Legendary Welsh studio up for sale

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The Independent Culture

Set amid the beautiful countryside of the Welsh Borders, the Old Mill House has played host to some of rock 'n' roll's wildest and most controversial performers.

But now the couple who own the Monmouth recording complex that gave birth to acclaimed albums by the Stone Roses, Oasis and the Manic Street Preachers have switched off their mixing desk for the last time.

In a distinctly un-rock-'n'-roll move, Sandra and Charles Ward are retiring from the life that brought them up close and personal with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, the Black Sabbath singer. The tales they have to tell are shocking – that Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis were just "nice, ordinary young brothers" when they stayed for three weeks, for instance.

Indeed, the rural location and easy atmosphere have frequently encouraged performers to relax and forget the trappings of fame. The Wards and their two daughters have seen Catatonia's Cerys Matthews without her make-up while she recorded International Velvet; Black Sabbath ditched their leathers for the duration of their stay. While Mrs Ward has witnessed wild antics from the likes of Osbourne and the late Cozy Powell, who sometimes played drums for Black Sabbath, she said the music scene had sobered up in the past decade.

"They definitely used to be wilder years ago. But they've changed dramatically and they're very down-to-earth, ordinary people now. The drugs and the madness of the Seventies and Eighties is gone. They all seem to be very health-conscious and there's always a vegetarian amongst them, not like the meat-eaters of the past.

"We've known Ozzy Osbourne for about 25 years and he was as wild as they came back then. He and his band have all changed now, though, they're all very refined gentlemen these days who are very house conscious."

No rock 'n' roll story would be complete without a tragic chapter, however. The saddest episode for the owners of the Old Mill House was the death of the Charlatans' keyboard player, Rob Collins, in 1996. He was killed in a car crash minutes away from the studio while the band were recording there. Mrs Ward said: "The lead singer, Tim Burgess, phoned to tell me what had happened but the band eventually came back and finished their album."

The Wards, whose family also owns the studios in Rockfield, a mile and a half away, bought the Mill in the 1970s as a rehearsal space. It opened as a studio in 1989 and bands were attracted by its spaciousness and seclusion.

"It's out of the way of the public eye and they get the intimacy they need. Because it's also a hotel, it becomes their home for however long they are with us," Mrs Ward said.

The studio, 30 miles from Cardiff, is currently on the market for £600,000.

According to the estate agents Knight Frank, the Old Mill House has seven bedrooms and boasts "a delightful riverside location". And for the gentleman pop star who likes to unwind between sessions, the nearby Monnow river is well stocked with trout.

The studio/music room, on the ground floor, is described by the estate agents as a "most impressive room with a high ceiling".

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