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Music under the railway: Tom Pinder and his arches

Cardiff is a city of music. There are lots of great bands based in Cardiff playing in great gig venues. How many of them have rehearsed under the railway in one of the arches? Tom said a lot.

“These railway arches are perfect for this kind of activity, so we’re very lucky to have them. They are at perfect size. They are acoustically great. The sounds work really well here.” said Tom with a background sound of a train going over his head. He then clapped his hand and said: “ Can you hear that? You can hear a slight eco but not too much a ring.”

One of the three arches

One of the three arches used as studio

When he said ‘this kind of activity’, Tom Pinder means rehearsals. Being the owner of the three units of the railway arches, he houses there his rehearsal studios the Cardiff Arches.

Not like others who may eager to promote their ‘small business’, Tom is not active on social media. “We’ve been quite well established in Cardiff. It’s very much a word-of-mouth type of business. We’ve already been very busy all the time.”

Being only three or four minutes walk from the train station and right in the city centre, the arches is not only a perfect place to meet for Cardiff local bands. Musicians from Bristol, Swansea and the Valleys also come to rehearse in the arches because it’s a good place to meet in the middle.

Before being the studio owner, Tom plays trombone in a punk band called Adequate Seven. When he was studying music in Cardiff university, he started the band with some good friends. After he had finished university, he went on full-time tours going around Europe. The band didn’t get great commercial success, but Tom was busy with tours and recording. It was a lot of fun for Tom. Then when the band split, he decided to keep the unit that they were using. Another two units became available a few years later and Tom took them.

Tom played trombone in Adequate Seven for six years.

Tom played trombone in Adequate Seven for six years.

When he started the studio, the units were just three big empty shells. Tom soundproofed and redecorated all the units, and then brought in the equipment.

“I didn’t know much about the DIY and building stuff before I did it. It’s really good to learn as we went along. Some friends helped out. It’s great to have it all done by yourself. When anything goes wrong, you’ll know how to fix it.”

An artist friend helped Tom to decorate the wall in the arches.

An artist friend helped Tom to decorate the wall in the arches.

Although the Cardiff arches is a well known studio, this small business will never make someone rich. The reason for Tom to run the studio is really simple, because he enjoys it.

“It’s just the people you meet and being surrounded by music. It’s a great community that you are part of. It happens so often that when I’m in the studio helping a band got set up or packing down afterwords, another band comes in. They play completely different style of music. They are at different ages. And It turns out that they’re best friends and they know each other really well. They didn’t realized that each other rehearsed here. I hope we can be here for quite a long time.”

Unfortunately, about four months ago, a city planning application for office threatened Tom’s studio as the new buildings will block the adjoining land and restrict the access and parking.

In order to keep the arches part of the Cardiff music scene, Tom started a petition which have received more than 3 000 signatures so far. “ Both the developers and the council planning department, either they didn’t know that we’re here, or they ignore the fact that we’re here, they assumed that we will just go away.

The online petition to protect the arches get supports from more than 3000 people.

The online petition to protect the arches get supports from more than 3000 people.

We had meetings with some local MPs, and Assembly members, councilors. It was very helpful. we also spoked to the council planning committee, the developers have changed their plans slightly which should make life a bit easy for us. But I suspect that we will still have to continue to push for full access and for parking.

To me it seems like a perfect opportunity to enhance the cultural elements of the city that are already here as well as combine it with new development.”

Apart from working in the arches, Tom is still touring and doing session recording. Playing ska is one of his ongoing project.  “I really enjoy both. I feel very lucky to be able to go often and play, tour and record but then to come back here and have this kind of stable ongoing job and business. Sometimes it can be very hectic if I’m come back from a tour. I may have been away for three or four weeks and I come straight down here and work all the night here.”

“I’m happy to be part of the Cardiff music scene.”