By Mpls.St.Paul Magazine / Inspired by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis's My North
In the 1980s, Minnesota became a hot destination for an unlikely industry. Thanks to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, two Minneapolis-grown music producers, the state previously known for hockey and hot dish was suddenly the place to record pop and R&B hits. The duo’s Minneapolis studio, Flyte Tyme, was a home-away-from-home for everyone from Janet Jackson to the great purple Yoda himself, Prince. These days Jimmy and Terry now call Los Angeles home, and Flyte Tyme is just a distant memory, but the thriving studio scene in Minnesota lives on. Here are a few Minnesota recording studios worth a visit.
Flyte Tyme itself might no longer exist, but its understated Minneapolis studio space on 26th and Nicollet is still very much a place where music is made and mixed. Now operating as Creation Audio, these days the space where Janet laid down Rhythm Nation is a cooperative studio wherein various producers rent space for their own micro studios. Hungry from writing hits all day? Head next door to the Mexican bar and restaurant Pancho Villa, or hang a left on Franklin and head to Jimmy and Terry’s top hangout back in the day, Rudolph’s Bar-B-Que.
The most famous studio in Minnesota was also the home of the most famous Minnesotan. Nestled into suburban Chanhassen, these days the sleek white compound is a museum dedicated to its late denizen, Prince. Daily tours celebrating the life of Prince are Paisley's main attraction these days, but they’ve kept the complex’s multiple studios operational and available to select artists for potential recording sessions in the future.
A half hour south of the Twin Cities in Cannon Falls, one of the most important music studios in the state (if not the country) sits unceremoniously in the middle of some dense, old-growth forest. Founded in 1988 in a house built by a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright, Pachyderm boasted solid producers and the same recording console as found in Jimmy Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios in London. But its legend is not predicated upon its console, but rather the catalogue of music recorded on it, including Nirvana’s seminal second album In Utero, Soul Asylum’s debut release Grave Dancers Union and Live’s biggest hit, Throwing Copper.
What Northeast Minneapolis recording studio The Hideaway lacks in age (it was founded in 2004), it more than makes up for in its veritable who’s-who artist and album list, and its distinct style and character. Acts that have recorded at The Hideaway include heavy hitters like Atmosphere, Polica, Lizzo and Heiruspecs. The studio’s unique vibe comes by way of its location in the former Grain Belt brewery, so it’s dripping with quirky vintage throwbacks while still embracing some fun, modern flourishes like its immense, whole-wall mosaics, which have an oddly western bent to them.
One of the Twin Cities’ first nationally-important recording studios was Sound 80 on East 25th street in south Minneapolis, where vast portions of Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks album was recorded, as well as Cat Stevens’ Izitso. Sound 80 moved from its original studio space to downtown Minneapolis in 1990, but the original building is arguably even more visit-worthy today! These days the former Sound 80 studio is home to Orfield Labs, a multidisciplinary acoustic research facility famous for its one-of-a-kind anechoic chamber, which the Guinness Book of World Records has declared “the quietest place on Earth.”