Miraval Studios has hosted French and international stars from Maxime le Forestier, Indochine and Téléphone to The Cure, AC/DC, Wham!, Sting, The Cranberries, Chris Rea and Judas Priest.
Pink Floyd recorded part of their The Wall album at Miraval. The studio was founded by French jazz pianist Jacques Loussier and sound engineer Patrice Quef at the Château de Miraval in Correns, Var, in 1977.
Its glory days were behind it by the early 2000s, though a few popular bands still recorded there.
When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought the chateau and its vineyard in 2011, they decided not to continue the studio. This year, Pitt, now divorced from Jolie who has sold off her half ownership, plans to reopen it.
Pitt is not just an actor and winegrower, but is also an avid music fan, whose personal favourites include Muse and Morrissey, both of whom recorded at Miraval.
Now, the star of films such as Fight Club, Troy and 12 Monkeys wants to make his mark in the recording industry and has teamed up with producer, composer and entrepreneur Damien Quintard to relaunch the studio.
Mr Quintard, 30, won an Emmy for the opening ceremony of the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, and has a local link since his father is from nearby Antibes.
Damien Quintard, how did this renaissance start?
Brad was very much aware of the amazing history of Miraval Studios.
He contacted me at the beginning of 2021 to work on this fabulous project with him.
He told me he appreciated my links to the world of modern arts, including my work for the reopening of the MoMA in New York, in 2019. The meeting took place in Paris and between us it was, musically and emotionally, ‘love at first sight’.
Who is doing what in the venture?
It’s a 50/50 joint venture with Brad Pitt. I am the president of Miraval Studios and, as such, will manage the entire project in a region I love, in daily contact with Brad who has an eye for the design and overall vision of Miraval.
My role is to create a competitive studio, making use of my specialism, which is pushing sound technologies as far as they can go.
Have you kept the analogue 56-channel Solid State Logic console that was used by the music legends in the past?
That was actually one of the most difficult decisions of my life: renew everything or do something in between? I went with the latter.
The legendary SSL which, by the way, ended up as 64-channel, is being renovated, as are all the microphones that recorded those amazing albums.
At the same time, we are looking to the future, particularly with a Dolby Atmos mixing system and a hybrid sound desk.
How will you revive this recording behemoth, which declined in the 1990s because it had become too expensive and poorly adapted, faced with home studios?
It’s true, the studio business is struggling.
Hence the enormous challenge of getting this going with all styles, from pop-rock to rap and classical.
Our vision is to go beyond the basic recording studio.
There will be a lot of diversification at Correns, which will become a production house with video editing stations, Dolby Vision, etc, to play a role in the audiovisual sectors, coming up with concepts for series.
The idea is to create virtuous circles between studios, wine, visual arts, special events... It will be like Renaissance Florence!
Not forgetting the accommodation.
The spectacular tower next to the studios is being increased in height and will be used as a residence for visiting performers.
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Who will be the first famous lodgers this summer?
It’s going to make a real splash and we’re really excited about the interest already expressed by some performers, but it’s too early to talk about it.
The same goes for the amount being spent for such big change. It goes without saying, it’s a tidy sum.
And for me, apart from being an honour, it’s the project of a lifetime.
You only have to look at the worldwide buzz caused by our announcement of the reopening.
Interview by Laurent Amalric for Nice-Matin. Article translated and adapted with additions by Liv Rowland