Lighthouse Studios

Feature by R. J. Thomson | 15 Jun 2006

Mani Shoniwa has been a leading light on the Edinburgh music scene for years, having been a member of successful eighties post-punk bands New Apartment and Win, and then going on to form dance act Yo Yo Honey. Since then he has founded Blacksugar Records which runs out of Edinburgh's unique Lighthouse Studios and. R. J. Thomson spoke to Shoniwa for The Skinny about nurturing local creative talent, and the opportunities afforded by Lighthouse.

Talk me through the different facilities you have here...

Music first. We've got rehearsal rooms: eight daily rehearsal rooms, plus lock-up rooms, a fully specced-up recording studio, lots of large areas for filming and photography, and production offices. We've also got a big green screen with lots of space around it.

So music is very much your priority?

Music is what we're driven by. Music is my background. Then I got to a phase where I thought "lots of these kids need to come through." They needed a facility, not just to rehearse – though that's something they can do here – but a hub to meet people and just generally do their trade. That way you enable them to connect with lots of other sectors that, I think, are relevant to music. Music isn't just about putting tunes together any more. It's about being independent, that kind of punk ethos. Musicians need to be talking to people like designers, people making films, taking photographs, so that they then create their own independent package.

Film and music are like oil and water – they cannae seem to connect. We wanted a place where people would just be mixing it. We wanted to go against the grain and create a place that was not just a record label and studio, but an incubator.

You talked about wanting to create "a hub". How do you find being situated in Granton?

It was not by choice – this was just a place that became available. I was doing a bit of TV, and we found this place by accident. I'm almost local – I lived up Muirhouse way – but I never knew this place existed. The Lighthouse is a great space, and we get lots of different people coming down. The BBC do stuff here, Channel 4 do stuff here. We've got five hundred and thirty bands on our books, and here we accommodate them all.

Tell me about Black Sugar, the record label.

This place is like a pyramid. We've got lots going on at at all levels, people learning skills, but ultimately we want a full production set-up and a label. That way we can get some of these kids up there at the highest level. The label is the pinnacle of what we do because it's what the kids want to do and it's what we want to do – getting really cool records out there. The first band that came to us was 3Style, and it was that classic romantic story. They were really young, fourteen years old, but I thought: "You've got a lot of time. You're going to have to learn your craft, learn your trade, and just be who you are." Six months later they're on fire for us. They've done very very good things.

It sems Mani's attitude is one that will nurture and develop Scottish home grown talent from the ground up, like more and more indeendent labels are doing these days; not only is the Lighthouse a creative environment that provides opportunity for young artists to develop cross media skills, but the attitude behind it is one which will allow the industry to continue to thrive.

Lighthouse Studios, 20-22 West Harbour Road, Edinburgh.