Heritage protection for North Freo recording studios
City of Fremantle 5 May 2022

An important slice of WA music history has been protected after Fremantle Council voted to add the former Martin Clarke Recording Studios in North Fremantle to the local heritage list.

The studios on Thompson Road were built in 1967 by WA music industry pioneer Martin Clarke – the founder of WA’s only independent record label, Clarion Records.

Local acts who recorded at the studios included Johnny Young, Robbie Snowden, The Birds, The Times, The Troupadores and The Valentines – featuring a young Bon Scott on drums before he found international stardom as the front man of AC/DC.

WA music industry luminary John Goldsmith, founder of the legendary Kosmic Sounds music shop in Osborne Park, recorded three singles at the Thompson Road studios as the drummer for The Birds.

Mr Goldsmith said even though the studios only operated for a few years, they represented a significant step in the development of WA’s recording industry.

“There were other studios around, but they were in old buildings with rooms set up so you could record in them. This was absolutely the first purpose-built recording studio in Perth,” Mr Goldsmith said.

“Martin’s family were reasonably wealthy, and he really was a guy who was passionate about recording. He lived for it, and his family had the money to be able to do things like this.

“For the time it was pretty high-tech. Because Martin had a bit of money, he was able to buy the top equipment, which in those days was an Ampex four-track recorder with a two-inch tape on it. He also bought a lathe to be able to cut the vinyl records straight off the tape.

“Having someone like Martin that was so focussed on local musicians was fabulous in those days.”

The Thompson Road studios are also notable because they were designed by famous Perth architect Iwan Iwanoff.

More well known for his residential projects, including Martin Clarke’s family home on Glyde Street in Mosman Park, the studios are the only Iwanoff building in Fremantle and represent a rare example of an Iwanoff industrial building.

The City of Fremantle’s heritage assessment report stated the building had considerable aesthetic value as a simple but well composed example of the work of Iwan Iwanoff, and as an idiosyncratic example of the Late Twentieth Century Brutalist style of architecture.

The report also stated the building had historic and social value as an example of the light industrial and commercial development that was established in North Fremantle between the 1890s and1970s.

Inclusion on the City of Fremantle’s Heritage List means the studios can’t be demolished and that important features need to be retained and conserved.