Voltalab - The hidden gem of Rochdale’s music history

Date published: 18 February 2019

When it comes to music production in the 70s and 80s, Manchester tends to take the crown. It’s a widely known fact that the city was at the centre of historical music production which put the whole country in the international limelight. What is perhaps a less widely known fact, is that Rochdale was the place much of that production took place.

In a little studio just off Drake Street stands a little hidden gem of musical history. Voltalab Studios, previously Cargo Studios, Kenion Street, Rochdale, accommodated huge names such as The Stone Roses, Joy Division, James, The Fall, and The Happy Mondays who all made purpose visits to Rochdale to record their hits.

Drummer Jamie Alsop and sound engineer Marc Lewis spent £35,000 renovating the building in 2013.

Loaded with musical heritage, it was finally re-opened as Voltalab Sound Studios, following a year-long build and substantial reinvestment in the space and its kit.

Voltalab Sound Studios pre-build in 2012
Voltalab Sound Studios pre-build in 2012

Installation of parts of the old studio into the new space bring a little piece of Voltalab history into the Cargo Building. In 2014, Jamie took sole ownership of the studio, with Lewis relocating to the Midlands to launch a new events production company.

Voltalab Sound Studios 2012
Voltalab Sound Studios 2012

It was announced this month (February 2019) that the studio is about to launch a brand-new live music series called Voltalab Live, showcasing artists and offering some great live shows coming from within the borough.

Jamie said: “The history in the building is what makes it so special. When we got there, there was a singing booth and pieces of the past lying about. It was nice to think how Joy Division and New Order as well as so many others were there using that stuff - it gave it character.

He added: “We’re really looking forward to the live series, and we’re excited to be showcasing some incredible artists, including many local acts from Greater Manchester. We’ve got acts such as Gardenback, Ben Fenner, Lucy Leave and Camilla Sky coming up.

“Our first video features Jon Coley. Known for his soaring vocals and masterful technique, Jon Coley has become known around the North West as a modern day folksman.”

In 2009, a blue plaque was placed on the building, in recognition of the role the studio played in the music scene not only in the North West but throughout the UK and beyond. 

Commemorative blue plaque
Commemorative blue plaque

Well-versed on the history of the space, Alsop and Lewis set their sights on leasing the Cargo building and began planning on how to preserve its legacy during the next iteration of Voltalab.

Voltalab Studios now
Voltalab Sound Studios 2019

New releases from the new live series will be shared on the 28th of each month.

For further details about the studio visit its website:

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