EDIT: Thanks so much for your questions so far, it's been a blast answering them. Please keep them coming, there's no time limit on this AMA!

Hi Reddit!

I'm reposting this since the moderators required some additional proof but I'm now back to answer any questions you might have! The original thread can be found here: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/ue0y5q/iama_musician_currently_recording_in_a_disused/

My name is Thom Isaacs and, as the title says, I'm recording an album at the Inchindown Oil Tanks, which is the site of the world's longest reverb.

The tanks are a disused WW2 era oil storage complex located just north of Inverness, Scotland. They were constructed between 1938 and 1942, and supplied warships with fuel at the royal navy's base in Invergordon through to the end of the war. The maximum capacity of the complex was an astounding 36 MILLION gallons of FFO or Furnace Fuel Oil. When they were decommissioned it was discovered that they held the record for the longest reverb in a manmade structure, which is what drew my attention to it. I've now visited twice and am writing and recording an album specifically designed for their acoustic properties.

They're really hard to record in on account of still being covered in heavy fuel oil, but the sound is absolutely breathtaking.

AMA! I love talking about the tanks and would be happy to answer any questions you might have about the space and the music I'm recording in there.

Proof + audio examples:

Videos of me performing in the tanks:



Picture of me + yesterday's date + my username taken in the car on the way home: https://imgur.com/a/hnAODX5

(try to ignore the fact that that's hastily scribbled on a roll of tissue paper - I had to improvise!

If you're interested in the project and would like to follow me to keep up with the progress, here are some social media links for you:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFvQXWYsU7ATax2qYi75r-w

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thom.isaacs/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thomisaacs

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@thom.isaacs

Comments: 47 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

koalaposse9 karma

I just watched your video where you are with a friend in paper suits in the dark with oil around your feet in the tank, with gear all on tarps and bin bags, where you created a multiphonic chord by yelling notes into the space which was awesome. It also made me think of 10cc who used that incredible layered universal reverb kind of effect, (obviously yours are more and different) on ‘I’m not in Love’ are you a fan?

AhaSitcoms8 karma

I love ELO a lot, and while I've not listened to much 10cc I know that my buddy Joe is into them. For me a lot of the inspiration for this project comes from shoegaze, ambient, and post-rock specifically. To name a few names: My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Sigur Ròs, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Eluvium, William Basinski, etc.

jarlrmai22 karma

Do you like Cocteau Twins?

AhaSitcoms1 karma

Haven't gotten in to them yet but they're definitely on my list! People bring them up quite a bit when I talk about this project.

diMario4 karma


AhaSitcoms2 karma

I get that a lot.

ryan493213 karma

Lennon or McCartney?

AhaSitcoms4 karma

McCartney is a damn good bassist and a damn good songwriter even if his solo output is hot garbage.

MisterMoccasin1 karma

Youve lost all credibility

AhaSitcoms3 karma

I mean the real answer is George Harrison but that wasnt an option in the original question.

raccooneatingcacti3 karma

What instruments are you primarily using?

AhaSitcoms4 karma

All sorts! Vocals feature pretty heavily as that's my main instrument but I'm also incorporating corrugaphones, ukulele, guitar, synthesisers, ocarinas, among others. The album also features instruments that aren't feasible to bring into the space itself, like piano and drums. In these cases, we recorded them in a normal studio and then performed a technique called "re-amping", where we played the audio files through a speaker within the tank and captured the tank's response.

This will then be combined with the original recording allowing us to simulate the sound of actually having those instruments in there.

fluffton3 karma

Have you farted in the reverb room yet?

AhaSitcoms5 karma

You know you're not the first person to ask this question, and at this point I'm tempted to play a fart sound really loud through my amp in there. Maybe next time. So to answer your question: not yet.

Charlie_Im_Pregnant3 karma

Can we get an IR of this awesome place? I want to smear my vocals in 112 seconds of reverb.

AhaSitcoms2 karma

Be my guest! Prof. Trevor Cox, the guy who conducted the tests that proved it was the longest reverb in the world, has free Impulse Response downloads up on his Freesound profile. https://freesound.org/people/acs272/packs/13598/

Also, do I spy a Tom Waits reference in your username?

Charlie_Im_Pregnant2 karma


And good eye on the Tom Waits reference.

AhaSitcoms1 karma

It's one of my favourite songs!!

Blinking_Red_Light1 karma

This was one thing I was going to ask.

I'm getting a headache just thinking about phase issues inside that sort of space. Dr Cox has done you a real solid having that IR available.

AhaSitcoms1 karma

To be honest the main benefit of the Impulse Response is that it allows you to test that your compositions work with the long reverb. Phase hasn't become a huge issue yet but I still need to sort through and assemble everything recorded. I think the fact that we used an XY mount for our room mics eliminated any potential phasing issues, as it makes it quite easy to accurately space them.

-THRUST-2 karma

How did you go from zero to recording world record reverbs in a giant WWII oil container?

AhaSitcoms7 karma

I found out about the space when it was featured on a BBC documentary back in 2016 and became completely enamoured. I've been a musician for as long as I can remember and I've always been into music that incorporates a lot of reverb. Us music producers often go to great pains to simulate it. Genres like Shoegaze are built around pushing reverb to its limit - creating a sound that sounds so distant and vast that it implies a space that doesnt actually exist. What got me about the tanks is that they prove that wrong - that space does exist and doesnt have to be simulated.

At the end of last year I started studying for my Master's in Digital Music and Sound Art. At this point I'd been dreaming about doing this for years, so I decided to give it a shot. I got in touch with the tanks' custodians and they agreed to let me record there.

This is going to be my first album and also act as my final project for my MA.

landwomble1 karma

Q: how long does it normally take before someone uses the phrase "cathedrals of sound" when you describe this project? ;-)

I love what you're doing here btw and it's so strange how much Slowdive are respected now when back in the day they really didn't get much airplay. I remember seeing them in around 92 in The International 2 in Manchester in front of around 80 people, with the then unknown Radiohead supporting.

AhaSitcoms2 karma

Definitely a phrase that has come up a few times throughout this process.

Slowdive rule. Alison is one of my favourite songs of all time! Seeing them and Radiohead perform at the same time must have been intense.

BurmaJim2 karma

I lived in Scotland for a decade and there were two places I wanted to visit for their acoustics alone: Fingal’s Cave and Inchindown

How on earth did you get permission to do this?

AhaSitcoms2 karma

I've not heard of Fingal's Cave! Looks interesting.

As for permission: I asked very nicely and they were really enthusiastic about my idea. Within a couple of weeks of asking I had booked a plane to Inverness and went for a preliminary visit! They do do public tours from time to time - it's just been shut for ages due to the pandemic.

BurmaJim1 karma

I’m thrilled for you. I study acoustics and I always imagined this place to be some kind of Elysium. Make the most of it, yeah?

AhaSitcoms2 karma

Definitely. It's literally a dream come true to even be able to set foot in there, let alone be given enough time with it to learn its nuances as an instrument. I hope you get to visit someday!

Trivacide2 karma

No questions, I just want to mention how cool that is!

AhaSitcoms1 karma

Thanks so much! :)

Blinking_Red_Light1 karma

So many questions.

I missed the AMA.

Well done.

AhaSitcoms1 karma

The AMA is still live! Ask away

Blinking_Red_Light1 karma


What sort of rig are you using to track with?

What configurations are your mics set up in, and what types of mics are you using (polar pattern info too if possible)

Do you think you'll have phase issues with certain instruments?

Have you tried to effect any type of emulated reverb over the top of the natural reverb in post recording? I'm wondering how a very wet plate reverb tone would sound both generated inside the space, and in a DAW.

Have you managed to create any pitch oscillations that have created feedback loops that made you concerned for your hearing 😄

AhaSitcoms2 karma

Question 1 + 2: We recorded into a Zoom H6 field recorder. We close-miked the vocals with a Shure SM7B and captured the response of the tank with a matched pair of AKG C451 in an XY configuration. We also used a Vox valvatronix guitar amp for reamping, which we powered using a 300 watt-hour camping battery.

Q3: As mentioned in another answer phase hasn't been too much of an issue due to the XY mount we used for the room mics, but I havent finished stitching it all together yet.

Q4: I havent played around with that too much. I did try putting weird effects like phasers on the reverb return which sounds cool but it makes the space lose its identity in a way that I'm not really a fan off

Q5: We did play around with some feedback in there. Plugged a stratocaster into a Death By Audio 'Fuzz War' pedal and played some distorted stoner doom riffs. It was loud but it was fun to push the space to its limit. The tanks make dynamics even more important when composing, as the loudness of a sound affects not just its volume but also its duration. In terms of worrying about my hearing - I also play a bit of drums so I'm used to loud sounds at this point.


Blinking_Red_Light1 karma

Thanks for the answers.

You covered two other things that I was going to ask next, namely dynamics and how long certain wavelengths persist before being lost in the noise.

Your rig is what I would have chosen as well. I was having sweats thinking about dragging rack mounted hardware into that place. Oh, what's that, oil sludge on the Ensemble/Focusrite/Neve Pre? Just wipe it off hahaha.

As for the identity thing, that is an Interesting point. Having the somewhat enviable ability to actually use that space to track in would present some hard decisions to make when it comes to adding FX pre or post signal I would imagine.

How much time have you been given to complete your project?

Has your planned work flow been a winner, or has there been unexpected things arise that you didn't expect?

Aside from a stint as a live engineer I also do a lot of vessel work as a scaffy/rigger, and have done refinery and rig work. Oil sucks. Have you managed to get rid of the stink, or is it still embedded in your skin? I noticed in your video there were just the two of you, did you have to pay for your own Conf Space sentries and atmosphere testers or did the site management provide them for you?

AhaSitcoms1 karma

Q1) This project is part of my master's degree, so that's what set the deadline. It needs to be finished around mid June.

Q2) We definitely had to think on our feet while we were in there. Technical difficulties are inevitable but we made a point of planning with several layers of contingency in mind. We has a couple of instances where certain gear wasnt working as intended - for instance we couldn't get the H6 to work in audio interface mode with logic and there's no way to download drivers when you're 200ft underground. For the most part though we managed to work around these issues and got some really, really incredible recordings.

Q3) So, the complex actually consists of 6 tanks, but we only recorded in Tank 1. This is because its the only one of the tanks that has been "cleaned" - it was rinsed out with water when the tank was decommissioned. This means that any oil that is left in there is thoroughly diluted, so the smell and the fumes aren't as intense as if we were wading through undiluted FFO. For that reason a quick shower is all it takes to get rid of the smell!