I have been cycling all around town on this cloud-covered fall evening when I finally arrive at the premises of The Famous Gold Watch studios, located in a large courtyard in one of industrial spaces of Berlin-Weißensee. Formerly East Berlin, everything here speaks the language of decay and if one did not know better, creative virtue would not be expected in forlorn spaces like that – but that is and always was the special poetry of Berlin, to let art grow in the most neglected areas, let it rise out of the concrete cracks of the grey matter. Once I am greeted by my interview partner, studio owner and founder Cameron James Laing, being let into what seems just another underground basement, the mood quickly shifts: Strings of lights lead the way towards sparsely, yet cosily, illuminated rooms. It manifests right there, that this place is a special one, let alone the stories about how the adventure of the studios fell into place.

“I used to be a musician, I used to go to studios and I hated them. So I felt like creating somewhere where there’s a focus on beautiful aesthetics; instead of being all about the machines, where you’re too scared to put your beer anywhere, or where you have the window with everyone staring at you through it.”

Cameron is an incredibly warm character and as he guides me through the various hallways and rooms – I can barely comprehend how quickly we shuffle from one point of the maze to the next – he is immediately chattering away about the whereabouts and the stories of the furniture pieces, decorative elements, recording devices, computers, speakers, instruments, microphones, mixing consoles and what else fills up the rooms. Let’s just say I am happy to have been alert enough to think of turning on my own recording device to have some sort of recollection in the aftermath of what evolves to become an hour-long chat on the joy of music, making it in the art world and on his own story of this whole place. 

The Green Room

Dimly lit rooms

Let’s stay with the setting, because the story of The Famous Gold Watch is not one that starts with an abstract idea of sound, but with the necessity to find a place that fits the claim of feeling alive in a space and filling it with music with every breath one takes. An enchanting music nerd’s promised land with all the equipment and antique charm, The Famous Gold Watch is anything but just another studio. “We play a lot of instruments for a lot of people, but especially keys. So I tend to keep a lot of weird old organs and things around”, Cameron begins, as he guides me through the rabbit hole. Glowing with an antique shop vibe, the place is stacked with instruments, record players, all sorts of recording devices and everything one might need for a decent session, the rooms are structured by colors: The blue room, green room and red room are the main areas for writing and recording, adjoined by the mixing room and the office, completed by an old DDR bunker which adds yet another historiographic level to the transformation of a place like this.

“I tend to stalk antique shops and flea markets, but also Facebook Marketplace where you can get notifications of certain things that you’re looking for. So sometimes you get lucky and get your hands on something perfect for the space.”

The Office

Described by Cameron with an “Apocalypse Now vibe” prior to our interview, I get now what he was hinting at and as he puts the needle of one of his (countless) record players to an old jazz record, I feel like it is time to dig into the story – we are talking underground after all.

“[The studio rooms] are in the basement but all of these windows go up to the street so we have air coming through but just not a lot of daylight. So all the rooms have windows, we just normally hide them.”

“A Curious Story”

“I grew up in the South-East of England, just South-East of London. It’s one of those regions where everyone gets drunk and has a fight on Friday night”. Cameron begins his story, which already sounds like a tale from decades long ago. The year was 2010, the place was the train station at Warschauer Straße and where to begin a Berlin adventure if not right there and then?

“I left England without planning to move here to Berlin. I went to Spain for a few months and then Paris, where I used to work with some musicians and a label there. And then eventually I got sick of Paris to the degree that I went to the bus station and took the first bus leaving town. And the first bus leaving town came to Berlin.”

The Hallway

After having lived in London, Paris and Andalusia, Berlin at that time appeared to him as a proper “wasteland” and that might just be the right fit of the time and maybe still is, but for someone having burned himself out in the capitalistic turbo-players of France and England, it was probably just the right fit to start anew. “Now they’ve at least built a train station properly there [at Warschauer Straße]”, he quickly emits, but at the same time reflects on the sad downside of progress and innovation. “Maybe in ten, fifteen years Berlin will be like Paris if it continues the way it’s going, but let’s hope not”. I’d even go further and give it some years less, but we are on the same side, romanticising what still is left of the old pride of the city as it was, always lagging behind its European counterparts.

“I just found myself going to cafes and bars and meeting people. It was the opposite of Paris, which looked very pretty, but it wasn’t much… and maybe it was a thing about 2010, because so many people I know moved in 2010, it’s just a weird thing, but I feel like a lot of people just turned up here with no plan and just made friends very easily. And that isn’t a thing that every city is good for, you know?”

The Mixing Room

By now, Cameron is on full speed in the conversation, painting a picture of the Berlin folk scene of the 2010’s, which is still alive and kicking in these days – and if you’ve been around a bit in the outside-industry bubble (take the Space Sessions community around James Michael Rodgers at Space Meduza), there is no reason to doubt that. Yes, things have changed, everyone’s on Instagram now, promoting their own as if it was their last days on earth, but the community is still strong. Sure, “it wasn’t a heyday or anything, but at least back then, I’d go to the Sandman in Neukölln on a Monday night when there’s a lot of music going on, and then by the time you’ve been there two or three times, you know everyone and you’ve made friends and you settle in, and there was always opportunities for subletting and just getting in”, Cameron remarks. Scenes may differ in that, but for one like him, being invested in folk, singer-songwriter, pop and beyond, it is worth putting your talents out on nights like the Space Sessions or the Kindl Stuben on the weekends, for it is by building friendships and acquaintances and the opportunity to play your stuff: “You kind of get pulled into the crowd quite quickly”, he adds. And isn’t it all about that?


“Berlin has always been late for every party. Well, in this case it’s a good thing… I think in this case it’s a good thing. And it makes a difference for people. The struggle is how to get out of that bubble.”

The Blue Room

As we head into the origins of the studio, it’s time to get mystical. “I was a singer and I was in a band. I gave my life to this and worked hard and kind of burnt myself out a little bit if I’m honest”, Cameron begins and describes how he quit being an artist and just took a room here, “which is now the control room”, putting an end to his endless “hopping from sublet to sublet”. While his own financial situation was everything but stable, there was some inheritance from his deceased father, which he had given to a friend.

“At this point I was so broke  that I was thinking I need to call my friend and ask him if he can send me some money for rent. And Victoria, my wife, suggested maybe using the space but the honest answer is … I felt like an idiot calling my friend and asking for some money to pay rent. So I figured if I start a business, I can call my friend and ask him to send me all the money, because I’m starting a business and maybe I would look like less of an idiot.”

Cameron James Laing himself, photographed by Victoria Byt.

“So that’s the reason I started”, Cameron goes on, “because I’d never actually done sound engineering before. I’d never run a studio before”. That is how it began with The Famous Gold Watch, with a space full of opportunities and some money to start with, but with barely any equipment and no real knowledge how to run a studio. “I had like six microphones, a laptop and six pre-amps, nowhere near enough to be a recording studio”, he recalls. 

“It was just one room but all the other rooms nearby were empty so when work got busier after a couple of years we were able to take one room after the other… we took them one by one.”

In the end, it boils down to committing to the project with a heart full of passion and the willingness to let the vision become manifest: “We had to earn and work for it and get lucky with some deals and sponsorships and things like this but I still felt at the time opening it, it was all made possible because of what my dad had left me”. But what about the name anyway? Well, Cameron also inherited a golden watch from his father, which he also wore to the funeral at the time. What he didn’t realise, that it was getting slower and slower by time, so the morning after the funeral, he almost missed his flight. It only made sense to weave that story into the idea of the studio itself in the aftermath.

“The watch had got me into trouble a few times and then I figured the watch is kind of a good thing to name the studio after.  It’s like a little tribute to my Dad. The original name was even longer, but we had to cut it because no one could ever remember it but the original name was ‘The Curious Story Of The Famous Gold Watch’, which was of course way too long but I wanted to have this kind of fairy tale name.”

The Red Room

Building A World

The start into building up a studio may have been determined with doubts and suddenness, less so the overall concept and “feel” that surrounds the studio as it is now. “Everything with the design, the lighting, the aesthetic, the colour schemes”, Cameron lists, is about a certain vision what this studio should be and of course, what it shouldn’t be. “You don’t have that sterile aspect”, as in other studios, he suddenly rants. “People should walk in here and feel like they’ve walked into some kind of 1920s speakeasy… … there’s a bar in every room and we don’t care if you’re naked or you’re dancing around like an idiot or you’re making the dumbest faces ever, it doesn’t matter because we can’t see you.”

“It’s all part of building a specific world that certain people will love. It won’t be for everyone but for the ones who fall in love with it. People can rehearse here, people can produce their music, people can record their music.”

And no doubt, this place feels like a place to let your musical ideas and songs take form and come to life. With Cameron as the host and chief producer of the place, he is doing his best to not only ensure the artists are equipped with everything they need to get their music out, but is also doing his best to connect them with the folks that will help them get better in their art. For The Famous Gold Watch is not just a provider of space and technical equipment, but a place to let the music as such grow and get better in the process. By virtue of his wife Victoria, a photographer that specialises in portraits and video projects, they also film sessions and music videos, as well as “writing arrangements for a lot of artists”, Cameron elaborates. “So if you’re a singer-songwriter and you bring a guitar and a vocal but you want to end up with a track that feels like Radiohead meets Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and a bit of Beck or something like this, we would talk about what your sound could be and we will try to write and perform as many of the instruments as you need.”

“It was always the plan from the beginning of the recording studio to build something that would be affordable for musicians as much as humanly possible. Longer hours, less stress, more involved in helping them through their release process, guiding their careers as best as possible and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

In the end, what was designed as a place to record and produce music has eventually grown into one of Berlin’s finest communities among underground musicians and singer-songwriters, for The Famous Gold Watch appears to have become quite “the family”, as Cameron stresses. Because, “the better the relationship is, the better the sound”. In a world and in a music industry that seems to favour technicians of pragmatism, self-promotion and efficiency, The Famous Gold Watch offers a way out of the maze and has birthed a strong community space, that seeks to give artists a refuge and a comfortable playground to evolve their work and grow stronger. 

“Once you throw yourself into the deep end and start doing it you learn fast because your ears are good. If your ears are good that’s the trick. If your musicality is good and your production ear is good then the technical part of engineering, whilst of course it takes a lot of time to get good, you always continue improving but you just have to keep doing it and then you get better and it’s always progress.”

All studio photographs taken by Jaime Molleda.

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