Only one of British hard rock band Enter Shikari’s eight-album recording sessions was interrupted by a monsoon. “The rain was falling the size of shotgun shells,” vocalist Rou Reynolds recalled of the 2012 recording A deluge of colors. “After that, all the bugs come out. One of us made the mistake of leaving the doors open to the kitchen area, and it was full of dragonflies.
It’s just another day to Karma Studios. In the 12 years since former Abbey Road Studios producer and Sony executive Chris Craker opened Karma on a two-acre plot in the Thai fishing village of Bang Saray, bands like that Enter Shikari, Jessie J, Bullet for My Valentine and The Libertines recorded there. . It’s a place where someone can schedule an ice bath at dawn and meditate for two or three freezing minutes at a time, surrounded by tropical gardens filled with chirping birds and chirping cicadas. An outdoor pool is 30 feet from the studio; the gardens contain an abandoned building that Enter Shikari used to record drums. The nearest city, beachside and bar-filled Pattaya, is half an hour away.
“I wanted something by the sea, where we would have peace and quiet and just [be] away from the real world,” says Craker. “That was my desire – to give people a chance to work in a space where they felt like they were on vacation.”
The story of why Craker, a 63-year-old Briton, moved to Thailand begins with a fax he received in 1996 while recording the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road. It was from a collaborator of Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as Rama IX, the King of Thailand since 1946. The monarch was a classical composer and jazz enthusiast who had recorded many albums, and after the collaborator hearing Craker’s work, he wondered if he was available to make a recording.
“Yes,” Craker quickly replied by fax, then flew to Bangkok the following week. So began an 11-album run with the King (who died in 2016) and a fondness for Thailand that led Craker to buy his Bang Saray plot in 2008. About two years later he built Karma, then spent so much time creating what he envisioned as a “cross between a beach resort and the most amazing studio” he didn’t give much thought to attracting clients. He had to give the studio’s first client, London rock band Placebo, 10 free recording days to lure him to Karma. Jay Kay of Jamiroquai, a friend of Craker, became customer No. 2, leading to a rush of British bands.
“I’ve never paid a dollar for Facebook advertising or social media marketing,” Craker says. “It’s all worked, for the last 12 or 13 years, entirely through word of mouth.”
In Karma’s early years, he continued to work in American studios and constantly flew between his London home and New York and Thailand. (“I have enough air miles to keep me going all my life,” he says.) But the stress hit him hard, as did a diagnosis of prostate cancer six years ago. He has fully recovered but now spends most of his time in Thailand.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Craker’s son Richard, a British songwriter and producer, moved to Karma and helped set up an independent record label, Karma Sounds, which the elder Craker calls a “health and wellness label”. welfare”. They turned to creating their own background music for the soundtrack of yoga and meditation sessions, as well as for general relaxation; in 15 months, the label’s music reached 15 million monthly streams. “Secondary hustle has become a business,” says Chris Craker. “We can just be a little more demanding [about bookings] now.”
In total, Karma Sounds has produced 1,800 tracks, working on social media marketing with yoga and meditation influencers. But the studio is still bringing artists in for sessions, including comedian-singer Oliver Tree late last year. “Everything is set up to be creative from the moment you arrive,” says Craker. And Reynolds never made music like this. “I was at a loss for words,” he says. “It was recording in a heavenly microcosm.”