Facing closure, infamous recording studio Sound Gallery will move to Northeast Minneapolis
In a nondescript building pocketed between Target Field and Washington Avenue, Jacob Grun puffs on one of the last cigarettes he’ll smoke in the Sound Gallery. The space — a recording studio and concert venue Grun has spent the last decade keeping alive — is quiet, but speakers, microphones and instruments line the white brick walls.
Like most people moving their business, Grun, 34, is sentimental about leaving the space behind. What sets this one apart, however, is that in these walls, the Sound Gallery hosted Motley Crue, Kiss and dozens of contemporary rock stars — not to mention legendary parties, art exhibits and countless up-and-coming talents.
The building — a former Ford auto parts warehouse in the shadow of Target Field’s scoreboard — is seeing a renovation project that would turn it into an artist’s loft and studio space. The closing at the end of July was one month short of Grun’s 10-year anniversary of taking the studio over from Flipp, a ’90s hard-rock band that founded Sound Gallery in the mid-’80s.
“I begged for more time. I have all that equipment and I spent my whole adult life getting to a point with it,” he said.
In his tenure at Sound Gallery, Grun has recorded plenty of local bands like Solid Gold, Polica and Communist Daughter, in addition to national acts like Toro y Moi and Andrew Bird through Pitchfork.tv.
Grun’s list of clients didn’t always keep the lights on. To cover the studio’s expenses, Grun has also hosted parties and shows, partially as a way to promote clients and meet new bands. Grun even planned to open a bar on the ground floor before those plans went south with building owners, he said.
“There’s a lot of music in Minneapolis, but there’s not a lot of money. There’s a lot of talent, but not a lot of people getting paid for their talents,” Grun said. “It’s made it a real struggle for me here, we’re always just barely getting by.”
It’s the reason why the closing didn’t come as a huge surprise to the studio’s crew.
“We saw it coming down the road. We just didn’t know how soon it would be,” said Mo McNichols, an events organizer with Sound Gallery.
Its legacy will remain in the music recorded there, musicians say.
Jacob Mullis, a member of Fort Wilson Riot who has done engineering work with the studio, sought out the space for the local band’s last record because of its signature sound.
“That main performance room had such a unique quality to it,” he said. “You can’t replicate that sound.”
However, if plans for the building go through, Sound Gallery’s space will continue to see art.
Paul Oxborough, a local painter and portrait artist, plans to buy the building and turn it into a loft for him and his wife, two floors of studio space and a gallery or commercial space on the ground floor.
The name was familiar to Grun, who has recorded with Oxborough’s son before the artist submitted plans for the building. Oxborough also knows the space’s history. “It’s a pretty funky place,” he said.
He plans to strip the building down, replace broken windows and update old infrastructure, while making room for open, creative space.
Grun said he’s glad the studio’s former home is staying with artists and that the building will be preserved.
However, the show isn’t over for Sound Gallery.
As Grun was looking for a place to store his equipment, he said he’s found a new home for the studio.
Grun has moved Sound Gallery to a space on Central Avenue Northeast owned by Nate Vernon — the brother of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver — who manages bands out of the building. Grun hopes to discontinue the studio’s party past in the new space, though they haven’t ruled out shows or art exhibitions.
While it may not have the old space’s signature sounds or the history of legendary bands behind it, the new home allows Grun to record Minneapolis’ next bands.
“That place has been a part of our lives for so long,” said Mullis. “I’m really excited for whatever the future holds.”
Photos by Eric Best