The Ministry rehearsal studios, February 1986 © Sara Cohen
Music rehearsals take place in all sorts of places including private homes and the local pub, but there are also dedicated rehearsal rooms that can be rented out on a commercial basis. These rooms have been important for musicians seeking a place in which to practice new material, audition new players, decide on set lists, try out new gear and, more than anything, escape from the world. They have helped to support music scenes but they have also generated scenes of their own.
In Liverpool two of the key rehearsal rooms of the 1980s were Vulcan Studios and The Ministry, both set up in old Victorian warehouses. These rooms were frequented by many local rock musicians and occasionally visited by talent scouts from London-based record companies.
According to one musician who frequented Vulcan Studios in the mid 1980s:
"Inside it was freezing cold and there was just one small rusty gas fire in the messy office. The office opened onto a large room containing a television, pool table and a sofa that had been unravelling for some time. The staircase was steep and difficult to navigate. Upstairs the walls were covered with graffiti with pieces of ripped canvas and old carpet stapled to the walls for sound-proofing."
At that time Vulcan Studios had its own in-house music scene. Musicians took care of the Vulcan office and resident cat whenever the owner wasn't around, and helped to organise a compilation album of Vulcan bands and an occasional 'Vulcan Burger' newsletter. They also decorated the walls with slogans and cartoons, some of which referred to in-house Vulcan jokes. There even was a so-called Vulcan clique that included bands such as the Jactars and Crikey It's the Cromptons! The musicians involved exchanged music equipment and information about music. They also socialised together outside of Vulcan and supported each other's live music performances. Through activities such as these, and through sharing the same rehearsal space, they developed a sense of togetherness and insiderness. Shared humour, experiences and even shared language helped this Vulcan scene take on a distinct identity (Cohen, 1991).
Vulcan still runs today and the décor is vastly improved but Liverpool gives birth to hundreds of rock bands every year and they all need places to rehearse. Many cannot afford to rent rehearsal rooms and find it hard to locate rehearsal spaces. Most people do not want to live next door to a drummer or a rock band, and church halls and community centres can quickly grow tired of the noise and the often messy habits of the musicians involved.