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Frying Pan recording studio at Mona a sensory ‘sonic playground’ 

Frying Pan recording studio at Mona a sensory ‘sonic playground’ 


Mona has become the first and only museum in Australia to house a recording studio. 

Named in honour of its location – adjacent to and with views of Frying Pan Island – Frying Pan Studios is led by producer, studio designer and sound engineer Chris Townend, known for managing Big Jesus Burger, a beloved former Australian recording studio.

Townend has more than 30 years of experience collaborating with industry titans Portishead, Silverchair, Violent Femmes and Augie March. 

The heart of Frying Pan – and catalyst for its inception – is the historic REDD.17 console, a recording and mixing desk that boasts London’s Abbey Road Studios as a former home. 

From the early 1960s to the 1980s, the console was used to master nearly everything recorded at Abbey Road: it is responsible for the special tape effects on The Beatles album Tomorrow Never Knows.

Chris Townend, photo by Jesse Hunniford.

David Roper – founder of the luggage brand Crumpler – bought the console in 2014. He then developed the idea for the studio alongside Brian Ritchie, who is the artistic director of Mona Foma and music at Mona and is the bass guitarist of Violent Femmes. 

Ritchie pitched the idea to Mona founder David Walsh, who jumped at the idea to manufacture this studio in the Tasmanian museum. Walsh has always celebrated the intricacies of the creative process, therefore Frying Pan’s function as a space to make art surrounded by art is fitting for Mona.

Frying Pan is located close to Mona’s library, and is only accessible via one of the museum’s notable subterranean tunnels. Natural light floods into the space, which features a large viewing window to invite patrons to glance in and watch the music-making in real time.

‘It’s not every day you have the opportunity to design a fully functioning recording studio inside a museum. Mona is an artistic cave of wonders – Frying Pan artists will benefit from the surrounding inspiration, location and abundance of equipment,” says Townend.

The studio also has a selection of high-end digital and analogue equipment to harness the acoustic properties of the space. Artists will be free to experiment with an impressive range of microphones, amps, instruments and pedals.

Frying Pan plays host to five HD cameras, premium lighting and live streaming, so artists can create multi-camera content and broadcast the result onto the platform of their choice to reach local and global audiences.

The new studio is committed to showcasing a diverse range of Tasmanian and Australian talent to the world. 

“Frying Pan is the essence of Mona. The major product will be music made in an environment redolent of passion and the glorious desperation of creativity,” says Walsh. 

Photography by Jesse Hunniford.

In more Tasmanian design news, see how Studio Ilk established a streetscape connection.


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