles traveled everywhere to seek out knowledge and wisdom of some of the greatest studio designers, and to procure equipment for the studio. The blend of vintage with modern day technology was a governing theme of Troubled Clef Studios - paying homage to the past, but without negating the future. The studio design reflects that, but the incredible warm tones that come from recording through a vintage Neve console is the goal of any major recording artist. And Troubled Clef Studios has a vintage Neve in San Miguel.

Opening the studio

Construction is planned to complete by end of year 2024, and the official studio opening shortly after that. We will be updating the website with information as it comes to hand, but you can also subscribe to our email updates (don’t worry - we don’t spam), and we’ll keep you informed on the progress. If you are considering coming to San Miguel de Allende to record at Troubled Clef Studios, reach out to us via our CONTACT US page and we’d love to help make the process easy for you.