The doors are nearly ready to open at the Illawarra's largest recording and rehearsal studios although owner Sven Smok says the journey has been "interesting and arduous".
Top End Studios was an institution in Sydney's inner west for nearly a decade with many familiar faces of the national and international stage gracing its colourful walls.
The who's who of music like Cold Chisel, One Direction, Peter Garrett, Gang of Youths, members of Guns n Roses, Neil Finn, Shane Nicholson, Richie Sambora, Boy and Bear, Claire Bowen and even production on The Voice utilised its services.
Mr Smok has played down ever being starstruck and would rather muse to himself "okay, that happened", describing his work life as sometimes being an "out of body experience".
Just when Mr Smok had built his business to where he wanted it, the Marrickville site was to be taken over and demolished by Transport for NSW for Sydney's light rail project.
But Mr Smok turned something sour into sweet and decided to transform the closure into an opportunity. He had some land at Unanderra so chose to build a bigger and better facility from scratch, with the hope of luring those big name musicians south.
"It'll be a different experience for bands who aren't used to going to a recording or rehearsal studio where there's more than one band at a time," Mr Smok told the Mercury. "It gets a bit festive if you've got six rooms full and another two bands arriving and there's eight bands inside at the one time networking ... it's more of a social vibe."
Tradesmen are nearly finished with the construction at Waynote Place, with a huge concrete turning circle large enough for a Cold Chisel semi-trailer filled with instruments to rock up.
Advertising and marketing was not really part of the previous venture with word-of-mouth the main source to attract musicians, a theme that looks likely to continue.
"A lot of people know that it's happening and I've already had inquiries from a few high profile acts, which is good, and I expect COVID might even do me a favour," a relaxed Mr Smok said. "When Sydney goes red zone [with pandemic restrictions] there's a few bands that are happy to move out of Sydney for a while. Time will tell who's going to bother."
After a development application went back and forth to Wollongong City Council in 2019, it finally got the green light for excavation of the site to begin in January 2020.
Construction was then set to kick off when COVID-19 swept the world, and the project was put on hold once again.
"I sat around for about six months thinking 'I'm going to go broke if I don't build it so I might as well build it', so then started in September," Mr Smok said. "I've kept a small warehouse empty just in case I need to rent it out to survive. I'm happy with the design, it turned out really good."
It gets a bit festive if you've got six rooms full and another two bands arriving and there's eight bands inside at the one time networking ... it's more of a social vibe.Sven Smok
Currently there are several other small recording studios peppered around the Illawarra but nothing as large as this one.
The coastal reincarnation of Top End will have better technology than what was previously on offer, Mr Smok said, with several recording and rehearsal studios (some with observation windows and an isolation booth), plus capabilities for pre-production work and a "miniature television studio".
"I can have a live festival if I wanted to," Mr Smok said. "I can put a band in room one for a five-song set and then flick to room three, then another band can set up in room one."
Musicians rehearsing will also have the option to simply plug in a USB and record their session to take home with ease.
Once the tradies finally hand over the keys in coming weeks Mr Smok said he'll then need to install the acoustics and test all of the gear.
"I just hope everything works," he laughed.
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