On a sunny Monday morning in early April, I arrange to meet up with Auckland drummer/producer Tom Broome outside Mount Albert’s iconic Westfield Saint Lukes shopping centre. Rumour has it that Tom has been up to something interesting inside the nearby Storage King self-storage facility on Wagener Place, and I’m keen to find out more. After a couple of text messages, Tom greets me downstairs. Dressed in jeans, a checked shirt, and a basketball cap, he leads me inside. After traveling up several floors by elevator, and navigating a labyrinth of corridors, we arrive at a cozy 4X4m room Tom has, with Storage King’s blessing, refitted as a practice room and basic recording studio, affectionately dubbed “The Shack.”
“When I decided I wanted to start a recording studio, my dad suggested building a room within a room,” Tom recalls. “I’d been using a Storage King unit as a drumming practice room for about six years, so I asked them if I could turn one into a studio and they were all good with it.” In recent months, The Shack has served as a practice room for the likes of Home Brew, Anika Moa, and Aaradhna, all of whom Tom works with as a session drummer. “Storage King loves it,” he enthuses. “The staff will comment that it sounds nice up here, and ask who I’ve got in.” Aside from practice sessions, he’s also been using The Shack to record with soul singer Rachel Fraser, rap crew Team Dynamite, and local Latin music collective Latinaotearoa. “I’ve had this space for about a year and a half,” Tom continues. “But I didn’t really start recording with people until this year. I wanted to make sure I could do a good job first.”
Tom’s motivations to establish The Shack date back to the early 2010s. After spending a stint playing “horrible Bee Gees tribute shows every night” on a cruise ship, he decided to shift his focus towards music he loved; and teach drums on the side. With hard work, he became an in-demand session drummer. When Tom wasn’t sessioning or teaching, he was writing and performing jazzy torch songs with guitarist Abraham Kunin, bassist Marika Hodgson, and vocalist Esther Stephens as The Means. While they were recording their first EP, The Ends (2013), Tom became very interested in audio engineering. “We decided to go as hi-fi as possible, and ended up spending about twelve thousand dollars making that record,” he admits.
That much money would have bought a bit of recording gear. “It made me realise that if I had a project studio, things would have been a lot easier,” Tom says. “I’d been learning a bit through YouTube tutorials, and asking the engineers we worked with questions, but after a bit of time using Ableton Live, I hit a wall.” During a quiet winter, he emailed local legend Olly Harmer of The Lab Recording Studio in Mount Eden. He asked if he could sit in with him for six weeks. “I offered to clean the toilets and do the dishes in exchange for learning from him, and he said yes.” Under Olly’s award-winning audio engineering guidance, Tom upskilled. He continued to purchase gear, and when he felt ready, asked Storage King if he could set-up inside a unit.
Having spent the last decade earning a living through music, Tom is very interested in self-sufficiency. “You can’t tour all the time in New Zealand,” he says. “I just went on a really successful tour with Home Brew, and that was nine dates. I play a lot on the weekend and teach earlier in the evenings, but I want to be doing some music work during the days as well, and I think that could be recording and production.” While he’s happy working away in The Shack, for now, he would love to eventually move into a larger space with a control room and a live room. Tom’s also interested in making his studio gear mobile for short recording projects. “Recording in a batch by the beach for a week or two, then back to mix it in the studio,” he enthuses. “That’s the dream!
Contact Tom Broome here.