Inner East Review
Wednesday, 6 December 2023

Bakehouse Studios is back from the brink and fighting for local music acts

JD
Updated March 16 2022 - 10:48am, first published March 15 2022 - 12:00am
Quincy McLean ... 'I think we'll get there - but we do need some help'. PHOTO Morgan Hancock
Quincy McLean ... 'I think we'll get there - but we do need some help'. PHOTO Morgan Hancock

Since the music industry has been able to operate freely again, Bakehouse Studios owner Quincy McLean has been busy.

"There were a few weeks when things were flat out. They've settled back into something a little more normal now," he says.

Normal for Bakehouse, in Richmond is not what you would call ordinary.

In the last month the Richmond studios have hosted Yothu Yindi, a film crew recreating scenes from Ghostbusters and "a bunch of other interesting artists".

They also pasted up the latest installation - a Vincent Namatjira portrait of American country legend Charley Pride - on their exhibition space fronting Hoddle St.

The business has longstanding connections with First Nations artists and organisations, including the Archie Roach Foundation, and recently initiated a bursary for Indigenous women in music.

"Every day's drastically different," McLean says of the studio's mix of music, filming, and other projects.

The founder and singer of 1980s and 90s underground band Blue Ruin, McLean has a creative outlook, and his partner, Helen Marcou, is "amazing at pulling people and projects together". The two were recognised with Orders of Australia in 2019 for their role in organising the 2010 SLAM (Save Live Australia's Music) rally and their subsequent industry advocacy.

Since taking over the run-down studios in 1998, they have remade them as a creative hub that has become a much-loved institution.

Tucked away behind Melbourne's biggest arterial road, the rambling old building, with its collection of artist-decorated rehearsal rooms, welcomes international touring bands and icons of the Australian scene like Paul Kelly, alongside emerging artists running through their repertoire.

Upstairs, high-end film clients take advantage of large, lovingly restored studio spaces. Ed Sheeran did his first Australian gig in one of the gabled rooms, and last year Courtney Barnett live-streamed her single Rae St to the Jimmy Fallon Show from there.

Pre-Covid, there were functions and gigs as well.

But in March 2020 when density limits hit, the cancellations came thick and fast. Three Melbourne rehearsal studios were "wiped out", McClean says, but thanks to Helen's inventiveness and the couple's perseverance, Bakehouse managed to hang in there.

"I love coming to work each day, but I've got to say it's been incredibly tough," McLean says.

"Going back to the SLAM days, we've fought noise issues and all sorts of compliance issues, and we've gone from being almost vilified by governments and local councils to being championed by them.

"But you're still having to go cap in hand to them saying, 'We're going to fall over if you don't help us'."

While the building is ringing again with the clatter of amps and sounds of competing instruments, there's still a struggle ahead for Bakehouse.

"Everything has been so incredibly unpredictable," McClean says. "I think we'll get there - but we do need some help."

Ed Sheeran did his first Australian gig in one of the gabled rooms, and last year Courtney Barnett live-streamed her single to the Jimmy Fallon show from there

Quincy McLean in one of the Bakehouse studios
Quincy McLean in one of the Bakehouse studios
Quincy McLean alongside the Vincent Namatjira mural of American country legend Charley Pride
Quincy McLean alongside the Vincent Namatjira mural of American country legend Charley Pride
JD

Jenny Denton

Journalist

More from Inner East Review latest news sidebar